On Responsibility and Being Female
I read an interesting article today on BlogHer entitled “I Just Want to Go on a Walk.” In this post, the author, AV Flox, addressed the issue of why women often don’t feel safe in public. She belabored the fact that not all men are like the creepier ones she described — like the one that followed her out of a bookstore, him in a car and her one foot — and even gave several pieces of advice for gentlemen to not seem like a potential stalker. But she was a bit one-sided, in my opinion.
Just to be clear here — I do not think any woman should have to endure harassment on the basis of her gender and appearance. I also find the immediate jump to “what were you wearing?” when a woman reports a rape or sexual harassment as cruel and degrading. Women don’t ask to be raped,* the same as nobody asks to be mugged. Blaming the woman for the crime committed against her is wrong in every sense of the word.
As a (polite male) commenter said, leaving your valuables visible in your unlocked car parked in a shady area, and leaving it unattended for hours, is irresponsible. If you get your stuff stolen, that really sucks and shouldn’t happen, but what did you expect after being so foolish? Even so, if you were to report stolen goods, the immediate response wouldn’t be “you were probably asking for it.”
If an attractive young female walks alone at night in an under-populated area with little to no lighting, wearing a slinky cocktail dress… She is irresponsible. This does not, in any way, excuse someone committing a crime against such a woman, but that hypothetical woman is foolish for her actions. I’m not saying we should all dress like we’re going to church in the Victorian Era, only that we should acknowledge our actions have consequences, such as wearing a mini skirt (action) and catching someone’s eye (consequence).
Guys don’t tend to notice what a girl is wearing. Instead, they tend to notice what skin is showing. I don’t mean to generalize, but since I frequently write from a man’s PoV, I talk to my male friends about these things and they all tend to converge on that point — they won’t notice the style and cut of the dress so much as what areas of the body the dress flaunts.
A world in which women can wear whatever style of fashion they want and not worry about unwanted attention is a tempting dream. Women shouldn’t have to worry so much about what may cause unwanted attention. We should be able to wear what we want and have no fear in it.
Yet there are women who invite superficial attention, not just in how they dress but in how they act. They want to be hit on, they want to be touched. I don’t know why, but these women wear skimpy clothes specifically to be noticed for it. At first glance, a guy in a bar sees a pretty girl sitting alone and doesn’t know which side of the line she sits on. He sees an attractive woman, and decides to take a chance, whether his intentions are respectable or not.
I don’t frequent BlogHer. I can assume by the name that it is a feminist blog. I can also see they have a tab dedicated to “Love & Sex.” AV Flox’s bio says she is the “editrix-in-command of Sex and the 405.” Her avatar? A woman (herself?) lying naked (at least from the waist up) with her hair cascading down her back and over her shoulders. She has a sultry, Jolie-esque expression on her face.
Now, as someone who has only seen these details about Ms. AV Flox, I’m not surprised she’s hit on. Frankly, I think she’s giving out kind of mixed signals. Online, she’s saying “I’m beautiful, sexy, and open to talk about racy topics and present myself in a risqué manner.” Were I attracted to women, I would probably want to talk to her, too.
The bottom line? The “blame” for atrocious acts of harassment, stalking, and sexual exploitation resides on men** for not respecting women as independent human beings, but also with women for being irresponsible in their choice of attire and demeanor.
This isn’t just about how people treat us. This is about the signals we send by how we present ourselves, and about how people respond to them.
Though this issue goes much deeper, into the media and other societal cues, that doesn’t excuse us from making respectable decisions in regards to our clothing and reactions to social cues.
*A girl I knew in high school had a sexual fantasy of being raped in a dark alley. Gods, how messed up is it that I can’t even say “women don’t want to be raped” and be 100% honest? That said, you can’t rape the willing. So in that sense, I suppose I am right.
**Boys, I don’t mean to pick on you. I’m sure there are some creepy, stalker-y women out there as well. In fact, the reverse of what I discuss might be even worse. A woman striking a man for being lewd and creepy will get the man kicked out and the woman plenty of sympathy. But if you reverse the roles and the man shoves the woman off… the man gets kicked out, and the woman gets sympathy. Hrmm.
Posted on December 6, 2011, in Real Life and tagged Feminism, Frsrs, It's all in the presentation, This is for everyone who wondered why people treat them a certain way, This isn't just men harassing women. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.