Friday, June 10, 2011

The Perfect Example of Blame the Victim

Dan Rottenberg wrote an odious blog post today about how, when a woman gets raped, it was probably her fault. As a feminist I was incredibly repulsed by this article, and felt the need to write about just what's wrong with it. I'm tempted to avoid linking, but this is just such a perfect example of what's wrong with modern attitudes towards rape victims that I would recommend reading it, but only with puke buckets at the ready:

Rottenberg doesn't even wait to get to the actual post before wondering whether women might be asking to be raped when wearing low cut blouses:

What message was the TV journaiist Lara Logan sending here?

Rottenberg begins the actual post by informing women that some men might think that they wear revealing clothing because they "want to get laid". As if that weren't condescending enough, he begins this passage with the phrase "Earth to liberated women". Yeah, liberated women, how can you be so dumb as to think that men should be able to resist raping you when you wear a tank top? Jeez, it's like you expect equal rights or something. The whole post is written as though he's trying to help women, to keep them safe.

This is a pretty common response to rape. Women are expected to protect their vaginas, men aren't expected to control themselves. Just look at the language used when discussing sex. A woman "gives it up" as though sex was something she had and something a man took from her (h/t Amanda Marcotte) rather than something shared between two people. One of the most concrete examples of this is from America while controlled by the Spanish. A culture developed that encouraged men to gain Honor by taking a woman's Shame (by tricking her into bed, natch). If a woman went to bed with a man she wasn't married to she lost her Shame (hence the phrase shameless), and the man gained Honor. In many ways this dynamic exists today.

Later in his post Rottenberg implies that rape can be a sport claiming "[c]onquering an unwilling sex partner is about as much drama as a man can find without shooting a gun". This places all responsibility on the woman to avoid unwanted sex, while placing none of the responsibility on the man for, you know, raping the woman. It's just a sport to men! It's not their fault these women aroused them with their low cut blouses and miniskirts!

In his conclusion, Rottenberg uses the example of two women, Ann and Sarah, to prove his point that rapists are horrible women should be more careful of how they dress. Ann is a sensible woman who dresses conservatively and has a strong door and burglar alarm. Sarah, on the other hand, dresses like a slut "flower child" and leaves her front door unlocked. Over the course of a year Sarah is nearly raped and her daughter is molested. At a community meeting Rottenberg takes the opportunity to tell her it's her fault this is all happening to her and maybe she should "take a few precautions". At this point Sarah admirably stands up for herself and claims that it's not her that should change but "the creeps and muggers [should] change their lifestyle". 

Bravo for Sarah! It is here in the post (in the second to last sentence) that Rottenberg finally admits it would be better if men would stop raping women (no matter the reason), but this is attitude is short lived because he claims that " it’s usually easier to change your own behavior than to change someone else’s". This attitude, usually given as the reason for chastising women for "making themselves" victims, would be like telling a man who was wearing a Rolex watch or a nice suit that it's his fault he got mugged. I'm sure Rottenberg wouldn't agree with the logic there, so it's particularly mystifying that he uses it against women. I've never heard anyone say a man was asking for it. Men are always victims of aggressors if they're raped. It's this mindset, that women need to protect sex and men are expected to try to take it from them (by force if necessary) that needs to be changed, but it's this mindset that Dan Rottenberg shamelessly promotes in this post. Rather than being presenting a solution, he's just part of the problem.

P.S. I can assure Rottenberg that women are perfectly aware that they can be raped. The clothes they are wearing have no real effect on the likelihood of this happening and Rottenberg's "advice" just serves to make the victims of rape blame themselves and can cause severe depression.

1 comment:

  1. Great point: "This attitude, usually given as the reason for chastising women for "making themselves" victims, would be like telling a man who was wearing a Rolex watch or a nice suit that it's his fault he got mugged."