When We Blame…
“With great power comes great responsibility….” Spiderman’s Uncle
“With great responsibility comes the full blame when it goes wrong.” Not Spiderman’s Uncle
Society needs to watch more Superhero flicks. I’m serious. Because we have a problem right now. The unequal division of power and responsibility, and with that the unequal laying of blame.
Girls have responsibility for their own self-protection, apparently. It is their responsibility to take self-defence classes, to carry personal alarms and to monitor what they and their friends are wearing to make sure they don’t send out the wrong signals. If they should dare go out for the night, it is their responsibility to make sure they don’t get drunk, that they don’t dance in a way that might be interpreted as an invitation to touch and that they don’t walk home alone though dark alleys.
Meanwhile, men have the power to commit rape, or not.
And when it happens, who gets the blame? The logical brain says that it is the person who decided to act on another person. But still we hear the defence that the responsibility was hers.
“She was drunk, but she didn’t say no… dressed like that, it was clear she really wanted to… she wouldn’t have been there if she was going to go home alone.”
When a woman walks out of the house, the responsibility to prevent a crime against her is seen as hers. So when it happens, she gets the blame.
Women are programmed from a young age to fear. They are programmed to believe that if they behave a certain way, bad things not only could but will happen to them, and these things will be apparently a result of the woman’s own alcohol intake, behaviour and ‘asking for it’.
Hiding behind the responsibility to prevent rape is the magic talisman women use to protect themselves from fear: “If it happened when she was wearing slutty clothes and I don’t dress like her, I am safe.”
Women are standing up to challenge this belief all the time, and even more need to do so. If any women cling onto the hope that a girl made a mistake and was punished, they be mistakenly confident that they are protected. After all, they don’t wear short skirts, walk home late at night or talk to strangers…
The reality? Not all women who are attacked are wearing intentionally attractive clothing. Most attacks happen in familiar settings, not unfamiliar dark alleys . And most rapists are known to their victims, not strangers.
When you think about it, men lose a lot in this myth. If they see uncovered thigh, they apparently can’t help it. Men are, according to this, animals with base instincts who can’t stop themselves.
But men, like women, hide behind this. As well as chanting ‘not all men’ they feel safe believing that it is her fault, because that way the women they love are safe. Just like those women, men are fooled into believing that a victim deserved her fate but as long as his little sister is a good girl, it will never happen to her.
It’s hard to accept that, in reality, it could happen to anyone. And when it does, the blame game hurts the victim again and again. She will eat herself up inside wondering what she did wrong when he attacked her. She will try and imagine what she could have done to save herself when he made the decision. Her friends and family will question what she did to bring this on herself. Police officers will want to know it all, and then so will the lawyers if it makes it to court. Meanwhile the media, and everyone on the internet, will have their say and most of it won’t be good. Because to protect themselves, and the ones they love, they tell themselves it has to be her fault. She could be their wife, their daughter, their sister or their mother. And the reality is, next week it really could be their loved ones.
But if the blame belongs to the victim, there’s that false hope that we remain safe.