A study of more than 8,000 adults found that two out of five men and one-third of women thought that a woman was partially to blame for being sexually assaulted if she was out late at night, drinking and wearing a short skirt.
This isn’t shocking because it’s new – it’s shocking because it’s nothing new. Even today, in the midst of marches to highlight injustices against women, archaic attitudes still burn bright. There still exists a mind set that sees nothing extraordinary, repellent or plain wrong about blaming a woman for being sexually attacked simply because of the way she’s dressed or because she’s been drinking.
In the study, there was the usual boorish tosh from people who seem to think that droning platitudes about “personal responsibility” puts the little feminist ladies straight. Perhaps in some misguided attempt to play devil’s advocate.
It bewilderingly suggested that women in short skirts were looking for sex. Erm, no, not all women wearing short skirts are looking for sex and frankly who cares if they are? Looking for sex is not the same as wanting to be sexually attacked. The first is a matter of personal agency, the second is a crime.
As it happens, I’m all for personal responsibility – women looking out for themselves and each other. I remain a huge fan of the “girl pack”, which certainly helped keep me safe on many a wild night out, even when I was wearing one of my special “fuck me” mini-skirts.
However, I’ve come to realise that this angle is a tedious red herring – no one concerned about rape has ever argued in favour of people taking less personal responsibility. No one has ever said: “Women should definitely not look after themselves – they should place themselves in harm’s way at every conceivable opportunity.”
People who are concerned about rape issues want it to be acknowledged that the only person to blame for a sexual attack is… the sexual attacker. Not only because the person being raped has suffered enough without being somehow blamed, but also because the very notion of someone provoking their own sexual attack, with their choice of dress or behaviour, is offensive and ridiculous. Rape isn’t fundamentally about sex or attraction, it’s about violence, abuse, power and opportunity.
If it’s astonishing that two out of five men still require this basic education in who’s to blame for sexual assault, then it’s downright depressing that one-third of women are just as ill-informed. It suggests an attitude among some women that dressing and acting in a certain way deserves a certain vile outcome. A woman-on-woman psychological distancing, a treacherous sense of them and us, that is truly disturbing. Though is it really so surprising or just a reminder that there’s no convenient gender barricade for the kind of social conditioning that produces rape misinformation?
In truth, these prejudices swirl around us all the time, a poison gas to be breathed in by men and women alike. Thus, while it’s supposed to be men who succumb to Madonna-whore syndrome, women are not, it seems, immune. All of us are susceptible to this brutal compartmentalisation, dividing women into the pure and good (who don’t deserve to be raped) and drunken sluts who do.
If people want to talk about personal responsibility, then here’s an opportunity to demonstrate some – by fighting these prejudices all the way.
Devastating news: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg isn’t your friend. Zuckerberg, who’s promised to combat fake news, may be a bit fake himself, at least where his chummy, spontaneous Facebook posts are concerned, including ones on jogging, reading with his daughter and some excruciating “joshing” with A-listers such as Morgan Freeman.
Apparently, Facebook staff produce their boss’s charming posts. Which sounds almost as though Zuckerberg were a billionaire CEO, heavily invested in personal “brand management”, who’s been putting emphasis on a more presidential, down-with-the-people image. Oh, hang on…
If we’re all feeling a little unfriended right now, it’s small comfort that Zuckerberg appears to be even less friendly towards his Hawaiian neighbours, some of whom are being strongly encouraged (involving legal action) to sell him land for his beachfront estate. Though it’s shocking to find that Zuckerberg isn’t our buddy, it’s even more upsetting to discover some people are so thick they believed the social media mogul was “liking” their cat photos. These people need to stop being so gullible – President Zuckerberg wouldn’t like that.
Scots may be gratified to learn that Mel Gibson was (sort of) responsible for sparking an interest in Scottish independence. Talking about his 1995 film, Braveheart, in which he played William Wallace, Gibson observed: “It certainly woke something up there in Scotland. I know they achieved partial autonomy and I think it is a good thing.” (It’s believed that Gibson was referring to the creation of the Scottish parliament, which followed the 1997 devolution referendum.)
All of which sounds wholly correct. It’s a historical fact that BB (“Before Braveheart”), people in Scotland didn’t realise that they were Scottish – they just thought that they were English with sexier accents or Irish with less sexy accents. Back then, in the dark days of BB, the Scots didn’t even know that Scotland was part of Great Britain. It was only when Gibson appeared as Wallace, shouting “Freedom!” while sporting tartan and wild unbrushed hair that Scottish people finally realised what had been going on with this “United Kingdom” malarkey and, boy, were some of them mad!
After his Braveheart observations, Gibson modestly said: “I like to stay out of the politics of other people’s nations so I won’t go any further.” Such a display of reticence was noticeably absent from his “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world!” drunken outburst when stopped by Malibu police in 2006.
Sadly, it was also a lost opportunity for film buffs everywhere. I, for one, would love to get the inside track on how other of Gibson’s films shaped world events. Say, how What Women Want paved the way for modern feminism. Or how Mad Max made it all kick off in the Middle East This has film school module written all over it.