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19 June 2012 @ 10:50 am
A Little Grumpy About the Pithy Meme  
The current pithy meme going around Facebook seems to be various forms of:

"We live in a society that teaches women to be careful not to be raped instead of teaching men NOT TO RAPE" (this version).

OK, I understand the sentiment, that focusing on what women "need" to do is effectively pre-blaming the victim, when the problem is the men who commit the rape. It also is referring the all-too-common "don't dress like that" sexist bullshit.

But I have many, many problems with it being stated like this, being a member of the penis-afflicted gender.

First is the idea that men are not taught not to rape. I was taught that violence - particularly against women - was wrong (do not commit rape as a violent act). I was taught that "no means no" (do not commit rape as a non-consensual sexual act). I taught this to the boys I raised. I see it being taught to boys being raised around me, and I see both the act of date rape and violent rape vilified in the fictional and factual media.

I find it very upsetting that there seems to be an idea that something which is a crime being committed by men who are acting in an anti-social fashion is happening simply because no one is telling anyone that it is anti-social.

Second is that not blaming the victim does NOT mean one has no responsibility for one's own safety. If I get t-boned at an intersection and thrown out of the car, sure, it's the fault of the person who hit me, but I could have worn a seat belt to protect myself against the possibility. If I get mugged walking through downtown Detroit at 2 am, it's the mugger who committed the crime and (perhaps) society that failed him and forced him into such action, but I should have been taking precautions (like not walking through downtown Detroit at 2 am).

I cannot control the acts of others, no matter how right or wrong those acts might be. I can only control my own actions and how those actions affect my own interactions with others. Some of the actions I can control are ones that keep me safe and are common sense.

Recommending that people take steps to protect themselves is NOT THE SAME as blaming them should something happen when they didn't take precautions. How is saying "don't get blind drunk when you are out with people who might take advantage of you" any different from saying "don't wear black clothing or go with your back to traffic if you are going to be walking on unlit streets after dark"? How is "don't accept a drink from a stranger" any different from "keep your wallet in your front pocket on the subway" or "don't walk into dark alleys alone"?

In a perfect world we would all be able to do things that are nowadays unsafe because of the deviant or irresponsible acts of others. But this is not a perfect world, and I would be criminally irresponsible if I did not teach my daughters how to avoid dangerous situations just as avidly as I teach my sons not to be rapists.
Current Mood: annoyedannoyed
madfilkentist: CarlWindowmadfilkentist on June 19th, 2012 03:10 pm (UTC)
There are people who only want to find someone else to blame. They're just presenting a new version of the idea that women are helpless things who can't do anything to defend themselves.
Lesliehuskiebear on June 19th, 2012 03:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you for putting into words what has been niggling at the back of my mind whenever I see this.
(Deleted comment)
gwynnydgwynnyd on June 19th, 2012 03:30 pm (UTC)
I think the difference is between "don't leave your money out" and "don't be female". One is something you can do something about and the other is... well... I suppose it is technically possible to stop being female, but that comes with its own set of problems.

A large majority of rapes are *not* of the variety that the standard "taking precautions" could avoid, unless those precautions are to lock yourself in a hermetically sealed room and have no contact with anyone. The implication too often does become victim blaming. If someone is raped it is *because* they did not "take *enough* precautions" - regardless of whatever precautions they did take. You may not think you assign blame that way, but your comments say otherwise.

If I'm attacked while walking to my car, is it MY fault for not taking precautions or the attacker's fault for attacking me? What is so provocative about walking while female that the standard comment is always, "That's horrible but if only you had been taking more precautions you would not have been attacked"? Did I need to be wearing a burka? Carrying a visible uzi? Never, ever walking to my car? Why is the burden on ME to *always* have done something differently or have to justify what I did do to avoid being attacked before the standard comment becomes, "That's horrible. Men should not attack women."

*That's* the attitude change we need.

And yes, people ought to use common sense, but that still does not mean that the standard response should be "since you were attacked, it's obvious whatever you did, you didn't take *enough* precautions and therefore you are at least partly responsible for whatever happened to you." No, just no.

Bill Suttonbedlamhouse on June 19th, 2012 04:24 pm (UTC)
My problem with the meme is that it implies the only reason men rape women is because they weren't taught better, not because rape as in your example is a violent crime that is only different from other violent crimes because it is perceived as solely being perpetrated by men against women (which we won't get into because yes, the vast vast majority of rape is man raping woman and so it is fine to make the assumption for the sake of this argument).

The solution should address people learning that being raped is not the woman's fault, not that teaching women to take precautions is sexist and wrong. Even your argument is about the blame, not the prevention.

We aren't going to completely prevent rape any more than we could completely prevent robbery, assault, or any other violent crime. To think we can do so simply be educating men - as if rape is overwhelmingly committed through ignorance - is naive and dangerous.

Education IS a tool to prevent date rape, and is definitely being used to combat it - contrary to the implication of the meme.
(no subject) - judifilksign on June 19th, 2012 05:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - stevieannie on June 19th, 2012 07:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - catsittingstill on June 19th, 2012 08:22 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - stevieannie on June 20th, 2012 07:24 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gwynnyd on June 19th, 2012 06:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - deborah_c on June 19th, 2012 08:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
markbernsteinmarkbernstein on June 19th, 2012 05:13 pm (UTC)
The problem I have with your reasoning is that "Men are not taught not to rape" and "Men are taught not to rape" are both, taken literally, false statements. Some men are taught not to rape. Some are not. I don't know what the correct percentages are, and rather doubt anyone does. More broadly, and I believe this is highly relevant, some men are taught to not objectify women, to accept that no means no, to understand that cleavage on display is not an invitation to sex, etc. But many are not. And that needs to change.

Any pithy meme is, by definition (see: "pithy"), going to be an oversimplification. In this case, my interpretation of the use of "instead" in the original quote is different from yours. I don't see it as "We should stop teaching women to take precautions." I see it as "Currently, we teach women to take precautions, some of which are unreasonable, as a substitute for teaching all men that rape is always wrong."
Cat Sitting Stillcatsittingstill on June 19th, 2012 05:24 pm (UTC)
How is saying "don't get blind drunk when you are out with people who might take advantage of you" any different from saying "don't wear black clothing or go with your back to traffic if you are going to be walking on unlit streets after dark"?

Because it's like saying being female = walking on the street at night. Have you noticed that being male = nothing much in the way of hazards?

There's something fundamentally wrong with that.

It's like saying women don't have the same right to get drunk that a man does. Or the same right to walk alone that a man does. Or the same right to go out at night that a man does. And it often wanders off into weird ideas like women don't have the same right to wear short / lightweight clothes that a man does, or women don't have the same right to walk around not dressed for the street in their own damned house that a man does.

Do X to be safe is not the same thing as "and if you don't you deserve what you get"...quite... But yeah, it's close enough that you will annoy some people.

Policemen who are supposed to be catching criminals are instead wasting their time (and our time) policing women's clothing. (In the "don't wear shorts--don't you know there's a rapist around?" kind of policing, not indecent exposure type policing.) That sure as hell looks to me like "do X to be safe" gone wrong--and not even very far wrong.

It's just crazy that it's always and only women who are expected to make the sacrifices.

Edited at 2012-06-19 05:24 pm (UTC)
madfilkentist: CarlWindowmadfilkentist on June 19th, 2012 06:32 pm (UTC)
Have you noticed that being male = nothing much in the way of hazards?

Not when I look at the police reports near where I work.

But I've noticed other things that show the police are out of touch. Advice like "don't use your cell phone in public."
(no subject) - catsittingstill on June 19th, 2012 08:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bedlamhouse on June 19th, 2012 09:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - madfilkentist on June 19th, 2012 09:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Bill Suttonbedlamhouse on June 19th, 2012 06:33 pm (UTC)
Women are not the only ones assaulted because they are perceived as being weak or out of place. They are overwhelmingly the ones raped in such a situation, but plenty of men are robbed/beaten/killed and the advice to them is "don't go there at night" or "don't get drunk without a safe place to be".

Again, though, the hot button for women seems to be the implication that all advice about being responsible for your own personal safety equals "or you deserve what you get". Yes, there are idiots out there who believe that, just like there are idiots out there who believe getting killed for breaking down in a bad neighborhood means you deserved what you got for driving there in the first place. To lump everything into an insulting category even when it isn't meant to be seems to be counterproductive.

But this meme isn't addressing that. What it wants to say is:

"We live in a society that blames women for what they wear instead of blaming the men who rape them"

In other words, that calls out the sexist crap and doesn't imply that men raping women is all somehow about education. I think it is still an oversimplification - it implies no one bothers to go after rapists at all - but it is closer to the place nearly everyone arguing the point seems to want to go in the argument.

That part about "teaching" is really my hot button. Violent rapists are seldom men who just never learned it wasn't OK to attack a woman in a parking lot, beat her up, and violate her. They are violent men who are violent in other ways to men as well as women. Sending them to class isn't going to fix this.

As judifilksign has discussed and I agree with, date rape IS something which education can address. However, even educating men about what "no" means is not 100% guaranteed protection from the predators out there who aren't going to be educated out of their gynopathic (is that a word?) tendencies. Even assuming good intentions for the male involved, there are grey areas (does "yes" mean "no" if the women is sober enough to talk but too drunk to make wise decisions? Is it the man's job to be aware enough to understand this - i.e. not allowed to get drunk, though often that is a problem that "fixes itself", so to speak - or is it the responsibility of a woman not to put herself in the position to make a bad decision? Is it a matter of symbolism and intent, as Lord Darcy would say?)

Oversimplification that muddies the point just to better poke someone in the eye isn't useful.
(no subject) - catsittingstill on June 19th, 2012 07:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bedlamhouse on June 19th, 2012 08:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - catsittingstill on June 19th, 2012 08:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bedlamhouse on June 19th, 2012 08:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - catsittingstill on June 19th, 2012 08:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - catsittingstill on June 19th, 2012 09:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gwynnyd on June 20th, 2012 05:02 am (UTC) (Expand)
filklore_on_lj on June 19th, 2012 05:51 pm (UTC)
To illustrate why I find that meme offensive requires me to make a similarly offensive statement. Rest assured it is not something I believe.

"We live in a society that teaches people to be careful not to have things stolen instead of teaching Liverpudlians NOT TO STEAL".
gwynnydgwynnyd on June 19th, 2012 07:17 pm (UTC)
I don't think it's offensive. I think you don't have to say it that way because the general consensus of society is that the second part of that statement is already the case.
(no subject) - filklore_on_lj on June 19th, 2012 07:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gwynnyd on June 19th, 2012 07:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - filklore_on_lj on June 20th, 2012 12:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gwynnyd on June 20th, 2012 04:44 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - catalana on June 19th, 2012 07:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Ericacatalana on June 19th, 2012 05:59 pm (UTC)
One thing I'd note is that if you present a scenario with the word "rape" in it, most guys will say, "Oh, yeah, that's wrong." But if you present a scenario without it, the data is much less clear. So I think that one thing that's a bit misleading about all of this is that we act as if everyone involved has a perfect understanding of what rape is. And, I'm sorry, but I teach on a college campus...and I have to say that a lot of guys I encounter don't seem to grasp the nuances of consent. (Personally, I'm not sure why we're aiming for such a low bar - I don't really think you should have sex just because someone says yes; I'd think you should aim a little higher than "oh okay" and maybe more towards "Oh god yes please!" But I digress.)

I also think that there is a lot of emphasis on teaching women all the things they shouldn't do in order to avoid rape; this is simply trying to swing the pendulum back the other way to go "You know, maybe we should be trying to get guys to take some of the responsibility."

So teaching men not to rape doesn't just mean lecture them so they'll give the right answer when I say "would you rape someone?" It means teaching them to keep an eye out for women who look like they might need help. Keep an eye out for guys who look like they might be about to do something wrong. Be willing to help walk people home, understand the need for good lighting in parking lights, hell, even provide drinks at parties in single-serving cans/bottles so it's easy to tell they haven't been tampered with. Don't keep quiet if one of your friends makes rape jokes - and don't make them yourself. There are SO MANY ways that men can help and that you can teach your sons to fight rape.

I totally agree that there are pragmatic considerations that impact what we can do and that we should teach those to our daughters. But we shouldn't focus all (or maybe even most) of our attention on them - we need also to work on fixing the problem. And that's what the idea of teaching men not to rape, as over-simplified as it's put, is.

filklore_on_lj on June 19th, 2012 07:43 pm (UTC)
I just realised that this topic really punched one of my buttons.

I first came across this attitude when I first went to university as a shy and very young 18-year-old. It was a glib comment, often spoken at the time, and affected me at a very delicate point in my emotional development.

In my 3rd year at college, I exorcised myself by having the following poem published in the student union rag.

All Men Are...
by Chris Malme

"All men are rapists!"
She proclaimed, rolling her cigarette,
As we sat in the Student's Union,
"They are our oppressors, our captors, our killers."

Many times in the future,
I thought about these words my friend had said.
They humbled me, and made me thoughtful,
Careful not to be a threat,
Never to presume,
Always to be

Years later, we met,
Me still alone, her on her third marriage.
I recalled her words, and told her how that day
Had changed my life.
"Did really I say that?" she asked
"Well, you know I never meant _you_"

Well, bugger me.
stevieanniestevieannie on June 20th, 2012 07:35 am (UTC)
I'll come right out and say the unsayable. I think we should teach *everyone* that personal violence is unacceptable, including sexual violence and crimes against consent.

If a man sees a woman in trouble, he should be able to help her without fear of recrimination. If a woman sees a woman in trouble, the same. If a woman sees a man in trouble, the same. We should not be teaching any one gender that the problem is theirs any more than any other. We need to respect that many men are honourable people and that some women do not rate their own safety highly enough.

We don't teach our sons 'not to rape' - we teach ALL of our children that it is wrongwrongwrong and not to allow it to happen.
singedcat on June 20th, 2012 11:30 pm (UTC)
Wow, I haven't seen this meme at all, possibly because I would be crawling up the butt of anyone who posted it. Nah, that's not it, no one lives in fear of my posts. But just know this feminist is all about this, and I can point to old posts to the effect of your own.