Shame, Silence, and Breaking the Cycle

My friend Kelly recently posted an entry on her blog that has me fired up.  In general, her blog is about analyzing the books that she is currently reading (largely romance novels) and talking about the random musings that the books spark.  I do not read romance novels, and I don’t think that I have read any of the books that Kelly has featured on her blog, but I love her witty, self-deprecating writing style so it hardly matters that I will never read any of these books.  Today, she posted an excellent entry about women and silence, the topics that we are not allowed (by society, our mothers, our friends) to discuss.  The topics range from bodily functions, to the ins and outs of pregnancy, to rape.  This last bit is what really caught my attention and cheesed me off.

While talking about a rather unpopular dinner party conversation topic, there was this quote: “the conversation was fascinating, because we kept getting stuck on our own culture (in a conversation about how rape is rape regardless of what either party is wearing, it was still important to point out and consider that if one chooses to wear revealing clothing, one should not be surprised at the inevitable result.”  (This was a small portion lifted out of the whole of the post, and not representative of Kelly’s viewpoint.)

I have to say that I got stuck here and couldn’t move on.  The “inevitability of rape”?  Really?  I am shocked that people still use that as an argument.  Think for a moment about what those words mean.  Basically, if you believe that rape is “inevitable”, then you are saying that the perpetrator couldn’t help but force sex on an unwilling party, that they didn’t have a choice.  It completely removes responsibility from the aggressor.  The rapist becomes a victim to circumstance.  This is absolute bullshit, plain and simple.  Taken to its logical conclusion, anyone who truly believes that rape is inevitable is a very dangerous person because they are admitting that there can be a set of circumstances where they, themselves, could be driven to be a rapist.  If it is “inevitable” then they wouldn’t be able to stop themselves. I certainly would never want to be alone with that person.

People, please, can we stop blaming the victim?  How many times have you heard the sentiment “oh, well they deserved it”?  The victim of gay bashing should have been more discreet, but they “flaunted it”, so what did they expect.  That person went into a bad neighborhood where they didn’t belong, so of course they got mugged and beat up.  That kid should dress better/stop acting so weird/try harder to fit in, and then he wouldn’t be bullied so much.  The woman dresses like a slut and is promiscuous, so she got what was coming to her.  God is punishing them for their sins.  No!  No, absolutely not, stop it!  Stop blaming and shaming the victim.  What are we, animals that can’t control ourselves?  Are humans so depraved that we can’t help but be violent and aggressive?  We need to put the blame back where it belongs, on the perpetrators.  No one deserves to be a victim of a violent crime,  no one is “asking for it”.

And we need to speak up.  Rape, abuse, discrimination, bigotry, sexual harassment… we need to call these things out.  Perpetrators are allowed to continue to be perpetrators because we as a society do not want to hear about such ugliness.  We shame the victim into silence, and the violence is allowed to continue.  We create a society where it is unsafe to come forward.  We tell the victim that he or she is lying, or that he or she deserved it, and take all of the responsibility off of the abuser.  The only way to break that cycle is to have open and honest dialogue.  We need to create a safe environment for victims to come forward.  We need to educate ourselves.  We need to stop bigotry and victim-shaming by calling it out for what it is.  We need to be able to talk about what it means to be a women is today’s society and the realities we face.  We need to stop sugar-coating.  Women and men need to come together and openly discuss our shared human existence, so we can better understand each other.

I was really pleased to read a blog entry about speaking up.  Granted, I took it in a whole different direction than the original post went, but I was a little pissed off.  In general, though, I agree with the sentiment that women, especially, should speak up.  It’s not the 1950’s anymore, and social taboos aren’t so taboo these days.  If we’re doing it, we should be able to talk about it, no matter what “it” is.  For a less ranty take on the subject, plus a book review, you should check out Kelly’s blog.   Read her post here.


2 responses

  1. Oh, wow. I feel like such an instigator! I absolutely love this post, because it really does mirror what my inner monologue was doing on that Tuesday. It’s always a little disturbing to have a conversation with someone you love and have them say something completely crazy. Cognitively I knew that it was all due to the messages that we receive throughout our childhood, but my more emotional response was, “Whoah, hold up, bitch say what?!”

    Our totally inconclusive conclusion was that women and men may never be able to have a conversation about this subject because our starting perspective is so different and because while women tend to be able to view multiple viewpoints as valid (while not necessarily holding those viewpoints, personally), men have a much more difficult time accepting the validity of viewpoints they do not personally hold. That was our biggest roadblock, actually. It went like this: “I don’t understand, why do you think that?” “Well, because of this, this and this.” “Hm. I don’t think that way, and it doesn’t make any sense.” Not all the men held that point of view, of course, but that’s your typical cultural “male” perspective, nonetheless.

    1. “It’s always a little disturbing to have a conversation with someone you love and have them say something completely crazy.” <– I have experienced that so many times in recent months because of this election. I feel like I am continually shocked by the ideas that people I know and love are propagating. Though I agree that men do naturally have a harder time seeing alternate viewpoints as valid, I do not accept that it is okay to allow them to get away with it. I believe in challenging the people that I care about to grow as people, just as I hope they will care enough about me to call me out on my crazy shit. Granted, that is not a popular viewpoint and it does cause me some trouble. But, at least it is honest. I hope that there will come a time where men and women can sit together and really talk about these things. Agree or disagree, the presentation of new ideas is what will change the world.

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