Wednesday, June 23, 2010

be careful

Be careful!
Take care of yourself!
Be safe!

I know these are all well-intentioned warnings and I hear them all the time when I go out for the night or for a trip from people I love and who I know care about me. But lately I've started to wonder if maybe these phrases of advice are traps for women. We often find ourselves in damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't situations, maybe this is another one of those, albeit a subliminal one.

Maybe this seems extreme, but let me explain myself.

As a woman, there are many things to consider when you leave the house.

Where are you going? What are you wearing? Who will be there? Is the area safe?

We carry the burden of the expectation of knowing the answers to all of these questions and more when we leave our front door. So if we leave unprepared and something bad happens, it becomes our fault. The world is dangerous. Men are dangerous. This is understood. We should have known better. We shouldn't have worn that. We shouldn't have been out alone that late. We shouldn't have...

Let's look at 2 situations -
Situation 1 - A girl is going to a party where she doesn't really know anyone. She goes and ends up drinking a lot and passes out. She is raped. Is it her fault?

Situation 2 - A girl is going to a party where she doesn't really know anyone. She drinks one drink and starts talking to a guy at the party for a long time. They go upstairs to make out. They are naked and almost ready to have sex. She changes her mind and says "No! I can't do this." The guy ignores her protest thinking she is playing hard-to-get. She is raped. Is it her fault?

I would venture to say many people would say "yes," it is her fault in both situations.

Two situations, one in which a woman loses control of her own body through being unconscious, another in which a woman is in coherent control of her own body but is taken advantage of anyhow.

When we tell women to be careful, when we give them numerous ways of protecting themselves, the proper way to hold your keys when walking alone so as to attack anyone who threatens you, anti-rape condoms, all of these things.

Do they help women? Sure. But we are missing the point.

The responsibility of rape should not lie on the shoulders of women. By constantly warning women we are simultaneously excusing men. It allows people to ask when terrible things happen to women "why did she stay with him if he was abusing her?" "what was she wearing?" "why did she drink so much?" "why did she go alone?"
Instead of asking the most important fucking question of all, why did he do that to her?

We need to stop the issue of sexual violence at the source, not just treat the symptoms.

I'm not saying that women should drop their inhibitions at all times. Clearly we are not there yet and I doubt any society could ever be there, for men or women. But I do think we absolutely need to start giving these warnings and suggestions to men instead of just women.

Be careful of your actions towards women, don't take advantage of them.
Take care of yourself and the people around you.
Be safe and aware of how you treat other people.

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