I’ve often heard people point out the men who participate in victim blaming women for sexual assault or harassment. However, it’s not very often that we discuss or point out that there is a segment of women who say or do things that negatively impact how society sees women and their role in sexual assault and harassment.
Don’t believe me? Just in the past two months, I’ve personally heard multiple women say appalling things, things that reinforce negative ideas, beliefs, or attitudes about women. Here’s an example of what one woman said on Facebook in response to an organization who posted a Sexual Assault Awareness event.
The purpose of this blog is not to attack these women. Granted, when I heard these statements made, I was angry, but I was not that angry at the women who said them. Rather, I was angry at society, her parents, her education, her life experiences for NOT TEACHING her that saying or believing that women are to blame for sexual assault or harassment is wrong. I blame the media, institutions, and even some political figures and celebrities for making her believe that how a woman looks correlates to how men will or should behave toward her.
No, the purpose of this blog is to educate. I pray and hope that women and girls read this and reflect on their beliefs or what they’ve said in the past. I don’t want them to feel ashamed for having thought or said any of these statements. I want them to feel relieved in knowing that they can make a personal change and help other women by doing so.
With April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I can’t find a better time to bring up this topic. I’d like to share some of the latest statements that I’ve heard women say that perpetuates victim blaming of women, whether it be in terms of sexual assault, sexual harassment, or the way some men may act towards women. I hope by breaking these statements down, it will reveal how the culture of blaming women (or any victim) is wrong and should end.
- “I mean, if you dress like that, you’re asking for it.”
I wanted to start with this statement because it reflects what was said in the Facebook post above. A statement such as this makes the assumption that the clothes that I wear invites others to treat me a certain way. That’s not right.
I dress to feel beautiful for myself or I dress to express who I am. How others treat me based off my clothes says more about them than it does about me.
When women say these things to other women, they are reinforcing very negative attitudes and beliefs about women. Women should not be scared to dress how they want to dress, and sexual assault or harassment (catcalling) is not caused based off clothes.
- “Boys Will Be Boys”
States across the U.S. are enacting new laws that make it illegal for citizens to retaliate against their exes by selling promiscuous or nude photos to porn sites or uploading them on the internet for the intent of embarrassing, bullying, or getting even with their ex. They’re usually referred to as “Revenge Porn Laws.”
I was absolutely excited that Texas – yes, you guys, TEXAS – enacted such a law that went into effect on September 1, 2015. (I live in Texas, hence, the excitement)
One evening, this topic came up among a group of women I was with and one woman shared her opinions about it.
Her opinion was this: that this law would effectively harm men and boys “for one small mistake.” She made it clear that it was womens’ and girls’ fault for sending their exes nude or promiscuous photos and that these women should have been smart enough to know that their exes could (or would) post them to porn sites.
She added, “Boys will be boys” and that the men and boys who would be prosecuted by this law, hadn’t really meant to do any harm, and their simple “mistake” would now be the downfall of their lives because of this law.
I and another woman were visibly appalled by her statements and proceeded to explain that this was not okay to say or believe. Here’s why:
First, the interaction between two people, especially two people in a relationship, should always be respected. If both parties in the relationship decide to share nude photos of themselves with each other, there is a basic understanding that there is trust within that relationship.
Secondly, if I share something of that manner with my significant other, there is a basic understanding that I trust him and do not expect him to share it with others, especially not on the Internet as some sort of revenge. And if he does sell them to a porn site, he is BREAKING. THE. LAW. Point blank. Laws that are broken, come with consequences.
For those individuals who do sell nude photos of their exes on the Internet, they are doing so, so as to harm the other person, make that person a victim, and embarrass or ruin their lives. That is wrong. That is NOT right.
Thirdly, by saying, “Boys will be boys,” you are thus assuming that the male gender should have a pass to get away with breaking the law or doing bad things, simply for being born male. It’s stereotyping and holding men to a different moral standard than you would hold a woman to.
Lastly, a woman sharing a nude photo of herself does not make her stupid. And we shouldn’t blame her for another person’s decision to sell her picture on the Internet, because IT IS NOT her fault. The actions of others to bully her is not her fault and will never be.
If none of my arguments make any sense to you, look at it like this. Put yourself in the shoes of a woman whose pictures were sold to a porn site. Or better yet, consider how you would feel if this happened to your sister, your daughter, your mother, your cousin, or your best friend. Would you be mad? Yes.
Why? Because it’s wrong.
- “Put conservative pictures on Tinder if you want a guy to respect you and not just want to hook up with you.”
At a recent event at my apartment, I was speaking with another resident about online dating. The conversation turned to the question, are dating apps all about hooking up or could you actually meet someone who wanted to be in a relationship?
Another woman chimed in on the conversation with a suggestion as to how to prevent guys who just want to “hook up” from matching with you or talking to you on dating apps: put pictures up of yourself where you are dressed conservatively. According to this woman, she believed that pictures of women that showed more skin or accentuated their figures was sending a message to men who were only looking for hook ups: that those women were also interested in hooking up, were “easy,” or were not worthy of a relationship.
You’d be proud of me – I didn’t go off on this woman’s statement. I actually didn’t say anything in response. I’d already had a few glasses of wine and my argument probably wouldn’t have been that solid, and secondly, because the woman she said this to, recognized it as total BS.
However, it’s something that I often hear women say when discussing dating.
Listen up: A guy should respect me regardless of what I wear, and if he doesn’t, that’s not my fault. The pictures I choose to put up on my dating profile are pictures of myself that I believe reflect my style and my personality. I cannot help it if others make assumptions about who I am or what I want based off those pictures. The same can be said if a guy sees me at a club or at a bar. How I’m dressed should have no bearing on how he treats me and if it does, I have no control over that.
Similarly, if a person is on a dating app or out in real life just looking to hook up, nothing I wear or don’t wear is going to change their minds about their interest in hooking up, because that’s what they currently want (which is totally fine). I’m not going to attract men who want to be in a relationship based off how I dress and to assume otherwise is to seriously demean women and their freedom to dress as they wish. It’s also demeaning to men as it assumes that men are so obsessed with how women dress and don’t have the ability to treat women well regardless of the clothes they wear.
Remember, NO ONE asks to be harmed and therefore they are NEVER to blame. Furthermore, how someone dresses has no bearing on how they should be treated.
Though this post might not change the minds of all (God, I hope it does), I pray that it at least makes more women reflect on their beliefs and victim blaming. We need to stand up for each other, or at the least, stop putting each other down because that just makes for a better world.
Cover Photo by Tamara Craiu via Flickr