Last week, I linked to a post I really loved from [Witty Title Here], and I promised I’d have more to say on that later. The thing is, I really do love that post. I love the conversation it starts, and (almost) everything she has to say about Feminism. The problem is, I’ve been struggling to write this post for a while now. I don’t know how to say what I need to without the anger I feel about it shining through.
This conversation is one that’s been had before. I’ve been a part of it more times than I can count, having been raised by a mother and father who constantly reminded me how important my rights are. How important I am.
When I started taking the SATs four years ago, I looked at more colleges than I can count. I probably couldn’t even tell you all of the ones I applied to, because having two parents who had never gone to college themselves, they insisted I apply everywhere. We drove all over Pennsylvania looking at potential schools before eventually deciding on one that had never been on my radar (that’s not to say I’m not happy here. I absolutely love this school, and in fact plan on staying in this town after I graduate this weekend. It just wasn’t my plan).
One of the biggest factors in my choosing this school over one my mom really wanted me to go to? Safety. That other school just did not feel safe, even with a hundred cops all over the place. This one though? This one felt perfect. And for three years, I was never scared here. I would walk home from work at 2a.m. alone if none of the bouncers were able to leave for 20 minutes (okay…maybe that was stupid. I may be a little naive, but thank goodness I never had to be proven wrong). On nights I couldn’t sleep, or when a big test had me stressed, I would head down to a playground right off campus, and sit on the swings.
This year though, that changed. This year, if you know my school, you know there have been problems. I can’t even count how many assaults I’ve received e-mails and texts about, and it got so bad my little town made it onto the 6o’clock news one night. My campus is covered in “TIMELY WARNING”s, and frankly – I’m sick of seeing them. I’m sick of reading about how not safe the women on this campus are (because while I realize sexual assault is a gender neutral issue, the ones being reported on a weekly basis at my campus are strictly female victims). I’m sick of hearing that the men they knew, trusted, did this to them.
And then? I lose my ability to communicate effectively when I hear someone say that she had any part in what happened. I can’t think straight enough to formulate a response when someone says “well, she was drinking. And girls these days…their skirts are just a bit shorter than I should think is appropriate.” You know what? That has nothing to do with it. And that simple fact seems like basic common sense to me, because if you can acknowledge that the men and women who do these things are mentally ill, then you surely can’t believe that the outfit has anything to do with it.
It frankly doesn’t matter if she was topless, because we are not animals incapable of thought. We do not have a rape instinct that kicks in at the mere sight of skin. We are human beings who need to be taught “don’t rape” rather than “don’t get raped.”
The only thing that makes her skirt or her blood alcohol content relevant is us. We make these things important, because by pointing them out, we tell the predators exactly who they should go after. We tell them that if they pick a woman who’s had a few drinks, or who is wearing a lot of make-up, or who is walking home alone…. we tell them that these are the victims they should choose, because a jury might say she was asking for it. Might suggest she said yes, and regretted it in the morning.
As a society, we need to STOP excusing this behavior. Even if you don’t think you are, even “well I’m just pointing out that certain behaviors can attract unwanted attention” – you’re absolutely right. A short skirt does attract unwanted attention. But not because they wouldn’t do the same thing to a woman in baggy jeans and an old t-shirt. They would.
They picked that woman, because we told them they should. And we need to stop telling them which victims are the most vulnerable.