“Feminist” Rape Apologists

feminist

If I were to write a personal ad for Liz Funk, it would go something like this:
SWF seeks tall, manly-man writer or psudeo-intellectual singer-songwriter who appeals to the ‘tween set. Interests include long walks on the beach, John Mayer, playing dress-up in feminist clothes, slut-shaming, woman-bashing, and rape apologism. And Gary, if you’re out there, call me!

Think I’m exaggerating about “feminist” Liz? Then check out her latest article: “Sacrificing Dignity for Attention.” Where have I heard this before?

I’m not one to play feminist police, but damn if this isn’t one of those moments where I’d love to take away someone’s membership card. So, because Ms. Funk seems to be a little on the slow side when it comes to catching on to basic feminist theory, here’s the 101: Feminists don’t hate women. And that is why you, Liz, are no feminist.

Feminists don’t blame women for being raped or attacked, or attempt to obscure that blame with “concern.” Feminists don’t shame women for having the audacity to leave their homes, or walk outside alone, or have a drink. Good feminist writers also do some basic research before they end their articles with stuff like this:

But even with laws and initiatives and special public precautions in place, Quinn acknowledged that young people “who go out at night remain at risk until they get back home.”

If she had done some very basic research, she would have discovered that home is often more dangerous than being out at a bar. After all, two thirds of sexual assault survivors were attacked by someone they knew — 40% of those attackers were a friend or acquaintance, and 28% an intimate partner. Seven percent were relatives. A woman is raped every 2 1/2 minutes. And 5.3 million women suffer from intimate partner violence every year in the United States alone. About 1300 of those women will die from that violence, and millions will be seriously injured. Twenty percent of nonfatal violence directed at women in 2003 came at the hand of an intimate partner.

But yes, women are at risk until they return home.

I was disappointed to see this article run on AlterNet, but even more frustrated to see that it originated from Women’s eNews, a great organization that I used to write for many, many moons ago. They employ great writers and have a fantastic editorial staff, and I’m unclear on how a piece like this made it past the decidedly feminist women who run the site. I’d suggest that anyone who is similarly outraged by the article contact the WeNews editorial staff at editors@womensenews.org. At the bottom of this post I’ll include a list of all the blogs I can find that have written about this issue; feel free to link to this post and the rest of them in your email.

But continuing with the article itself. The Alternet version of the article starts like this:

Bars and clubs often pay young, pretty women to attract more business. For owners, that means a boost in image and revenue. For women, it means an increased risk of harassment, or even rape.

Being born a woman means an increased risk of harassment, or even rape. Of course, being born a man means that you have a much higher chance of being physically assaulted in public than women do. You have a higher chance of being murdered, too — but no one uses that as a reason to tell men that they’re “putting themselves at risk” by leaving their homes. Perhaps this is because the majority of violent crimes like rape, assault and murder are also committed by men.

Let’s do the math: Men commit the majority of violent crimes. Men are more likely to be victims of violent crimes. But it’s women who are putting themselves at risk when they go out to a bar or club.

While there are no statistics or national studies about the incidence of bars breaking laws and doing what they can to attract young and underage women, Gary Miller, a senior at New York University, said it’s an open secret.

The secret burst into the new York City headlines, however, in July 2006. In a second homicide that summer in the city involving a young woman who had been drinking to excess, 18-year-old Jennifer Moore left one of the city’s most exclusive lounges intoxicated. Walking alone in the early morning hours along the city’s West Side Highway, she was abducted and raped. Two days later she was found disemboweled in a dumpster in Weehawken, N.J.

Stupid, stupid Jennifer Moore. Clearly, the feminist answer is to tell women to stay in their homes instead of, say, telling men to not rape and kill women.

Over 70,000 alcohol-related date rapes a year are committed among students aged 18 to 24, according to “Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility,” a 2004 report from the National Academies. The report also finds that 29 percent of those between 15 and 17, and 37 percent of those between 18 and 24, said that alcohol or drugs influenced their decision to do something sexual.

I won’t get into how I feel about the term “date rape.”

Funk’s implication is essentially that women who get drunk are inviting rape upon themselves. “Alcohol-related rape” sounds like the attack was some sort of accident, like an alcohol-related car crash.

It’s more like an alcohol-related intentional hit-and-run.

The Women’s eNews article includes a picture of two blonde women with the caption reading, “Two women at a New York bar.” Just sitting there. Waiting to be raped.

Amanda compares Funk’s logic to that of the sheik who blamed women’s uncovered hair and bodies for their own rapes. And the comparison is pretty spot-on — both assume that women somehow tempt rapists or make themselves available to them, and if women were only more self-protective, rape wouldn’t happen.

Of course, we all know that’s not true. Perhaps it makes women like Liz feel better to think that if she just doesn’t go out clubbing like those women, or doesn’t dress like those women, she’ll be safe. I wish it were true that women could completely protect themselves from being attacked. I wish it were true that if we just tell women one more time that if they take that self-defense class, or carry mace, or don’t get drunk, or don’t dress like that, or stay away from strangers, they’ll be safe.

It’s wishful thinking. And I’m sorry to see a so-called “feminist” and what is normally a great feminist website feeding into it.

I’ll be writing a letter to the editors of Women’s eNews. I hope you’ll do so as well.

Updates with other feminist blogs covering this one will be coming soon. Leave any links in the comments.

Other posts about this article:

Pandagon
Rox
Feministing
Reclusive Leftist
Pink Feminist Hellcat
Shakes
Echidne
Angry for a Reason


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Feminism, Sexual Assault and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

67 Responses to “Feminist” Rape Apologists

  1. twf says:

    The other stat that’s ignored all the time is that rapists are more likely to be drunk than their victims. This site says it’s 55% for rapists, 53% for victims, while this one claims 75% of males and 55% of females “involved in date rape” had been drinking or using drugs before the assault.

    So men, if you don’t want to be a rapist, don’t drink.

  2. twf says:

    Oh, and I’ve been raped, sober, at home, by a man I knew, to whom my roommate had given a key to my apartment. It’s possible he was drunk or high, but I don’t know. Not going out drinking doesn’t prevent rape.

  3. norbizness says:

    Not to detract from the underlying horror, rape apologeia, and horrible “safety” advice of the article, but the exact same discussion (going out and getting murdered) is occurring with respect to successful black athletes after the recent drive-by shooting of a Denver Broncos player at a nightclub New Year’s party… at least judging from the sports press. Not the easy availability of firearms or the machismo culture that promotes disproportionate responses to slight provocations; I’m sure there’s an analogy in there somewhere.

    From a legal point of view, as I mentioned in Amanda’s thread, there are laws being proposed in Britain (and elsewhere in Europe, I suppose), that make consent impossible to obtain from a partner who is sufficiently inebriated, which could be tackling a subset of sexual assaults from the other end.

  4. Tanya says:

    This is the kind of shit you expect from a Concerned Woman for America or a Feminist for Life. I feel a bit betrayed. Thanks forl the glorious smackdown.

  5. Karolena says:

    My new little project is trying to totally eliminate the passive form, “to be raped.” Many ideas/sentences can be syntactically changed to place the focus back where it belongs. For example (not that I even agree with the substance here): why shouldn’t

    “for women, it means an increased risk of harassment, or even rape”

    be written as

    “For men, it means an increased opportunity to harass, or even rape.”

  6. Isis says:

    I interpreted Funk’s article way differently than many of the posters here.

    I went to Penn State in from ’89-’91 (then transfered b/c I hated it), and supposedly–because of the misogynistic troll frat culture and rapid alcohol consumption–1 and 3 women there was date raped. This is the stat they used to tell us every year at orientation, the stat the RAs used to tell us. And I heard enough stories, both from women who had avoided/fought off attacks and from those who had survived them, to believe that such a stat was plenty plausible. I also heard horrifying stories from appauled guys who had pulled frat boys off young women, or had had things happen to sisters and friends.

    So I don’t see Funk’s article as trying to blame the victim, or telling women to stay home. I interpreted it as saying: A lot of people who have not gained their bar saavy yet are being taken advantage of for profit; keep your eyes open, sisters!

    She is not talking about 25 or 40-year-old women, she is talking about underage girls. It’s not about being puritanical about sex, or puritanical about alcohol. It is, as I see it, being realistic about a culture that exists around bars in our misogynistic culture. Some people have grown up learning street smarts, and some have yet to learn them by the time they are pub crawling. So where is all the defensiveness coming from? If you are one of the ones WITH street smarts, the Sisterhood thing to do is PASS THEM ON! –not to denigrate those who didn’t grow up with a switchblade in their pockets, and not to denigrate those sisters who recognize their own feelings of vulnerability. HOW, pray tell, is that feminism?????? IF YOU ARE SO TOUGH, GO TEACH SELF DEFENSE CLASSES TO OTHER WOMEN! That would be the empowered/empowering thing to do.

    At 35 I expect I am coming off as the condescending Big Sister here, but I am so vein-bulging frustrated to see what has been happening around me the past 5 or 6 years in popular culture. Sometimes I feel like my generation has really done you wrong by NOT extending our hands as big sisters. I never witnessed such cruelty and cat fight-ness among the women I grew up with who identified as feminists. We were in it together and supporting one another, even when it meant respectfully disagreeing sometimes and offering constructive suggestions.

    I am glad I grew up in the 70s and 80s. I would hate to be navigating the shallowness, obnoxiousness and viciousness that is out there now. Oh there was plenty of all three back in the old days of 3×5 floppies, but no one was trying to mask it as “empowerment” and call it “feminism.” It all makes me really sad. Is this what so many of generations of women fought for?
    It makes me want to give up on humanity all together and spend the rest of my life meditating in a cave.

  7. belledame222 says:

    “and we walked uphill in the snow, both ways, in comfortable shoes…”

    yes, i grew up in the 70’s & 80’s too. no shallowness and viciousness then! nope nope no

  8. norbizness says:

    Come on, people use to wear coke-spoon pendants back then. I’ve seen Carlito’s Way.

  9. belledame222 says:

    ..i mean, dude, for one thing: i’m 33. you’re 35. the late 70’s and early 80’s probably didn’t have much internecine feminist warfare for me either; but y’know, i’m not sure that that was so much Sisterly comradehood as, Mom came down to yell at us if the fighting got too out of hand. i mean, yes, the Strawberry Shortcake Dolls wars were probably resolved a -bit- more easily than the Sex Wars. just notin’.

  10. Jill says:

    She is not talking about 25 or 40-year-old women, she is talking about underage girls. It’s not about being puritanical about sex, or puritanical about alcohol. It is, as I see it, being realistic about a culture that exists around bars in our misogynistic culture. Some people have grown up learning street smarts, and some have yet to learn them by the time they are pub crawling. So where is all the defensiveness coming from? If you are one of the ones WITH street smarts, the Sisterhood thing to do is PASS THEM ON! –not to denigrate those who didn’t grow up with a switchblade in their pockets, and not to denigrate those sisters who recognize their own feelings of vulnerability. HOW, pray tell, is that feminism?????? IF YOU ARE SO TOUGH, GO TEACH SELF DEFENSE CLASSES TO OTHER WOMEN! That would be the empowered/empowering thing to do.

    Where, exactly, did Liz give women any helpful advice? The article itself is titled “Sacrificing dignity for attention” — outrightedly saying that adult women (yes, adult women — the vast majority of women in bars are over the age of 21, and those who aren’t are almost always over the age of 18) who go to clubs lack dignity, or are doing what they’re doing explictly for male attention. Then she launches into the rape issue, pretty strongly implying that if women don’t drink too much, or don’t go clubbing, they’ll avoid assault. That’s demonstrably untrue.

    Then she quotes Gary Miller. Know who he is? If not, search his name on this site, and read his article. Then say that she’s promoting the sisterhood.

  11. Jill says:

    I am glad I grew up in the 70s and 80s. I would hate to be navigating the shallowness, obnoxiousness and viciousness that is out there now. Oh there was plenty of all three back in the old days of 3×5 floppies, but no one was trying to mask it as “empowerment” and call it “feminism.” It all makes me really sad. Is this what so many of generations of women fought for?

    To explain a little further, if this had been the first time Liz had written an article like this, my response wouldn’t have been so harsh. But she’s been writing anti-woman screeds while claiming to be a “feminist” for a while now. Click the links. Read through her blog. Read her stuff of HuffPo. Read what she wrote about Feministing. If that’s feminism, then we can elect Jerry Falwell to be our leader.

  12. Vanessa says:

    After all, two thirds of sexual assault survivors were attacked by someone they knew — 40% of those attackers were a friend or acquaintance, and 28% an intimate partner. Seven percent were relatives.

    Not to go OT, but did anyone bring this up during the whole trans/bathroom thing? It seems in the same vein as this. The whole constant fear of strangers attacking you when most sexual violence is likely to come from those you know.

    I would expand on this further but the baby just crawled away with my glasses.

  13. mythago says:

    I am glad I grew up in the 70s and 80s.

    Yes, you missed that whole homophobic “Lavender Menace” thing. But you just go on pretending that those were the Feminist Good Olde Days, and telling the young’uns how nobody wore tight skirts back in your time.

  14. Vanessa says:

    I am glad I grew up in the 70s and 80s. I would hate to be navigating the shallowness, obnoxiousness and viciousness that is out there now.

    Aren’t the seventies referred to as the Me Decade?

  15. raging red says:

    I am glad I grew up in the 70s and 80s. I would hate to be navigating the shallowness, obnoxiousness and viciousness that is out there now.

    Hey lady — zuzu’s the only one around here who’s allowed to write “get offa my lawn!” screeds. Respect your elders!

  16. Jeff Fecke says:

    If you are one of the ones WITH street smarts, the Sisterhood thing to do is PASS THEM ON!

    This has nothing to do with street smarts. I’m a guy and I’ve learned a few things, and I’ll pass them along to my daughter–better to stay with friends if you’re in an area you don’t know, a key held between the ring and middle fingers makes a handy weapon, don’t get drunk unless you have at least one friend you trust to keep you sane–the same advice I usually followed (and sometimes didn’t) when I was younger, the same advice she’ll probably usually follow (and sometimes won’t) when she goes to college in a decade-and-a-half.

    This isn’t about any of those things (which I see as gender-neutral, common-sense kind of things). This is about whether women should go out or not.

    The whole point of this article is summed in one sentence: “young people ‘who go out at night remain at risk until they get back home.'” And not young people–because men aren’t mentioned (though they are, of course, just at risk for different things). It’s young women that are at risk should they dare to leave their homes and venture out into the latter-day Gomorrah that is America in the 21st century. If they do, then they should know that they could end up raped and murdered.

    And if you know a course of action could leave you raped and murdered, are you not in some way responsible if you take that course of action? If you leave your home, isn’t that rape partly your fault?

    Yes, it’s insane.

    I have a friend–a male friend, FWIW. He went out one night in college with another friend to a bar in a sketchy area. They were mugged at gunpoint. Nobody pointed fingers, or told him he was asking for it.

    Had he been a woman, and been raped, I don’t know as the same thing would have been said.

    And yes, all of this ignores that partner rape is more likely than stranger assault, just as your child is infinitely more likely to be harmed by someone you know than someone you don’t. We externalize threats to avoid dealing with them, and so that we can pass on our belief that if I lock my daughter up for her entire life, she can never be harmed–and that those girls who are harmed were doing something wrong, and I can teach my daughter to do something different, and she’ll always be safe.

    The world isn’t safe. And it isn’t inexorably dangerous, either. And I know I’d rather my daughter, when grown up, live her life unafraid and free and yes, at risk, than live her life terrorized and “safe” in the confines of her home.

  17. Jill says:

    I am glad I grew up in the 70s and 80s. I would hate to be navigating the shallowness, obnoxiousness and viciousness that is out there now.

    There have always been inter-feminist wars. Porn. Sex work. LGBT issues. This is nothing new.

    But as feminists, I do think that lines have to be drawn somewhere. “Feminists for Life” don’t qualify as feminists in my book because they promote laws which treat women as less than human. They are not my allies. I’m always happy to work with women whose feminisms are different from mine, as long as we have the same goals in mind and the same general principles. I’ll work with women who think that pornography is inherently and always degrading, even though I don’t believe that myself. I’ll work with women who think that pornography and sex work is empowering for women, even though I don’t believe that either.

    But I draw lines. I draw lines at the kind of conversations that were happening at Twisty’s place over transgender rights. The hateful “feminist” ideas spouted over there lead me to conclude that those women are not my allies. The slut-shaming, anti-woman writing that Liz Funk puts out on the regular makes her feminism so deeply different from mine, which is based on a pro-woman philosophy, that I cannot consider her an ally even if we agree on basics like abortion rights (although even on that issue, you’ll note that Liz refers to abortion providers as “abortionists”).

    I can’t do victim-blaming. I can’t support any version of feminism that does. I don’t like accusing other women of not being good enough feminists, or starting inter-feminist wars, but the term “feminist” has to mean something. I’m willing to be flexible on things like lipstick, but I don’t bend on rape.

  18. Donna Darko says:

    73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger – 38% of perpetrators were a friend or acquaintance of the victim, 28% were an intimate and 7% were another relative.

    73% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a non-stranger, Ms. Funk et. al. Since men are more likely to be beaten and killed outside the home by other men and since women who are raped outside the home are raped by men 99% of the time, men should stay home and stay pretty.

    The RAINN link shows rape/sexual assault has steadily declined since 1973. There was five times less rape/sexual assault in 2003 than in 1973 yet articles like these suggest the environment is riskier than ever for women and girls. No logic whatsoever.

  19. Isis says:

    I am not saying the 70s/80s were the good old days in all ways, and I am not waxing nostalgic that we “and we walked uphill in the snow, both ways, in comfortable shoes.” (? I am not THAT old!) –though I am quick to wax nostalgic about Laura Ingalls running free and catching frogs and wanting to be a “Lady Scientist,” if you want to put that in the same box.

    Rather, I am questioning that there is anything “feminist” about being cruel, nasty, hostile, and unduly acerbic to one another. It was never part of my experience with feminists or feminism; it was 100% contrary to it.

    I am saying that the feminists I knew were about supporting one another and helping each other develop as writers, artists, thinkers… constructively, even when we disagreed. This did not mean saccharine sweetness. This did not mean backing down from our own positions. Sometimes this calls for being critical and holding each other’s feet to the fire, so to speak. But I don’t think women are going to get anywhere new by shark tooth shredding the very people who are trying to work towards the same goals. Keep disagreeing, keep churning, but—

    I think it was Audrey Lorde who said, “Let us not become that which we hate.” How many people here are in support of wars and militarism, but act warlike and militaristic to each other? I don’t think it is productive, I don’t think it moves feminism forward. I think it corrodes it.

    As feminists we want men to treat us well, we want the world to treat us with equality and respect. –at least that is what *I* understand feminism to be. Seems to me we can start by treating each other that way. You know, “Be the change you want to see,” or whatever the famous Ghandi quote is? I think it is the most powerful place you can begin.

    I also read a great quote from bell hooks the other day: “When my students say they want to change the world, I espouse inward to outward movement. If you feel you can’t do shit about your own reality, how can you really think you can change the world? And guess what? When you are fucked-up and you lead the revolution, you are probably going to get a pretty fucked-up revolution.”

    I wrote it in my sketch book so I would not forget it. I thought it was pretty wise. My New Year’s resolution.

  20. Jill says:

    Isis, 99% of the time I would agree with you. If this had been the first time I’d ever heard of Liz Funk, the post wouldn’t have read the way it did. But she’s written things like this before. Lots of times. And received a whole lot of constructive criticism from other feminists. And still doesn’t change anything.

    I’m patient, but not that patient. I would love to help Liz try to become a more informed feminist, but many have tried before me and apparently haven’t been successful. And yes, I will admit that I get extremely angry when I read anti-woman, victim-blaming crap on a feminist website written by a woman who claims to be a part of my movement. That’s not my movement. And just as I don’t have the patience to explain to the Feminists for Life why they’re fools, I don’t have the patience to explain it to Liz. Again.

  21. Roxanne says:

    Ah, the 70s and 80s.

    The reason why so many people in the 90s sought colonic irrigations can be summed up in three little letters: EST.

  22. KnifeGhost says:

    My new little project is trying to totally eliminate the passive form, “to be raped.” Many ideas/sentences can be syntactically changed to place the focus back where it belongs.

    That’s a great idea. The results are terrifyingly illustrative.

  23. Alon Levy says:

    Donna beat me to dashing the myth of the golden age of the 70s…

    If she had done some very basic research, she would have discovered that home is often more dangerous than being out at a bar.

    If you want precise numbers, go here and look at table 61. In 2005, 36% of rapes in the US were at the victim’s home, and 24% were at the home of a friend, relative, or neighbor. The 5-year average, which is more accurate in this case, was 50% in total, give or take.

  24. JackGoff says:

    Aren’t the seventies referred to as the Me Decade?

    I think that was the Eighties, but then again, I was all of 7 by the end of that decade.

  25. Lesley says:

    Ha! Well, as I’ll be 43 in just under two months and, therefore, grew up in the 60s and 70s, perhaps I can be the appeal to authority figure!

    No, but seriously, Isis, I think you are over-simplifying things and remembering them through the lens of childhood. My mother and her friends were all feminists, and I can assure you that not one of them would have had any compunction in laying waste to a woman who wrote the kind of article Liz Funk did. An article that, yet again, discusses how doing certain things increases a woman’s risk of being raped, not one that discusses how men commit most of the rapes. An article that says flat out that women are sacrificing dignity for attention, as if anything they are doing sacrifices their dignity. How precisely does Liz Funk believe these women are sacrificing their dignity? By drinking? By dancing? By staying out late?

    My mother and her friends would recognize this as exactly the kind of sexist BS that women continually get handed. Because the problem isn’t what the women are doing, it’s what the men are doing. But we do not continually get to read article after article excoriating the behavior of men. Where’s the article about how college men who go out and get drunk are more likely to rape than college men who do not? This article doesn’t even mention it. If Liz Funk were regularly writing those kinds of articles, maybe you could give this one a pass. But she isn’t. She’s regularly writing these kinds of articles, the kinds that focus on women’s behavior, not on men’s.

    About the only difference I can think of is that it’s unlikely that a woman who wrote this kind of article in the 1970s would refer to herself as a feminist.

  26. Lesley says:

    I think that was the Eighties, but then again, I was all of 7 by the end of that decade.

    No, it was the 70s.

    Youngsters these days. :D

  27. Pingback: Reclusive Leftist » Blog Archive » Number One Cause of Rape: Rapists

  28. zuzu says:

    The 70s had Studio 54.

    I mean, if you want to talk about club life and lack of dignity.

  29. Roxanne says:

    It was most definitely the 70s.

    I’m okay, you’re okay.

  30. belledame222 says:

    all else aside, can I just say: so, i have been perusing the Liz Funk articles.

    They pay her for this?

  31. belledame222 says:

    because, she writes like an emu, and it’s sort of depressing me even before i can really look at the content.

  32. little light says:

    I am really, really enjoying the imagery of a cranky mascara’d emu typing out silly columns with its feet, I feel compelled to note.

    …y’damn kids, with your be-bop music and your pie-tin-throwing games.

  33. johanna says:

    I’m sorry, I just got to the part where she cited Gary F’in Miller.

    WTF? Seriously? She cited Gary Miller to support a thesis other than “Gary Miller is a dink” and she wants me to buy it??

    okay, reading the rest of Jill’s post and the comments now.

  34. Matan says:

    After reading three quarters of the way through the comments, I suddenly went, “Wait, Liz Funk?!?! I know Liz Funk! It can’t be her barfing out this bile! But how many women named Liz Funk can there possibly be?”

    Thank god, when I looked at her blog, it was not the Liz Funk I knew, who was one of the most intelligent, feminist people in my class in high school.

    And what Jeff Fecke said.

  35. jennie says:

    Okay, I’m thirty-two, I went to university during “No means no!” (1992–96, to be precise, for my undergrad) I had the campus tours that focussed on evaluating all the places where a woman might be in danger, I had a mother who send me pepper spray and screamers and other anti-rape devices.

    And because I’d been carefully primed to believe the world was a dangerous place, I did what they told me. For about a semester, until I got tired of waiting for WalkHome, tired of relying on my boyfriend to walk me home from the library, deeply annoyed with the restrictions on my mobility imposed by people who wanted to keep me safe. Restrictions, I might add, that my boyfriend didn’t have placed on his mobility.

    So I started walking home alone from the library and night classes, reasoning that the campus safety people had gone to great lengths to create useful safety features on campus (blue lights with emergency callboxes, etc.), and that in town, people wandered about alone after dark all the time without coming to grave harm. I cultivated my sense of safety, didn’t bother taking self-defense, and walked home with friends when it was convenient to do so. I walked other people home, when they asked, too.

    And I was fine. Not because of any special merit or smarts or bravery or whathaveyou on my part, but because it just so happens that the risks I take are just not that risky, and I’ve never chanced across the dangerous stranger.

    When I look back at the well-intentioned people who provided those orientation sessions, I don’t think that they were trying to constrain my activities. They weren’t trying to create a climate of fear. They were part of a setting that provided WalkHome services and BlueLights and wanted to address the problem of women not feeling safe on campus. The same people promulgated “No means No!” and provided workshops for guys on how to be sensitive to women on campus—how not to be rapists. The people who taught me to see threats everywhere were also working to eliminate the threats. Somehow, though, the message that seems to have stuck with a lot of people, women and men, was the message that we, women, need to “take responsibility” for our own safety by curtailing our actions, and that somehow “not taking responsibility” causes rape.

    Which is utter bollocks, as Jill et al very correctly remind us.

    When my boyfriend was mugged, nobody asked him what he was wearing or why he was where he was or what he did to attract the mugger’s attention. People understood that the mugger was to blame (and maybe society was to blame for creating criminogenic conditions, but, meh, I think that’s a different discussion). We don’t get that with violent sexual attacks against women. We still have the victim-blaming the slut-shaming the “She shouldn’t have been at that party/wearing that dress/quite that drunk.”

    Eventually I started to notice the similarities between the safety lectures and the stories we tell little girls about how Wolves and Strangers lurk in the Woods to eat anyone who strays from the path. It’s a pervasive mythology, and we get fed it from an early age. And it’s true, Wolves do lurk. Because society has created wolves, rather than insisting that men (mostly) take responsiblity for their relationships and stop raping women, whatever the women wear, wherever they party, however drunk they are.

  36. belledame222 says:

    jennie: okay, that’s brilliantly put. yes.

    And it’s true, Wolves do lurk. Because society has created wolves,

    and still, yet, you need other concrete responses. which is where we seem to keep getting hung up.

  37. shannon says:

    In the late 80s, the omg, how come you get the really nice my little ponies war raged. In 2002-2006, my college years, uh…we wore t shirts that said be a man, cockblock skecthy guys and once I got a ride from one of those guys in golf carts who were doing campus safety patrol. Anyway, you can be raped even if you aren’t out drinking and dancing, so complaining that young women nowadays are dancing at clubs isn’t effective rape prevention

  38. Caro says:

    Every time I hear some rape-apologist bring up Jennifer Moore, it breaks my heart. First of all, it’s just so typical of the way we blame women for their own victimization just because they were living their lives and doing the same things men do all the time (whereas, as pointed out above, men aren’t usually blamed for being victims of their own murders, muggings, beatings, etc).
    But another problem for me is that a good friend of mine was a high school teacher of Jennifer’s and cared a lot about her. I know that it would hurt her so much to hear someone blaming Jennifer for this horrible thing that was done to her. When people publicly blame female rape and/or murder victims for their own crimes, does it ever even cross their minds what a hurtful and cruel thing that is to do to the victims and those that care about them?

  39. Caro says:

    Oh, and not to mention the ridiculous idea that, in this culture that condones the objectification and violation of women, there is any way for a woman to rape-proof herself by being a “good girl.” Ugh.

  40. jennie says:

    Thanks Belledame,

    Part of where I think we get hung up in the concrete responses is in that tension between “rape-proofing” (WalkHome, self-defense, pepper spray, safe zones in subway stations, sensible advice to watch what you drink, whom you hang out with, etc.) young women. Well-intentioned, feminist-friendly people see these as ways that women can stay safe in a hostile world, and still go to the library, take the bus at night, etc.

    But they’re stopgap measures, and I think we lose sight of this. In coming up with techniques to stay safe, people stop there, rather than tackling the bigger, more troublesome problem of creating a society that views women as equals, deserving of the same agency, mobility, and safety as men.

    Because it’s a lot easier to tell girls to “take responsibility” than it is to, for example, fix all the chattel laws that make it okay for a man to rape a woman if he’s already penetrated her with her consent, or to rape his spouse. It’s easier to tell a girl to cover up than it is, apparently, to teach boys and girls about meaningful consent. It’s a lot easier to provide blue lights than it is to fix the economic disparity that keeps women in abusive relationships.

    So, because the revolution is big and hard and hasn’t happened yet, people (and I am, most emphatically, not pointing any fingers at anyone here) get attached to the stopgaps as if they were the solution, and it becomes a truism that a woman who doesn’t “take responsibility” and perform all the careful safety stuff we’re all taught is “to blame.”

    And because the stopgaps play to the prevalent ideology, the one that’s supported by all the stories we all grew up with, they’re way more palatable than the solutions.

    It’s all very circular, and frustrating.

  41. RKMK says:

    jennie – my university had the BlueLight system and WalkHome (those specific names) as well – don’t suppose you went to Queen’s? (Home of the Infamous “No Means Tie Me Up” debacle of 1989.)

    Thankfully, things have since improved: during my undergrad, I volunteered as a “Dating BASICS” counsellor for residences at Queen’s (a program where residence dons could invite a team to come in and educate their floor about issues of boundaries and consent, and was a pretty fucking fabulous program that refused to buy into any kind of victim blaming whatsoever). During our training, we read a copy of a mock trial where a man who was mugged was defending himself on the stand under the intense scrutiny of the defense attorney: “Haven’t you donated to charity before? How could my client know that you weren’t offering your wallet to him, then? Weren’t you just in the store flashing your wallet and all the money inside? Weren’t you just asking to be mugged?”

    It was a goddamn brilliant piece of writing, but unfortunately we didn’t get to keep copies of it, so I couldn’t a) scan and upload it myself, or b) even get the title of it so I could search to see if it was already online somewhere. I really regret that, because every time I run across victim blaming, I want to link to that sucker SO BADLY. It’s such a ridiculous thing – the only crime where we systematically blame women for men’s inability to control themselves and/or respect other people’s rights.

  42. jennie says:

    I forgot, that we also need to correctly identify our wolves. We need to stop insisting that wolves are there, in the woods, lurking to trap young innocent maidens who stray from the path. The wolves are far more likely to have infiltrated Gramma’s house, and our own homes, disguised as kindly woodsmen, friendly fratboys, or other seemingly innocuous characters.

  43. belledame222 says:

    well, i think that where the Personal is Political comes in handy is in, yes, education; and yes, it has to be more than “stay on the path and don’t talk to strangers,” for women. It has to involve more sophisticated understandings of telling friend from foe; of respecting boundaries (one’s own and others); and it definitely has to include talking to men as well.

    and yes, obviously there are important more macro battles to be fought as well: in the courts, in legislation, in various institutions.

    my thing here is, i see the “blame rapists for rape: 100%” as necessary but not sufficient, and i do think that that is another place where people/discussions can get “stuck.” Because, again, it’s most applicable -after- the fact; i find it less useful as a deterrent. I mean it’s part of it, yes, people need to understand oh, such and such means “rape,” better not do it then (that would be the “boundaries” education). But, one, I think the shaming approach can be over-used, especially toward people who -haven’t done it;- and, two, a minority but still very relevant part of the population simply can’t or won’t be shamed into doing the right thing. Which is where the “protect yourself” comes in handy; when communication fails.

  44. belledame222 says:

    slippage, was responding to 40.

  45. jennie says:

    RKMK, if you were there at the time, you may well have come into my res.

    Belledame, I think you’re right that “blame rapists 100%” is not sufficient. I don’t think there’s any one answer, and I do think that the understandings all around need to be more sophisticated. I do, however, think that we need, as a society, to ditch the notion that rape can ever be excused or mitigated by extenuating circumstances.

    I think the “real consent manifesto” plays a part in this: changing the understanding of the nature of sexual relations, so that everyone gets that sex (whichever permutation) is just more fun all the way around if everyone involved in consenting enthusiastically, wholeheartedly, and from a position of equality (“No means no” isn’t enough. It’s a start, but it’s not enough. It doesn’t address power inequities, socialization that tells young women that they should never say “no,” or that saying “no” means that nobody will love them, ever; it’s a slogan, and it’s catchy, but it doesn’t really address the weirdnesses that surround people’s notions of sex.) I think de-tangling sex from possession/dominance plays a role here. And I do think that it’s a reality that women, in particular, need to know how to take care of themselves.

    There’s just a difference between “Here are some ways to take care of yourself,” and “If you don’t do these things and bad things happen, you have nobody to blame but yourself.”

  46. ACS says:

    RKMK: We use the same piece in our curriculum. I have an ancient photocopied version of it, with no indication of where it came from. If you like, I can recopy it and send it to you.

    My email is o p h i t e at gmail dot com.

    — ACS

  47. matt says:

    I think I figured it out. They both listen to Dane Cook.

  48. RKMK says:

    RKMK, if you were there at the time, you may well have come into my res.

    No, I wasn’t there at that time – 2000-2005, and Dating BASICS specifically started in the 2003-2004 year; it wasn’t the first program of its kind (PEPSID was it’s predecessor, and I think there’s a different program in place now. However, that 1989 debacle has haunted Queen’s for years; when I was researching schools in 1999, Maclean’s was still mentioning it 10 years later, and there’s still the occasional mention in the Journal. More than 15 years later it’s still a black mark on the school’s history, and I think the damage to the school’s reputation has made it incredibly sensitive to adequate consent education – especially since the entering students are now often 17/18 years old, and even more likely to be uninformed about what actually constitutes “consent” and/or “rape.”

    I think the “real consent manifesto” plays a part in this: changing the understanding of the nature of sexual relations, so that everyone gets that sex (whichever permutation) is just more fun all the way around if everyone involved in consenting enthusiastically, wholeheartedly, and from a position of equality (”No means no” isn’t enough. It’s a start, but it’s not enough. It doesn’t address power inequities, socialization that tells young women that they should never say “no,” or that saying “no” means that nobody will love them, ever; it’s a slogan, and it’s catchy, but it doesn’t really address the weirdnesses that surround people’s notions of sex.) I think de-tangling sex from possession/dominance plays a role here. And I do think that it’s a reality that women, in particular, need to know how to take care of themselves.

    There’s just a difference between “Here are some ways to take care of yourself,” and “If you don’t do these things and bad things happen, you have nobody to blame but yourself.”

    I can’t believe I’m dorky enough to be saying this, but… word.

    ACS – I may just take you up on that. :)

  49. jennie says:

    RKMK,

    It amazes me to think that the school’s reputation still suffers as a result of that. I mean, yes, the Incident definitely showed the world something very scary about Queen’s and about the sort of person who attended the University. But, wow. The people who were there than have kids who are researching universities.

    As an aside, and one that’s really relevant, I was 17 when I started at Queen’s, and I wasn’t unusual. I keep hearing how “students are starting university younger now,” but really, a lot of us were no older than today’s frosh (lots of people fast-tracked, lots of other people were from provinces with 4-year high-school diplomas). So I’m not sure that everyone really is all that much younger. It’s just a quibble.

    And now I feel old. Very very old.

    Even back in my day (*please be noting the tongue firmly in the cheek*), I heard a lot more about consent education at Queen’s than I ever did at U of T, where I went next, and than I did at my high-school sex-ed classes (and my high-school was pretty feminist-heavy).

  50. Sheelzebub says:

    It’s not a choice of either blaming the victim/blaming the rapist. It’s the idea that this is actually a rape culture–a culture that accepts that women are expected to take extra steps to prevent rape, and then blames them if they get raped, is a culture where women are not as free as men. Women are not as free to move as men, we are not as free to experiment as men, and we are not as free to be as social as men. (And then, frustratingly enough, we are on occasion criticized for not being adventurous enough, or too suspicious/cold.) Not when we have to constantly worry about “gawd is this guy going to slip me something is it okay if I ask him up it’s late out and even though I’d really like to take a walk I can’t” because you could be raped, RAPED! and then it’s all your fault. Or maybe it’s not really your fault, but we’ll just make you feel like it is since we’ll go on about what YOU could have done differently, instead of looking at WHY it’s acceptable for women to be raped and their freedom of movement curtailed.

    Not to mention, these helpful hints don’t mean jack squat to a woman who’s working the graveyard shift because the differential is what allows her to make rent and feed the kiddos, or the stripper in the club down the street from me who finds that this job is the best bet for keeping her and her kids fed and clothed, or the retail/service worker who has to close up and walk down a dark parking lot at night. I mean, yeah–your average graveyard shift worker and Wal-Mart worker might not be going to nightclubs, your average stripper (if she works in a decent club) has bouncers who’ll keep the patrons in line but they’re all likely to be in situations where they are vulnerable–situations that anyone would warn you against–and it’s out of necessity.

    One thing about this “advice” that gets right up my nose is how classist it is. You’d think the way these folks go on and on that rape only happened to cute, middle-class White college girls who are vacationing in Aruba or dancing in a club.

    We can’t deny this is part of a system. Keep the “good” girls at home–the White, middle-class girls, that is. Keep them at home under threat of rape. Everyone else, well, they don’t matter anyway, even though they do get raped, and assaulted, and harassed.

    For me, it isn’t so much about shaming men into not raping, it’s getting people to understand that the fear of rape is wielded like a weapon to keep women in line and to punish them for stepping out of line. And it’s used to further demonize/degrade poor and working-class women who simply aren’t afforded a place in this line.

  51. jennie says:

    Sheelzebub:

    For me, it isn’t so much about shaming men into not raping, it’s getting people to understand that the fear of rape is wielded like a weapon to keep women in line and to punish them for stepping out of line. And it’s used to further demonize/degrade poor and working-class women who simply aren’t afforded a place in this line.

    YES! Nobody offered me a WalkHome service when I was working at a call centre until eleven o’clock at night. (Okay, I’m now arguably part of the middle class, and at university I was too, but it was fascinating, then, that during the school year, I was this delicate flower that needed WalkHome and BlueLight and protection, but when I was at home, during the summer, earning the money to go to school, I was expected to manage worse risks—the call center I worked at was in an industrial park, with poor bus service, the grocery store I worked at was at the other end of a long parking lot, far from the bus stop or the road—and nobody (other than my mom) really thought twice about it.)

    I was still the same person, of course, and I don’t think the risks were any greater on campus than at my jobs, but the perception was very different, and yeah, it’s tied into class, among other things.

  52. Tyra says:

    Is this what you are looking for by any chance?

    “The Rape” of Mr. Smith
    By: Anonymous

    The law discriminates against rape victims in a manner which would not be tolerated by victims of any other crime. In the following example, a holdup victim is asked questions similar in form to those usually asked a victim of rape.

    “Mr. Smith, you were held up at gunpoint on the corner of 16th and Locust?”
    “Yes.”
    “Did you struggle with the robber?”
    “No.”
    “Why not?”
    “He was armed.”
    “Then you made a conscious decision to comply with his demands rather than to resist?”
    “Yes.”
    “Did you scream? Cry out?”
    “No. I was afraid.”
    “I see. Have you ever been held up before?”
    “No.”
    “Have you ever given money away?”
    “Yes, of course–”
    “And did you do so willingly?”
    “What are you getting at?”
    “Well, let’s put it like this, Mr. Smith. You’ve given away money in the past–in fact, you have quite a reputation for philanthropy. How can we be sure that you weren’t contriving to have your money taken from you by force?”
    “Listen, if I wanted–”
    “Never mind. What time did this holdup take place, Mr. Smith?”
    “About 11 p.m.”
    “You were out on the streets at 11 p.m.? Doing what?”
    “Just walking.”
    “Just walking? You know it’s dangerous being out on the street that late at night. Weren’t you aware that you could have been held up?”
    “I hadn’t thought about it.”
    “What were you wearing at the time, Mr. Smith?”
    “Let’s see. A suit. Yes, a suit.”
    “An expensive suit?”
    “Well–yes.”
    “In other words, Mr. Smith, you were walking around the streets late at night in a suit that practically advertised the fact that you might be a good target for some easy money, isn’t that so? I mean, if we didn’t know better, Mr. Smith, we might even think you were asking for this to happen, mightn’t we?”
    “Look, can’t we talkin about the past history of the guy who did this to me?”
    “I’m afraid not, Mr. Smith. I don’t think you would want to violate his rights, now, would you?”

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  54. Pingback: Feministe » The Rape of Mr. Smith

  55. r4d20 says:

    telling men to not rape and kill women.

    Sadly, the kind of guys who rape and kill women don’t really listen to that kind of advice.

    Seriously, is there a single rapist/murderer who mourned “If only someone had told me it was wrong….”

  56. Jill says:

    Sadly, the kind of guys who rape and kill women don’t really listen to that kind of advice.

    Seriously, is there a single rapist/murderer who mourned “If only someone had told me it was wrong….”

    Unfortunately yeah, there probably is.

    Does the guy who sadistically rapes and murders women and knows full well that he is raping them as a form of torture think that? Probably not. But I’d be willing to bet* that there are more than a few men who knowingly forced or coerced a woman into sex but didn’t define it as rape. They may recognize that it wasn’t the nicest thing to do, but they probably don’t put themselves in the category of “rapist.” They probably don’t view their action as being as bad as jumping out of the bushes and raping a stranger.

    Do they mourn “If only someone had told me it was wrong…”? Maybe not in those exact words, but I think the sentiment — that they didn’t recognize how wrong it was — has certainly been there. Even sadder, for many of these men, they never even get to the point of recognizing it was wrong at all.

    *And by “willing to bet” I actually mean “I know this for sure based on several surveys.”

  57. The Rape of Mr. Smith is brilliant.

    I didn’t know who Liz Funk was when I read the article, so I interpreted it as a screed against exploitative club owners who create nuisances with ridiculous illegal drink specials for underage girls.

    Quoting Gary Miller set off my alarm bells, but I felt her actual point was relatively benign.

    Club owners are luring underage girls to their clubs and deliberately getting them wasted. There’s a difference between offering $2 PBRs to legal female customers and letting 18-year-olds drink free all night.

    In most bars Ladies Night is a harmless little perk for ladies. Some of the drink specials that New York club owners offer are a public nuisance and a safety hazard for underage girls. New York is having problems with underage clubbers passing out on the street, puking in public places, and generally disrupting neighborhoods because club owners deliberately contrive to get them as drunk as possible–to the point of massively subsidizing their consumption.

    Establishments should not serve severely intoxicated patrons. It’s illegal, it’s dangerous, and it’s a calculated marketing ploy to amuse rich male patrons.

  58. mythago says:

    You can’t really have it both ways. If the point of drink specials is to bring in more female customers so that you will get more male customers, that applies to 21-and-over females as well as 18-year-olds. Are you really saying that there are clubs that give free drinks to 18-to-20 year-old girls, but require 21-year-olds to pay half price?

    Clubs aren’t supposed to be serving alcohol to anyone under 21, last I heard.

  59. I think you can have it both ways. Don’t admit anyone underage, offer drink specials that are reasonable (e.g., half-price beer, rather than unlimited free tequila shots), and cut off all obviously drunk people. Problem solved.

  60. Jill says:

    Agreed, Lindsay, that the point that club owners exploit women for financial gain is an important one. But I think that point can be made without slut-shaming and without inferring that if only women stay home, they can prevent themselves from being assaulted. I would have loved to see an article on the points that you just made — but that wasn’t the article that Liz wrote.

  61. Roy says:

    …I’d be willing to bet* that there are more than a few men who knowingly forced or coerced a woman into sex but didn’t define it as rape. They may recognize that it wasn’t the nicest thing to do, but they probably don’t put themselves in the category of “rapist.” They probably don’t view their action as being as bad as jumping out of the bushes and raping a stranger.

    Do they mourn “If only someone had told me it was wrong…”? Maybe not in those exact words, but I think the sentiment — that they didn’t recognize how wrong it was — has certainly been there. Even sadder, for many of these men, they never even get to the point of recognizing it was wrong at all.

    I absolutely think that’s true. I think you can actually see that sometimes when guys are first getting involved in feminism- taking classes, for example. Over the course of the class, you can see some of the men taking stock of their own relationships and the ways that they’ve treated women. Even if they haven’t raped anyone, there are definitely moments where someone realizes “Oh. My. God. I did that?”
    So, yeah. Absolutely.

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  63. mythago says:

    I think you can have it both ways. Don’t admit anyone underage, offer drink specials that are reasonable (e.g., half-price beer, rather than unlimited free tequila shots), and cut off all obviously drunk people. Problem solved.

    Uh, to be clearer, YOU can’t have it both ways. You were arguing that clubs deliberately entice underage drinkers to get wasted, yet when the drink-special enticement draws in women of legal drinking age, it’s a ‘harmless perk’ for ‘ladies’.

    Honestly, I truly don’t get all the support for Ladies’ Night. It’s like listening to a bunch of I’m-not-a-feminist-but arguments about how one shouldn’t have to give up the man picking up the whole check on dates.

  64. Suz says:

    I am glad I grew up in the 70s and 80s

    I’m from that time period, too. I remember reading in a magazine (I think it was Sassy ) a survey where a large percentage of guys interviewed (don’t remember the actual number but it was way more than half) said they were entitled to sex on a date if they spent more than $15 on the girl.

    I view that moment as when I started to be a feminist. And it sure as hell shaped all my dating experiences.

  65. hippie says:

    It’s so frustrating – with ‘friends’ like these, who needs patriarchy?!

    Rapists cause rape. How hard is it for them to grasp that?!

  66. Raincitygirl says:

    Getting back to what Mythago was saying, I don’t have any problem with the idea of banning Ladies’ Night. I think it would be difficult to enforce, given that bar and club owners have a financial incentive to do things like Ladies’ Night. But I doubt even a well-enforced ban would make much difference to rape rates. Cheap booze isn’t the key factor in acquaintance rape. Rapists are.

  67. Denise Tzumli says:

    It’s worth going to the Women’s eNews home page and having a look at their

    Mission Statement:

    Women’s eNews is the definitive source of substantive news–unavailable anywhere else–covering issues of particular concern to women and providing women’s perspectives on public policy. It enhances women’s ability to define their own lives and to participate fully in every sector of human endeavor.

    A current article they are running ‘Eve-Teasing’ Makes India’s Streets Mean for Women
    http://womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/2991/context/ourdailylives
    is a feminist article because it defends women’s right to be in public spaces free from harassment.
    The article written by Liz Funk would be at home in any Murdoch rag, and many women’s magazines.
    The public purse should not be used to publish such trash.

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