The New York Times has a surprisingly thoughtful and complex article on teenage girls’ responses to dating violence — and of course, it’s in the Fashion & Style section. It’s worth a read, though, despite its unfortunate placement. The victim-blaming in high-profile intimate partner violence cases reads to me a lot like self-defensive victim-blaming in sexual assault cases: If you can pin the responsibility for the violence on something the woman did, you can live without the fear that someone might harm you in a similar way. If you convince yourself that women “get raped” because they go somewhere they shouldn’t, or because they dress in a particular way, or because they drink too much, or because they have a bad reputation, then it’s easy enough to convince yourself that if you just act right, you’ll be safe. If you convince yourself that women “get beaten” because they talk back, or because they instigate the violence with phyiscal aggression, or because they otherwise bring violence upon themselves, then it’s easy enough to convince yourself that you won’t ever end up looking like Rihanna.
There’s also the reflexive defense of men:
The girls’ willingness to minimize Mr. Brown’s alleged behavior also reflects a learned social signal, said Professor Morgan, who teaches African-American studies at Harvard. They’ve been taught, she said, “What really matters is that we don’t destroy boys.” Teenage girls think that if they speak out against an abuser, the boy’s future will be shattered, she said. “We have to appreciate that this is not simple for them.”
- More Chris & Rihanna: This Time, With Extra Victim-Blaming by Jill March 14, 2009
- I learned how to binge-drink while Amy Winehouse was in diapers, thank you by zuzu September 27, 2007
- Gender and Pop Culture by Jill March 20, 2007
- Naomi Wolf: Assange captured by the “dating police” by Jill December 8, 2010
- Dear Judith Regan, by Jill November 20, 2006