When I lived in Salt Lake City I often heard the advice to women to not wear skimpy or revealing clothing unless you wanted to be harassed or even worse raped. These were my formative young years but I dismissed this as lunatic advice since my own family said it was blatant bullshit blaming women for their abuse. Little did I know that this wasn’t just some Mormon expression towards modesty before god. Often conservative sects of religion emphasize modesty and asceticism as part of material denial, antipathy of pleasure, and revulsion of the body.
Astounding that in this peaceful, white, middle-class high school when I left a math book on a shelf in the school hallway for a minute someone stole it. Was it my fault that it was stolen? Why would anyone want a math book? A teacher said yes, it was my fault. Regrettably she said I would have to pay for it. Regrettably because I was a good student but the lesson remained; I was getting screwed twice. If you don’t guard, lock, and hide everything that is precious to you you should expect it to be stolen in some way. That was the moral. The assumption of crime. It’s banal, droll, to be expected.
My grandmother-in-law thought a woman’s virginity was the bargaining chip in marriage and I was quizzed on my intentions when I first talked to her on the phone. She was trying to protect the biggest asset a woman can offer in marriage. So nineteenth century I thought.
Going to the university I was able to meet and talk with more female students in a way that was impossible in high school and found they echoed the sentiment. Women who dressed revealingly were asking for it in two ways. They were either selling out to objectification or they were asking for it because a smart woman knew what the dangers were. Caught either way.
With the revival of awareness from #YesAllWomen and others I have read some 14,000 links on what women experience. It’s depressing but I owed it my time even as it aggravated my depression. A common experience is the problem women face in public. Where even being polite is a defense against further aggression. Women are not only supposed to be decorative objects they must be polite no matter what. Is it surprising that many women shelter themselves, go in groups, carry defensive items, or become aggressive. Whether flight, fight, or freeze the responses show a siege mentality prevalent in our public and private worlds.
I don’t get siege mentality. I don’t get protectionism. I don’t get the acceptance of predation as the norm. Rupert Read and Nassim Nicholas Taleb praise religion as successful heuristics in intergenerational risk management. How is this even remotely so? Religion has functioned to continue castle protectionism and denigration of personal rights and freedom. It’s the victim’s fault because they didn’t protect themselves the right way. Whatever happened to the freedom to not have to protect yourself? Whatever happened to religion supposedly helping with impulse control? Apparently promises of heaven and threats of hell are the best and only means of ensuring safety. Is it really surprising that religion encourages patriarchal men to fully cover women or not have them leave the house, a greater abuse to prevent abuse. As if home and coverings were safe when it’s privatizing abuse.
Brother Dean Samuel published a video justifying his claims that women who dress revealingly are asking to be molested. Worse is he said “you deserve rape”?
How in hell does anyone in any way deserve rape? Every woman in my family has been raped. I fear for my daughters. They didn’t even have to be wearing revealing clothing to have it happen. This idiotic argument protects our society from addressing the basic religious premise that women are inferior to men. It also promotes the basic religious belief that life is a binary battle of good and evil, where the evil must be punished and the good must be sanctified. Funny how that fits so well with gender binaryism. No wonder Oneism is so popular as a means of convincing that harming another harms yourself. No wonder Pluralism attempts to make diversity safe, moral.
The promotion of the subjective experience as the most important experience encourages a what’s in it for me attitude that extends far beyond any sort of selfish gene protectionism. I had to laugh at Pharyngula’s post, is there a gene for thinking everything is genetic? No, it’s the individualistic concept of personal responsibility for heaven or hell. If going to heaven or hell were based on whether you were kind to others that might help. Until then it’s your fault if something happens to you.
By this measure the only true freedom is to possess nothing. If you have nothing of value you reduce your chances. “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” I don’t think Janis Joplin was kidding.
You would think with the high cost of raising families we would be more concerned. We aren’t Redwood trees where if one seedling in a million makes it that’s good enough.
Why do I have to teach my daughters self defense? Why do I have to warn them that if they are polite at a party it will be construed as saying yes, a further come on? Why do I have to warn them not to dress unless they are prepared for contest? Why do I have to make them hyperaware of their sexuality? Why do I have to tell them to let men down easily? Why do I have to tell them to always know who is in their presence, near them? Why do I have to warn them that their Dr Jekyll boyfriends may become Mr Hyde when they least expect it? Why do I have to warn them they may be called cunts if they diss advances? To always watch their glass? Why do I have to tell them they always should have protection? To blame these considerations onto the world is to enable the dismissal that we aren’t responsible for our behavior to others.
Refraining from being cruel to people is not a high bar. Using appropriate words and actions is not difficult. Only ideologies of hate and revulsion can engender this kind of easy abuse.
We must shout down assholes like Brother Dean when they scream their hateful shit. When we hear these idiots on the streets, when we see a woman being abused in a bar by some rejected asshole, when we see a woman who shouldn’t be at the party anymore, we should do everything we can to help. Until then we’re part of the problem.
Jim Newman, bright and well www.frontiersofreason.com