Last week, along with many other feminist bloggers, I wrote about advice columnist Amy Dickinson's dreadful, victim-blaming response to a rape victim who'd written to her for advice. In the interim, feminist writers and readers wrote to Amy and about Amy, and she has finally responded.
And she still doesn't get it.
Amanda Hess does a comprehensive deconstruction here.
I just want to quickly highlight Amy's refusal to acknowledge her victim-blaming, even going so far as to sniff that readers "have accused me of 'blaming the victim'," as if the mere suggestion were preposterous. And yet she continues to victim-blame:
I certainly didn't intend to offend or blame her for what happened, and I hope she will do everything possible to stay safe in the future.That sentence would be hilarious if it weren't so fucking tragic.
You simply cannot claim that you don't intent to blame a survivor for what happened to her, if in the next breath you exhort her to "do everything possible to stay safe in the future." Implicit in that admonishment is the idea that she has some responsibility, some role to play, in whether she is raped or not. That is the definition of victim-blaming.
Let's do this again, shall we?
Left to my own devices, I never would have been raped. The rapist was really the key component to the whole thing. I was sober; I was wearing sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt; I was at home; my sexual history was, literally, nonexistent—I was a virgin; I struggled; I said no. There have been times since when I have been walking home, alone, after a few drinks, wearing something that might have shown a bit of leg or cleavage, and I wasn't raped. The difference was not in what I was doing. The difference was the presence of a rapist.
Amy, like other "women should be responsible" victim-blamers, puts forth her recommendation as if no one's ever said that before, as if no one has ever suggested that the burden of rape prevention should be on women. And as if women aren't socialized from birth to be intimately familiar with "rape prevention," from their behavior to their clothing choices to their attitude, etc. etc. etc. Hardly a week goes by that I don't read an article saying the same goddamned thing, whether women are being admonished to "learn common sense" or "be more responsible" or "be aware of barroom risks" or "avoid these places" or "don't dress this way" or whatfuckingever. If Amy wants to make a serious contribution to rape prevention, she could try dedicating her next column to answering this question: Why is it always more important to lecture women on what they should be doing to avoid rape than to talk to men about the fact that they do not have the right to women's bodies without explicit consent?
But she doesn't want to make a serious contribution. She wants to victim-blame, and she wants to pretend that telling a young woman she should be more responsible is somehow going to stop her getting sexually assaulted again, as if that's a new idea. As if we don't live in a rape culture in which women are told from the day they're born to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you're alone, if you're with a stranger, if you're in a group, if you're in a group of strangers, if it's dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you're carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you're wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who's around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who's at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn't follow all the rules it's your fault.
And yet somehow, even with all these admonishments to vigilance, and even with all the compliance with these admonishments, millions of women are still sexually assaulted, many of them multiple times.
Are all these women just irresponsible?
Or is it, perhaps, that rape culture is also the persistent, obdurate refusal of victim-blamers to acknowledge that the only thing that the victim of every rapist shares in common is not a catastrophic streak of irresponsibility, but the bad fucking luck to be in the presence of a rapist...?