I don’t usually write about serious things on my blog. I like to post about cats and funny stories about being mangled by lighting fixtures or being nerdy. But today I’m going to write about a topic that is extremely upsetting to me. It’s not funny. It’s rage-inducing.
There are so many awful things being said about the Steubenville rape trial, and I’m not going to rehash it. Suffice it to say that the media coverage has been fairly disgusting, and reading the comments sections is enough to make you want to scream, but there is one phrase in particular that I hate more than anything else.
The “But she was ….. “
Look here, people.
When you hear that someone has been raped and you say “But she was….. [drunk, wearing provocative clothing, sexually active, female, at a party, etc.] “ What you’re really saying is this:
If you are female, you should be afraid. You should be very afraid. You should be afraid to go out after dark – especially if you’re alone. You should be afraid to expose “too much” skin. You should be afraid of showing that you have sexual desires. You should be afraid to have sex. You should be afraid to leave your drink unattended. You should be afraid of being drunk or losing control. You should be afraid WHENEVER THERE ARE MEMBERS OF THE OPPOSITE SEX PRESENT.
YOU SHOULD BE AFRAID TO BE FEMALE.
And do you know what? If you are seriously saying that?
Because you know what? I AM afraid. When I’m in public, out at the bars, dancing at a club, walking down the street, going shopping, crossing a parking lot, walking around campus, jogging in my neighborhood. I’m afraid. This is a fact. I’m on my guard. I’m planning an escape route. I’ve crossed streets IN MY OWN GODDAMN NEIGHBORHOOD because there were several teenage boys who were bigger than me walking on my side of the street towards me.
And you know what? I’m not the only one who feels this fear.
And do you know what? That fear is praised and repackaged as “being smart”. Good job on being afraid! You should be afraid – it’s the right thing to do. Good. Healthy. Fear. You wouldn’t want to be “stupid”. After all, only an idiot would go out and expect to not be raped when they leave their house.
But here’s the catch. Even with all of the fear in the world. Even with all of the precautions. Even with all of the planning alternate routes, choosing parking spaces strategically, sticking together in packs, drink guarding, avoiding being alone with men – even men I know well – all the things that I do to “be smart”. I know without a shadow of a doubt that if I were raped someone somewhere would say:
“But she was ….”
And that is a horrifying realization to have. If you’re female, you should pause here to let that one sink in. Let it simmer for a while. If you’re raped. Someone. Somewhere. Possibly – as we’ve learned this week – whole news networks will say “But she was …” And then they will list why this rape was less rapey than “real” rape. You are not special. They will not feel indignation on your behalf. They will blame you. Period. Because “if you had been smart” you wouldn’t have been in that situation to begin with. And then they will caution other females to learn from your mistake. You will not be a victim. You will be a cautionary tale. See, little girls, this is what happens when… So you’d better…
It makes me angry. It should make you angry. It should make everyone angry.
And so when I hear people saying “But she was…”, it makes me absolutely. furious. because it means that those people are OK with the fact that fully half the population IS ACTIVELY AFRAID FOR THEIR SAFETY AND THEY ARE MAKING DECISIONS BASED ON THAT FEAR.