I’m going to deal with quite a thorny subject here today. This has the potential to be controversial, although I think it’s quite upsetting that that’s the case. I thought it was a fairly universally held view that victim blaming isn’t okay, but I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw this:
Now, this is the kind of situation where I’d typically hit the unfriend button and be done with it. But this person isn’t my friend. The reason this appeared on my timeline is because it has over 3,000 likes. To a limited extent, this went viral. Also, you know how I said this might be controversial? The status attracted a number of comments, just shy of 1,500 at my last count. Whilst many were condemning the views in the original post, there were at least as many people defending it.
For background, the story in question is about a man, John Dale, who, whilst studying at Nottingham Trent University slapped his penis on a woman’s face whilst she was passed out at a party. His friends filmed it. When the man in question showed the footage to his workmates they were, quite rightly, horrified and notified the police. Long story short, he’s doing nine months in jail. If you want, you can read the whole story here: http://bit.ly/1tpBVSV
Now, I’m not going to get bogged down in the severity of the crime, or the subsequent sentence, what really angered me was the fact that this disgusting reaction to it was able to get such support. Let’s break it down bit by bit:
What an absolute bitch.
I find this utterly baffling. According to this guy, a woman reporting to the police that she’d had someone else’s genitals come into contact with her face – not to mention the whole thing was filmed – without her consent makes her a ‘bitch’. There’s no grey area here, the guy was in the wrong.
This is our first instance of victim blaming, after four words. There’s more to come.
The lad has had his career and life ruined
Right, now we’re getting to the heart of the thinking behind this point of view. The reason these people are annoyed are because the perpetrator is on the sex offenders register which isn’t exactly something you want next to your name when you apply for a grad job. Frankly, this way of thinking is quite offensive, this insinuates not only that the man’s life, happiness, and wellbeing is more important than the woman’s, but that it is the victim’s fault. Let me make one thing clear; the reason why John Dale is currently in jail is because of a stupid mistake he made.
The judge in the case said that the offence had caused the victim “obvious and significant distress”. But that doesn’t matter, right? John Dale doesn’t get to be a solicitor anymore, that’s the real tragedy in all of this? When you really strip away the bullshit, this is barefaced sexism.
To illustrate this point further, here’s a quote from the victim, published in the Mirror article attached to the status: “the video could still be out there in someone’s possession and … anyone could have it. Knowing that it could exist petrifies me.”
You know, it sounds an awful lot like she’s worried that this incident could ruin her life, but again that doesn’t matter does it? Either the original poster and the commenters didn’t read it in its entirety, or they’re simply a bunch of misogynists. With the amount of ignorance on display, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was both.
Some tart that couldn’t hack a house party and couldn’t take a joke either
Christ, there’s a lot wrong with this. Let me collect my thoughts a second.
Ok. First off, that is not something normal that happens at a house party. Now, I’m not here to ruin anyone’s fun. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t played a prank on a friend who’d passed out at a party, but this kind of thing just isn’t acceptable. To insinuate that this behaviour is something normal that should be happening when people are having fun, especially when it’s received such a wide platform, is dangerous. Also, the inference that she ‘couldn’t hack’ a house party means that, y’know, she fell asleep so she should have expected to get dick on her face. OBVIOUSLY.
Secondly, let’s have a look at the definition of the word tart, as per Google Dictionary: “a woman who dresses or behaves in a way that is considered tasteless and sexually provocative.”
This is very worrying; his use of the word tart here infers that she was ‘asking for it’. At this point let me remind you that she was asleep. While someone put their flaccid penis on her face. This, incredibly rapey point aside, it again shifts the blame to the woman.
Thirdly is that this is seen as her not being able to take a ‘joke’. Anyone who’s a student now, or has been recently will have encountered ‘banter’. Banter is basically something people say when they’re being a prick, which is an excuse that is generally accepted amongst friendship circles made up of pricks. Banter is an issue which has swept through Students’ Unions in recent years, dressing up hurtful actions as jokes. This can have the effect of making people who’ve been targeted not want to react so they don’t ‘ruin the joke’. When someone does kick up a fuss, they’re a ‘tart’ because it’s only a ‘joke’. Here we go again. Blaming the victim. This kind of thinking is fucking toxic and quite frankly I’m embarrassed to breathe the same oxygen as people who think like this.
I’m going to stop there, I think the first two sentences provide enough for me to accurately describe everything that’s wrong with this. There have been some high profile cases in the media recently where certain sectors of the press were accused of victim blaming when they said the careers of Ched Evans and Oscar Pistorious had been ruined by their convictions for crimes against women, rape and manslaughter respectively. I tried to remain optimistic and hoped that simply due to their profile as celebrated sportsmen, the press were simply disappointed that they may not get to see them in action again. However, seeing this situation, where some men were happy to blame an unidentified woman to defend a man they’d never even met made me realise that this is a huge problem.
Victim blaming, seemingly, is just a symptom of sexism, and the sooner we eradicate it, the sooner we can eradicate the root cause.
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