Monday, April 13, 2015

The Two R's

One of the things I've noticed in recent weeks is that there are some similarities in some reactions to issues surrounding rape and racism. People of color are accustomed to folks searching out the reasons behind their mistreatment, explaining away centuries of racism with suggestions like well, stop wearing that hoodie, pull up your pants, and stop the teen pregnancy and then people won't mistreat you.  Totally ignoring the numbers that belie this*, it is a kneejerk response that refuses to look the racism in the eye and seeks to explain it away based on the behavior of the victim. 
Similarly, rape culture is so pervasive that while people maybe stopped asking if every rape victim is a virgin (I think) but there are still discussions about what the victim wore, how intoxicated the victim was (whether or not that intoxication was by choice), and that no, that person is so nice, it was probably just a misunderstanding. 
And so here's the thing.  When you are constantly confronted with these biased assumptions and accompanying microaggressions and people constantly try to explain away the things you know to be wrong as misunderstandings, well, it's hard.  You may start to internalize it, to buy into it, to think you acted, spoke, or dressed in such a way a invite this behavior.  You may try to act, speak, and dress in the ways that have been deemed safe.  And, well, sadly you will discover that people still treat you pretty much the same as before.  You may try to dig deeper into the hierarchy, to start examining those around you through this filtered lens, judging people as behaving, speaking, and dressing correctly or not, to prove you understand the difference.  And who knows, it may mean you go days or weeks before the next incident. 
And another choice is to discard all these respectability politics.  To speak out against those who try to stifle the victims instead of appropriately blaming the aggressors.  And then you might find it hard to address or respond to any criticism.  Might be infuriated every time someone, in the name of balance, told a story of a victim and qualified it with the victim's contribution to their own victimhood.
I don't want to say the answer is in the middle.  Answers often are, but the reality is the first step is understanding that these frameworks are so embedded into the culture that you have to work to discard them.  We are often taught to wait for all the facts, or to try to see both sides, but if someone has hurt someone, assaulted them, or worse killed them, well, there may or may not be extenuating circumstances, but that doesn't make the outward act correct.  Understanding motive is a natural desire - there's an entire TV show dedicated to it.  But, in the end, we need to stop the acts.  Not correct the victims. 
So, telling people to wear different clothes, or use special nail polish isn't empowering.  It is insulting that once again the onus is on the victim to protect themselves from predators, instead of society to stop enabling predators.

*Teen pregnancy is dropping across all populations in the US, as are teen abortions.  Still work to be done, but declining in all populations in the US.  

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