I recently wrote a Part 1, to which some anonymous stranger wrote an interesting comment. I had so much to say in reply that I decided it deserved a whole post of it’s own. Here is what “Amanda” said:
It is fantastic that you are comfortable with who you are, and that who you are is someone who is religious, teetotaling, and conservative(ish) of garb and behavior. However, the world is a big and diverse place, and as you know, there are as many ways to experience it as there are people.
Basic morality checkboxes aside, your habits and likes are no more legitimate than those of party animals, surfers, ravers, or any other less buttoned-down subculture. What you’re espousing is not common sense prevention–it is perpetuating the unfair redistribution of the burden of preventing assault back to victims. Despite your statement to the contrary, your basic message is that women should behave, dress, and conduct themselves to avoid attracting the attention of harassers. Is that really any different than the antiquated “she was asking for it” mentality rebranded slightly to be palatable to the modern ear? Women who want to show skin, drink alcohol, talk loud, and party hard deserve exactly as much respect as those who choose not to partake.
I rarely respond to blog posts simply because it’s worthless to get involved in flame wars with faceless internet people with whom I disagree. However, you seem smart and thoughtful, and despite our radically different worldviews, I thought I might have a fighting at shot changing your mind.
Would you consider the possibility that your post may be unintentionally advocating for some women to make themselves small to accommodate a culture that is too tolerant of some men’s appalling behavior? Thanks for reading.
First of all, thank you for such a thoughtful and respectful response. I not only expect, but welcome critiques of the ideas I present. I am the absolute first to admit that I have very little figured out in life (if anything), and often feel overwhelmed at the idea of trying to understand the world as it really is. My posts help me verbalize the conceptual progress I’ve made in trying to grapple with complex issues, and critical responses (like yours) do a great job of bringing to light ways I need to refine my understanding.
First, I will address the idea of my habits or ideas being no more or less legitimate than others. I have to be honest in saying that I do personally believe they are more legitimate, and that is why I choose them. However, this “legitimacy” has nothing to do with deservingness of being the victim of sexual assault. In other words, the way one behaves (alcohol consumption, manner of dress, social habits) should not increase the likelihood of sexual misconduct. My actions and the actions of others are equally legitimate in the sense that the expectation of safety while engaged in these particular actions should be the same.
The phrase “unfair redistribution of the burden” caught my eye, particularly the term “unfair”. Picture this scenario: I decide to leave my wallet on the seat of my car in a poorly lit area that has a lot of foot traffic. Also, I leave all 4 windows completely rolled down. When I get my wallet stolen, everyone will tell me that I was “asking” for it.
What was the burden I had to bear in order for me not to be “asking for it”? I would have had to roll up my windows and carry my wallet with me, or maybe even just stick it in the glove compartment. Not particularly burdensome.
But in order for a woman to minimize her chances of sexual assault, she must conform to a number of different lifestyle habits. Basically, she would have to live a lot like me. And no, I don’t think that anybody should have to live like me for the sake of not getting raped. That would be an unfair burden, whereas taking precautions to keep your wallet from getting stolen really do not present any significant burden.
Is this what you mean? Are we on the same page?
Also, I never want to advocate that women should make themselves feel small to accommodate the culture. I actually want to be an example of a woman who is making herself big (my blog is one of the main ways I do that), so that hopefully I can invite other women to “live out loud” and walk with confidence. I also do not want to encourage women to walk in fear, but to walk in love for self and others. This brings me to a very important point- I live the way I live because I want to. So I get to “live big” and feel and generally be safe at the same time. However, if another women adopted my lifestyle for the sake of not being assaulted, she would not be living big, but living small as a result of being in fear. That should not be expected of anyone. And yes, maybe I was unintentionally advocating this.
In regards to the “party” lifestyle, it has always been my intuition that, generally, it brings more sadness than happiness, and more frustration than joy. And I have suspected this sense before I was committed to teetotaling, sexual abstinence, or my current religious affiliation. I also think that many college-aged women adopt the party lifestyle simply because that is what most everyone else is doing, and offers the path of least resistance for having fun and meeting people. I guess that what I am suggesting is that maybe there are women who actually would find happiness and fulfillment in living more similarly to the way I do, and would thus not have to be made small in order to prevent sexual assault. I feel that a sober and chaste life has MUCH to offer, a feeling of sexual safety being one of its perks.
I hope that you find my response as thoughtful and respectful as your was. I still stand behind my first post, but you have brought me to an awareness of some of the underlying issues that were not expressed. I do hope to hear your response.
The Preppy Panda