If I had to take away one point from all my recent reading about feminism, it’s that men are responsible for themselves. Women are NOT responsible for preventing rape. We shouldn’t have to self-regulate around rape and gender violence. Rape and assault are gendered crimes almost always committed by men. Society is responsible for zero tolerance of those behaviors and individuals (i.e. men) are responsible for NOT committing those acts.
I shouldn’t need to worry about where I go, how I dress or what I say. Some typical assumptions that shift the blame from the perpetrator to the victim are:
If she hadn’t dressed so suggestively, she wouldn’t have drawn his attention.
If she hadn’t gone to the party, they couldn’t have assaulted her.
If she hadn’t drunk so much, she could have fought them off.
If she hadn’t agreed to visit his room/apartment/house, he couldn’t have raped her.
If she hadn’t been walking to her car alone/after dark/without an escort, she wouldn’t have been in danger.
She provoked him and he just couldn’t control himself.
At the same time, the men making these kind of statements want women to believe that it only applies to OTHER men. We shouldn’t worry about THEM. Of course, THEY would never do that. And if they don’t believe they’ll ever act in that way, they can pretend it all has nothing to do with them.
Moreover, they and society can pretend they shouldn’t be targets for our anger – that only we should worry about mitigating risks – that we should all anticipate which men will act badly under what circumstances. Anger is unpredictable and women are expected to be passive and conciliatory. Anger might force them to confront its sources – inequality, violence, degradation, dehumanization, misogyny and patriarchy. As they are invested in the status quo, they want to control that conversation and our choices.
As Clementine Ford says, “You can lead a man to thought, but you cannot make him think.” In that case, the kindest thing we can do for ourselves is walk away. We have a choice on whether or not to invest our time in that situation. And the great side effect is their frustration at being ignored just as they’ve ignored us and the issues affecting all aspects of our lives. So, don’t engage. You don’t have to “defend” our side or give any response at all. Apply your energy and your anger where YOU want them to go.