BY ABBY MAC
After recent tumultuous events involving women being violated, hurt and even murdered, a fight for women, but not limited to, to be safe on our streets, has ignited. People from all ages, no matter what their gender should be allowed to walk down the streets at any time of night, by themselves wearing whatever clothing they choose and not be frightened of predators. As women, we should be allowed to feel safe walking wearing high heels and a skirt, at 11:00 p.m. down a shadowy alley. That would be wonderful. I would never feel afraid again. However, expecting this is unrealistic.
We live in a world with many positive aspects and many rapidly improving negatives, from the fight for gender equality to environmental considerations. We are constantly changing and with these changes, I enjoy seeing parts of our world blossom. And as much as I would like to add to the list, women feeling comfortable on weird streets late at night, I can’t because it’s simply not true. Sure, there might be some exceptions to this rule but generally, I stress this generalisation, I would be called a liar.
We see horrifying stories flash on our television screens describing the despicable acts committed to women whilst trying to walk home or to their parked car. We are then reminded of the reassuring statistics such as that it is more likely than not that, that women will sexually assaulted a male they know than a stranger. 80% of sexual assault victims know their perpetrators (Better Health Channel). We are then falsely placed in a sense of security. Why? Because there is still that chance that we can be hurt by a strange man on the street. True, right?
Being oblivious to the fact that you can still be attacked by a strange man is surely just being ignorant? There are tips my mum and other adults have given to try and be safe on the street like holding the sharpest key between my fingers, how to stop and quickly defend myself against attacks, not wearing high heels and if I am, how to use them and other implements as weapons. I know, I know. Some may say slightly over the top, however, it is being equipped with the best possible plans of attacks and knowledge if I was to be put in a similar, unlikely situation. It is not victim-blaming. It is being real. And living in the world that not following safety measures is your way to be a feminist or show the world that not being a victim-blamer, then you’re not being real.
I am outraged that people suggest that women need to stop going out at night or have a drink in case a man attacks them. There is victim-blaming. This is where the line stops, where people suggest it’s the women that need to change than the indescribably contemptible men who commit such acts. That is victim-blaming. Being careful is not.
Mia Freedman, author of mamamia.com.au, conducted a controversial interview with feminist and fellow author Caitlin Moran about the idea of victim-blaming, where the real and on-line world was erupted by their thoughts. Outraged by their opinions. Criticising their positions as feminists for their comments. Here is part of the interview:
“M: There was a very tragic case in Melbourne recently, about an Irish girl who was walking home from a bar, and who was married and lived 800 metres from a bar, and was walking home and was just randomly abducted and raped and murdered. And it’s really been one of those watershed moments for the whole country.
There have been peace marches, and reclaim the night marches, because it is that thing that we all fear, a woman walking alone, randomly taken from the streets, and it’s really divided a lot of women. Because there have been those who have said, “don’t blame the victim, we need to be free to walk the streets at any time, it’s men who need to be taught not to rape and murder.”
And of course it should never be about victim blaming but I worry about the idea of saying to women “don’t change your behaviour, this is not your problem!”. I feel like that’s saying, ”You should be able to leave your car unlocked with the keys in the ignition, or leave your front door unlocked, and expect nobody to burgle you.”
C: Yes. It’s on that basis that I don’t wear high heels – other than I can’t walk in them – because when I’m lying in bed at night with my husband, I know there’s a woman coming who I could rape and murder, because I can hear her coming up the street in high heels, clack-clack -clack. And I can hear she’s on her own, I can hear what speed she’s coming at, I could plan where to stand to grab her or an ambush.
To be honest, I agree with them completely. There are definitely times where victim-blaming occurs. Where people assume that just because a woman gets raped means that she is a slut. Definitely. No doubt. But helping yourself be safe is not. We don’t live in a perfect world surrounded by perfect people who all want the best for us, so we need to stop treating it that way. Not recognising this is simply lying to yourself. It’s not blaming the victim. It’s helping you not become the victim.
What is your perspective on victim-blaming? Is being safe victim-blaming?