Anyone who’s been wandering about the femisphere will be well aware, by now, of the various blogs written by assorted feminists on the subject of male violence, and how women can try and ameliorate situations in which they may find themselves victim of said.
I myself became embroiled in a discussion about the selfsame thing. Thankfully , it was with like minded women and it was all very civilised. And it made me realise that I needed to think. Hard.
Not because my instincts were wrong, or that theirs were either.
Make no mistake. Many men are predators. Many more are not deliberate predators, but rather, in drink, “forget their manners”- shall we say.
I am NOT mitigating the latter kind of male predation. Often driven by the moment, it is very bit as devastating to it’s victims as the former, no less so for being unplanned.
And as women, we often feel duty bound to remind women on these facts.
That being under the influence of alcohol vastly increases women’s chances of falling under male predation.
That being alone does the same.
That accepting drinks from strangers, ditto.
That going to certain kinds of party places you in the territories predators like to inhabit-“frat parties”- in the US vernacular.
We tell women to avoid these things , or not to do them.
We watch each other’s backs, surveille the horizon. In the British Armed Forces this is called “shark watch”**
All ostensibly well meaning, sisterly , advice.
Then comes the problem. The predator’s defence that patriarchy provides.
The mindset that pervades male and female discourse.
That by not following any of the above advice, the victim was granting licence to their attacker, that she bears the sole responsibility for her fate.
“What did she expect, getting herself so drunk?”
“What did she expect, wandering off like that?”
“What was she expecting, going to a frat party?”
“Blah she blah has nobody blah herself blah blah”
And my favourite, which all of the above imply…
“Oh come on, she’s not a kid, she’s knew what would happen, it’s not like nobody’s ever warned her”
All co-opting sensible advice, to be used as a “blame cosh” on any woman who falls foul of male predation.
Of this be certain. There are no real ways of avoiding rape. Lest we cease to be female.
We cannot shun the company of all men, including male friendship , for fear of “Scrhodinger’s rapist”.
All we are doing, at best, is ensuring he finds another victim.
Which begs the following.
How do we warn our sisters, daughters, of these things in such a manner that such warnings aren’t used against them?
How do we survielle or sisters without implying that we’re to blame, if our attention lapses or a sister wanders off?
Because warn them we must.
How do we keep on message, in such a manner, that patriarchy and it’s handmaiden, internalised misogyny, cannot seize upon those warning with a triumphant howl of “how can it be victim blaming -when even the sisterhood warned you-when they made it clear that *boys will be boys*” ?
How can we keep focus on the real perpetrator , male predation, when everything we try is used against us?
How do we live our lives, as we are entitled to, as freely as any man, without those freedoms being seen as licence by male predators?
We cannot stop warning our sisters. Cannot.
We have to make it clear that our warnings are NOT intended to police women’s lives, to restrict them.
We have to couch those warnings in a manner that makes it perfectly clear, to the perpetrator , that it is HIS behaviour that needs to change.
That he needs to stop raping.
And that he, and his handmaidens, STOP granting themselves licence to make victims of women, and blame them thus.
* the catalyst for this was a a discussion with *@OWL*, Organising For Women’s Liberation, and @umlolidunno, @radscummery et al. Whom I thank sincerely for their input and for making me think.
** Shark watch is an official term used in the British Forces to describe a buddy-buddy system of surveillance intended to protect everyone from predation, whether male or female , from mugging or attack. It’s isn’t patriarchal and implies no blame on the oppos of any victim, or on the victims themselves (this doesn’t for a moment suggest that victim blaming isn’t part of any mess deck discourse, I’m just pointing out that the “official line” is quite the opposite)