6 comments on “Minimization Advice vs. Victim-Blaming

  1. I don’t know if I agree in full, Dre. But I think you make some pretty strong points overall.

    I do have a few questions for you, though. Pardon me if I get too wordy here. Like I said, you make some good points in your commentary. But I think good advice is for EVERYONE to follow, not just women. But it seems like you’re focuses much more on women. I think you even tripped yourself a few times by saying women in particular. You could’ve just as easily spent the same amount of time (over 11 minutes) addressing men who’ve run afoul of drunken hooligans of basic safety lessons. Why do you feel like women need to be reminded more. Is that victim-blaming to an extent?

    While I’m on it, why narrow this advice to sexual assault, a type of attack where victim blaming either explicitly or implicitly is the norm, as opposed to robbery, where it almost never is?

    Further, suggesting to a group of people who have learned that by virtue of chromosomal fluke they will be ogled, propositioned and touched without permission often in their lives that they really ought to watch themselves because there are dangerous people who might target them is an insult to women’s intelligence. As you’ve hinted before, people often act against their own self-interest, but women as a whole are pretty intensely aware of their vulnerability in a number of situations, many of them a whole lot more prosaic than the ones you used in your commentary.

    No offense, but thinking like this starts to get at how people’s advice might have “good intentions”, but eventually become borderline misogynist and, at worst, a prelude to victim-blaming.

    You are exactly right that there are a number of other issues here, first and foremost the implicit attitude that rapists are going to rape, so the ladies best be on the lookout. But that’s where the victim-blaming comes in. It might be argued that it’s not a message to women that they can/could have prevented rape, but it does send a message to unenlightened young men that rape is just an unfortunate part of life and that women have a responsibility to stay out of the way of guys who just can’t help themselves.

    That some people talking about this aren’t articulating their arguments in a way that fosters productive conversation is unfortunate, so I can at least appreciate where you’re coming from.

  2. Hi Cyn,

    Thanks for your input. You know I always appreciate what you have to say. Thing is: I think you might be reading too much into what I was saying. The only point I was trying to convey here is that offering rape minimization advice isn’t something that should be vilified.

    I suppose one could argue that any advice can be criticized, but the problem isn’t the ADVICE. It’s the source of the advice, the intent, etc. And that is what can give it a negative spin. My concern is the amount of energy spent on saying how detrimental that advice is when that amount of energy can be spent doing things far more productive. There have been efforts, for instance, to promote the idea that men shouldn’t rape, aimed directly at men. Do they work? Well, hard to say since they’re not very pervasive. But THAT is the kind of thing women (and men) should, I think, be expending their passion and energy on.

    Think of anti-smoking efforts. People hammered campaigns over and over that relentlessly told people not only the risk of smoking but shamed them by suggesting how flawed they were for smoking. I have issues with how much those efforts blame smokers and ridicule them now, but I can’t argue with their effectiveness. Now anti-smoking people are emboldened to try to ban smoke ANYWHERE outside and within people’s own car and, perhaps, the moon or some mess. Imagine if that kind of fervor could be turned toward anti-rape efforts directed at men and boys. I think it would go far. But it takes commitment.

    Frankly, I think there are too many people who find it more satisfying to ridicule rape-risk-reduction advice and to say “teach your boys not to rape” rather than to actually put effort toward a more proactive and far-reaching effort that might DO something about the root problem.

    I agree substantially with what you’ve said. Sure, assault prevention advice is very similar. But one must remember that women are at more risk, generally speaking, because most men can overpower most women. Man vs. man is more likely to be a “level” playing field. Also, a startlingly high number of women end up victims of rape. You make the correct point that a lot of that is within relationships or from relatives and acquaintances. But still, women are going to be targeted for things like mugging, assault AND rape, whereas men almost never have that last component.

    Ergo, aiming the advice at women makes sense from the standpoint that they (near as I can tell) will be targeted for violence more often, for a variety of unfortunate and unsavory reasons.

    Please understand that I’m not refuting what you’ve said. My concern is misdirected energy and aiming the blame at the wrong targets. It’s easy to get annoyed by something and then ignore or miss the core problem that needs addressing…not just with rape but a lot of things.

    • I think it’s fair to say that we’re working from the same text on most of these issues. My interest in exploring the potential ramifications of offering ‘advice’ springs from the current anti-woman climate we find ourselves in. For the most part, I think you’ve provided some pretty good advice applicable to the general public, and not just to women: Maybe we’d all be better served spending a little less time on pithy retorts and hand-wringing and a little more time identifying underlying issues and meaningful remedies.

    • I’m with you, Cyn. But unfortunately, I think this is one area of society where liberals and conservatives both suffer from tunnel-vision and lack of perspective (though in different ways and for different reasons). My guess is this has much to do with both sides still being largely driven by male leadership only interested in seeing things through a single one-sided lens.

  3. I agree with your post 100%, Andre. When I was a little girl, my dad, uncle, and older brother (in addition to my mother, obviously) cared enough about to instill certain things in me. Now that I’m grown with children of my own, I can fully appreciate how this kind of advice comes from people who usually know what they’re talking about. I never saw this as a way to judge us as women. Or certainly not a way of blaming us for anything. To me it was always about passing on some wise advice.

  4. Do my eyes and ears deceive me? Did Andre create a post I actually…uh oh…agree with?! The end really is near! LOL!

    Kidding aside, yes you’re absolutely correct Andre. To me there’s a pretty CLEAR difference between blaming a victim and asking those who are vulnerable to be careful. No one is placing blame, they’re just giving advice on how to keep yourself safe. Being more cautious can help you avoid being a victim in the first place.

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