It is always disappointing when an opportunity to have a positive influence on how we perceive and condemn violence against women turns into another conversation of how women are the ones that need to change their actions if they want to avoid being assaulted by men. This is what happened in a Q&A episode this week with a panel discussing Floyd Mayweather’s history of domestic violence.
When it comes to questioning the ways we talk about more complex forms of male violence against women, and the way our society responds to it, we just can’t get past the victim blaming mentality that accepts male violence against women as a ‘fact of life’ that women must navigate rather than society eradicate.
When a man is assaulted, men are not told to avoid walking the streets alone, because that would be ridiculous. Women, on the other hand, are consistently given this directive after violent incidents – even when the victim is attacked in broad daylight. It might not sound like “blame”, but implicitly, it is. It comes from the assumption that the streets are not women’s territory, and we don’t have the same right to walk them in safety as men do. We are expected to keep ourselves safe, because of an assumption that the dangers facing us are unavoidable except if we take extraordinary measures of our own to avoid them.
One of the best Twitter responses to the Q&A episode was Kon Karapanagiotidis:
Dear #qanda don’t discuss violence women ever again unless every sentence starts with either
“Men need to change
Come on Q&A, do better.
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Juliana de Faria from Sao Paolo has started Chega de Fiu Fiu (“Enough with the Catcalls”), an online map which records women’s instances of verbal and physical assaults.
It is both a community where women can vent and support each other and also serves as documentary evidence that harassment is real, and it is as serious problem – not something women should just be expected to take as a ‘compliment’.
“It’s going to take some time until we change this behaviour for good,” Juliana said. “But street harassment is now being seen as assault – and that’s the beginning of real change.”
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‘That Guy Who Isn’t You‘ is the winning piece in a creative writing contest. It’s a bit of a read so some choice quotes are below.
Part that resonated most:
I am out dancing with my friends and men are imposing their way into our evening uninvited, and they don’t back off until we lie and say our boyfriends are coming, because they will respect an imaginary, made-up man before they respect us.
Key take out to share with your men:
You didn’t speak up. You minded your own business. You let it enter your mind that she deserved it. You looked at pictures not meant for your eyes. You believed him because he’s a nice guy. You looked away. You felt uncomfortable but not enough to say anything. You dismissed it as a joke. You ignored all of those times you saw things that you knew weren’t right and you didn’t make it your problem. Instead you made it mine, and you’re not listening to me now, you’re just waiting for your turn to talk – so yes, you are right it was not you.”
One call out – there is a section where it’s implied that prostitution is violence against woman. This mindset is not supported by Dirty words as feminism means supporting a woman’s right to make her own life choices. Apart from this, it’s worth a read.
A very sensible article on an issue that needs more prominence.
What happens to women on the streets is not seen as a critical issue – it is certainly not taken with the same level of seriousness as the safety of young men at risk of coward punches (where laws were changed, new terms coined). “Street harassment” is not even specifically referred to in the federal government’s much trumpeted national plan to reduce violence against women.
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