Friday, September 19, 2008

Can You Spot The Dirty Girl?

image Well the dirty sluts are at it again.  In Uganda women in mini skirts are responsible for traffic accidents.  It seems that because men cannot manage to ogle a woman and drive safely, the solution is that women must be forced to cover their bodies by law.

Nsaba Buturo, Uganadas minister of ethics and integrity, is quoted by the BBC as saying, "What's wrong with a miniskirt? You can cause an accident because some of our people are weak mentally. Wearing a miniskirt should be regarded as "indecent", which would be punishable under Ugandan law.   These days you hardly know who is a mother from a daughter, they are all naked."

Wow, apparently once you push out a kid you are no longer allowed to be a sexual being, or display your body in any way.  Motherhood means a lifetime of chastity and purity, so have all the fun before you get pregnant ladies, afterwards you must live like a nun devoid of agency or desire. 

Why is it that women are always expected to suffer because of a "male weakness.?"  The suggestion is never that men should modify their behaviour, but that women must constantly adjust ours.  A woman going about her daily life is not responsible for the pervert that cannot keep his eyes on the road.  To slut shame women for a lack of propriety on the part of males, is just another example of the ways in which men continue to control women's bodies.

On the flip side of cover and be shamed, is the idea that exposure should be rewarded.  A Melbourne pub tried to run a "No Undie Sundie" - a promotion "urging women to remove their underwear in return for a $50 drink card", Oz's Daily Telegraph reports.  The online ad that featured a Brittany Spears upskirt said, "Free glass of champagne for first 100 ladies flash bra [sic] or undies to bar staff; for free drink hang your undies on the line above the bar for $50 drink card."

This amounts to pimping of womens bodies for profit.  Yes the women are rewarded for the display of their genitalia, but how much profit did the bar stand to gain from the male customers who would be attending in the hopes of seeing female flesh?  This was hardly a loosing proposition for the pub in question.

No need to panic though because Sue Maclellan, Victoria's liquor licensing director, ordered the cancellation of the festivities claiming, "it was likely to encourage irresponsible drinking".  That is the official party line but statements from women groups point to a different reason.

Carolyn Worth of Melbourne Centre Against Sexual Assault was more forthright, slamming the event as "stupid and dangerous". She said: "It sends a very bad message, and it is one made very explicit. It's almost an invitation to sexual assault."

Port Phillip mayor Janet Cribbes weighed in by saying she'd "consider referring the organisers to the Advertising Standards Bureau".

She explained: "The ad is bordering on being pornographic. It fuels the fire for irresponsible drinking, irresponsible behaviour and puts young women at risk and makes them more vulnerable to sexual assault.

I didn't know that drinking made me more vulnerable to sexual attack.  For 30 something years now I have  believed that having a little thing called a vagina made me vulnerable to rape.  A woman does not need to be drunk to become the victim of sexual assault, she simply needs to be in the vicinity of a man that is determined to be violent. 

Why is it irresponsible for a woman to decide to remove her bra or panties?  image Even standing completely naked before a man does not give him the right to have access to her body; therefore the idea that somehow nudity is irresponsible cannot stand up to scrutiny.  The other aspect of this issue is power.  Rape is not a sexual act, it is an expression of power over women.  Even if a man is sexually excited from viewing  naked bodies, unless he has a desire to harm nudity will not lead to assault.  The arguments made to stop this event removes agency from women and creates men as wild savages.  Though we may not agree with the choice to disrobe, it is still the right of the individual to disrobe.  When we place moral standards on behaviour they are usually targeted at women and ultimately this reduces female agency.

Even when we think we are acting in support of women we need to place our actions within a wider discourse to consider the implications.  If the goal is to reduce rape, we need to consider the reason for rape within our actions.  Demanding that women cover up to deal with acts of male violence or inappropriate staring as in the case of Uganda, gives the state power over womens bodies.  This is a dangerous pandoras box because if the state can legislate a minor thing like what can be worn in what spaces, they will be tempted to issue more decrees that limit our behaviour solely based in essentialist gender constructions.  If we are ever to be free of biology, we need to demand that those responsible for the violence, ( read: the men) be held accountable.  We are no  more responsible for male behaviour, than we are for the sun rising and setting each day.



AR said...

This amounts to pimping of womens bodies for profit.

As opposed to pimping for charity?

Considering how "pimping" implies a degree of coercion, I must object to the use of the phrase to refer to ultimately consensual arrangements while we still live in a world where real pimps continue to operate. If this can indeed be called pimping, I must say it's one the easiest-to-get-out-of pimping operations in the world, unlike those in which the woman can't simply decide to not show up. At least, not with a beating or drug withdraws.

A woman does not need to be drunk to become the victim of sexual assault, she simply needs to be in the vicinity of a man that is determined to be violent.

It is true that there is little anyone can do against a truly determined criminal, but I think you give potential rapists too much credit to assume that they all posses that rare level of dedication. Crime = Desire*Opportunity, which is the principle behind the phrase, "Locks aren't for keeping out thieves, they're for keeping honest people honest."

I find it strange that some feminists have practically exalted rapists by attributing to them such competence and singularity of purpose as one usually only finds in special operations forces, to the degree that, having established that the rapist desires to commit rape, they assume that rape will happen regardless of circumstances. It may be more productive to assume that would-be rapists, like most people, are inclined to perform a given task in inverse-proportion to its perceived difficulty.

I do agree with you that a focus on the role of women in rape is misguided at best, and perversely malicious at worst, but I think that if the goal is to reduce incidents of rape, both the desire and opportunity must be reduced.

Not that that has anything to do with wearing miniskirts! The "desire" part of this equation lies in the rapist alone, and I do attribute to them sufficient imagination that clothing, or any sort of "leading on," is an irrelevant concern, unless that clothing happens to include a holster.

Renee said...

@AR opportunity does not equal rapist. I think that you give men no credit by making that statement.

Anonymous said...

While I understand that rape is sometimes about power over women, I wonder, what does rape symbolise when a woman does it to a man? Or a man to a man? Etc.

Jack Valentine said...

Renee, I agree completely.

AR, your point seems to be that women can take precautions to reduce the chances of being raped. Nobody is going to disagree with you, but you need to understand that being forced to worry about such things is one facet of oppression. Renee's dismissal of the role of alcohol was meant to emphasize that the only person responsible for a rape is the rapist.

Anonymous said...

As long as woman themselves continue to propagate scenarios in which they will most likely suffer indecencies at the hands of whomever wishes them ill, then we will always have this debate about sexual/physical freedom versus personal rights/protection. When we have so many public sources of blatant misuse and overexposure of the female body, I think it will be difficult to convince anyone that we should be taken more seriously. Some of these woman's behavior is tantamount to pouring gasoline on a fire, and in my opinion, that is the test for the rest of us. I for one will not ever stand up for the rights, of say, Paris Hilton, even if she were victimized. And that, is the saddest commentary I can make, as another woman.

professorwhatif said...

This issue links to current talk in California about rules regarding school attire. Often these debates are framed in the way the mini-skirt debate is above -- females need to cover up so males have the chance to learn rather than being distracted. It's the same argument as "men cannot manage to ogle a woman and drive safely." This line of argument as you note in your closing paragraph reifies gender essentialism and, as the post discusses, problematically places the blame for violence on women. It is insulting to men as well in the 'oh they can only think with their penis' way.

eternal-llama said...

**I for one will not ever stand up for the rights, of say, Paris Hilton, even if she were victimized. And that, is the saddest commentary I can make, as another woman.**

So in your eyes only SOME women are worth protecting? Those whom you consider "slutty" aren't? If you reread the scenarios that Renee posted then it's easy to understand what's so dangerous; it leads to that kind of thinking that women who get raped, ogled, harassed, etc did something to deserve it. If you don't respect women it doesn't matter how you dress or carry yourself. Just look at what's happening in Egypt with women getting harassed on the streets. This is what people don't seem to get. I've dressed conservatively and I've still gotten nasty comments. If there's sexism, if men feel that they are entitled to commit indecencies, if, in their eyes, I am less than a person then I won't be respected.

What's sad is how easily you can deny another person's worth.

mzbitca said...

Do you think women wearing jeans don't get harrassed or assaulted? It has absolutely nothing to do with what a women wears or does and everything to do with the fact that she's a woman and society has conditioned it's males to think less of sadly some of it's females as well

Amelia said...

Renee, this is a great post that I appreciate very much, even though some of your commenters seem very willing to blame victims/devalue men into crazed animals...both of which are wrong.

And to Anon up there: All rape is about power, regardless of the perpetrator. It is about the power of the rapist to get what they want from someone who is not willing to give it freely. It applies to all rape.

AR said...

opportunity does not equal rapist. I think that you give men no credit by making that statement.

Right. 0 desire results in 0 crime for all values of opportunity. That's why I made the relation multiplicative instead of additive, as the more common phrasing goes.

I for one will not ever stand up for the rights, of say, Paris Hilton, even if she were victimized.

If they don't apply to everyone, they're not actually rights. The difference between victimizing Paris Hilton and victimizing any of us is very small if not nonexistent in the eyes of most perpetrators, so women will never be safe as long as people hold this attitude.

T B said...

Here's a relevant article -

Although women are complicitous inasmuch as they don't challenge those structural underpinnings of rape, I still think that men are should be held fully responsible for acts of rape and other violence towards women, regardless.

T B said...

I generally am in agreement with you, but I also am going to point out that questions about responsibility are more complicated -

When women wear mini-skirts and other revealing clothing they do bear some responsibility when men glance at them. Staring is another matter; forms of harassment (let alone violence) are another matter; but the women are drawing attention to themselves, so the men aren't *completely* responsible for looking.

That said, the predominance of males and traditional masculinity pressures women to dress in those ways, so the responsibility for those clothing choices isn't all on the women (who certainly do have minds and agency of their own, however).

Basically I'm just getting at nuances here. As I said, I generally agree.

(As for the legislation issues, I'm setting those aside.)

(As I said in a previous comment, I think that all of the responsibility for rape should be placed on the shoulders of those who do it. Rape is inexcusable. While there is more to it then individual choice (because of how women are objectified in other ways, thereby encouraging rape), there can't be room for excuses.)

T B said...

(That is to say that such objectification is one structural underpinning of rape. The alternet article linked to above addresses other sides of this.)

Anonymous said...

As a female, I think a lot of this is ridiculous.
People should be able to dress as they please- if they want to look slutty, they can look slutty.
As for that bar, they made a legitimate business move. No one is being forced to do anything.

Renee said...

@ANON you are for female agency and yet you can use terms like slut...nice

whatilike said...

I am appalled at the ignorance of the comments in response to this post (and many of your other hard-hitting posts).

I agree on all counts and I especially like your analysis of the bar ads and drinking. It was defiantly sexist, but at the end of the day, female agency is what matters.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, my aunt is like that too.
We went out on a shopping trip one day , and she saw a very pregnant young woman who was wearing a fitted shirt. She said "back in the day we would have been ashamed". I'm thinking "Ashamed to be pregnant? Why should she be ashamed? Is her body...."
The older I get the more I realize we have no real freedom in this country!

Anonymous said...

This is slightly unrelated, but I have a question.

Some days ago I talked to my girlfriend (it is a long-distance relationship), and she told me that earlier that day she and three friends got naked and ran out to shower in the rain. Two of them were boys. She said it was just something impulsive and fun. But somehow it wasn't very fun for me. I got angry and told her that this is not ok for me. She said she wont do it again, but was hurt and I don't think she quite understood me. Am I being unreasonable? I felt a little bad afterwards, because I don't want to decide what she can or can not do. But at the same time, the thought of her being naked with other men is very disturbing. Do I have the right to deny her to express her body freely?

Some of you might think that nudity is natural, and that I am the one who is somehow corrupted. Well, maybe it's slightly more complicated than that, call me old-fashioned..

By the way, this isn't about rape. I'm not worried that she might somehow encourage some idiot to rape her. It's just that I don't want other boys to see her naked, stupid as that may sound..

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