21st century feminism

Monday, 15 February 2010

Rape? So who’s to blame?

A very disturbing, but unsurprising, survey released today suggests that over 50% of people think women should take some responsibility for being raped.

More than half of those questioned (56%) said the rape victim should be held "partly accountable" in certain circumstances.

You can see the press release here. 

The bbc report here and sky here.

There is something about rape which makes people suspicious of the victim. This kind of suspicion is rarely applied to other crimes. Should mugging victims take a little responsibility if they look particularly weak and vulnerable? Are they asking for it? What about victims of theft? Should they examine themselves if they look wealthy or have a nice car? Is it to be expected? This kind of rhetoric doesn’t exist, but women who are raped are fair game. The worst thing is often women who have actually been raped think this kind of thing. No wonder rates of conviction are so low in the UK.

I was impressed by this post by Matt Lawrence, Crystal Palace defender. He says:

Maybe I’m a little long in the tooth, but I didn’t realise bed = sex… I know it’s an age-old adage, but I struggle to believe that just because a woman dresses provocatively it somehow makes her “fair game.

Image: djcodrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Toad makes a road

I find it increasingly frustrating that the tractor/digger/dumper books I read my son rarely depict girls or women driving. I don’t want him to grow up thinking that only boys and men can drive large machinery, but that’s the impression he’s getting.

And so, last week, with a poorly boy and a promise of a new book he’s been after, I ordered Toad Makes a Road. I thought I was getting more of the same Toad-come-action hero/digger driver/workman lit. You can imagine my surprise when it landed on our doorstep and Toad is a seemingly single, independent, strong-minded female! She needs a road to her house building and gets on with the job, complete with all the appropriate heavy machinery. It’s even got a doubtful goat who watches from the sidelines, stating “But toads can’t make roads…” Brilliant. 

Tackling Demand

Sign up here for a no. 10 petition to criminalise buying sexual acts, rather than selling them.

The 2009 Policing and Crime Act made a new offence of paying for sex with someone who is controlled for gain (sex trafficking/pimps), but this petition goes further and suggests that all who pay for sexual acts should be criminalised.

This is similar to Swedish law, which since 1999 has made it an offence to buy sex acts. For some more info have a look here or here.

The aim of criminalising the user is a direct step to decrease demand in the industry. Most women enter sex work because of abuse or difficult circumstances, their criminalisation does little to help them make real steps to get out of it.  

Love it or Loathe it?

I can’t start blogging without recognising the obvious: feminism is not exactly a loved and cherished ideology anymore. In fact you are probably more likely to find people actively wanting to disassociate themselves from it than claim the title. I don’t fall into that category.

Whenever I lecture on feminism I am keen to point out to those (in the mixed gender classroom) who want to distance themselves from the term, that the very act of being there – women receiving a graduate education and men happy to be educated alongside them, to the same degree-level – is a political alignment with core feminist values.  This is not always happily received, but the point is made, love it or loathe it feminism is responsible for many values, rights and privileges that we take for granted today: women’s education, women’s rights to own property, women’s control of their own bodies, women with careers… I could go on.

Feminism-by-any-other-name? Feminism-by-stealth? I don’t know…