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Dirty Talk – Victim-Blaming in Sexual Harassment

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    Dirty Talk I was going to head out to a friend’s the other day. I was wearing my favorite, very pretty, lacy white top and a pair of shorts. It’s not like I didn’t expect my mother to tell me to change into something else if I’m going out, but I’ve always wished it needn’t be that way. My mom’s only reason for not allowing me to wear it is because it’s dangerous for women here to go out wearing it. People have this misconception that if you’re wearing shorts, or any western clothing generally considered “indecent”, it means that you have an intention to seduce, or to be subject to sexual interest.

    Somehow people have come to the conclusion that, if a girl gets eve teased, groped, molested or even raped, she was probably asking for it. “Why should she wear such revealing clothes? Wearing such indecent clothes, she cannot expect to be safe; she was asking for trouble. ” I’ve even heard stuff about, “After all he is a man, not God. ” From my experience of crowded, rickety Chennai buses, theatres, even of roads or empty streets, any girl, irrespective of what she is wearing, is unsafe. Even a girl dressed in the traditional salwar kameez would have some experience of sexual harassment to tell you about.

    And surely, men need not be God to respect women – they need only be human. There is, of course, more chance of getting in trouble if we were to wear more revealing clothes, but is that really any reason to demand that girls not wear them? Some people I know have even gone to the extent of calling a girl “arrogant” for wearing what she wanted to – apparently she was also “taking her life for granted” by expecting to be safe. Then there’s the rule that girls shouldn’t be out too late, after dark. This again, is for our safety.

    While these measures seem to be precautionary in nature on the surface, when you take a closer look at them, you will find that these measures are the very building blocks to victim-blaming. Let’s elaborate on exactly what that sentence means – If a girl violates the rules, she is immediately declared as having asked to be raped. She is labeled arrogant, stupid, and even slutty; simply for exercising the freedom that man has denied her for centuries. The worst part, perhaps, is the fact that other women share this misconception.

    Why should women have to give up their rights when they are not at fault – when the actual wrong-doers are the men? A man who will molest, harass or rape, will do it irrespective of the clothes we wear, or the time of day. Again, it is easier to commit crimes when it’s no longer daylight, but we need to ask ourselves what we are really doing, in the name of taking preventive measures. These so-called preventive and protective measures enforced on women – such as not wearing certain clothes or not going out after dark – are actually excuses we make for criminals.

    Instead of teaching our boys to respect women, we teach our girls to be more careful. In a way, adjusting to such crime encourages the crime itself. It’s like making excuses for the offenders – we adjust to their crimes and hence justify them. For example, people who pick pockets exist but we cannot stop carrying wallets because of that. What we must do is stop people from stealing and help them realize the fact that stealing is wrong. Similarly, a rapist or sex offender must not be feared and cowered away from but instead faced and confronted.

    By curbing the freedom of our women, all we are doing is adjusting to the crimes that are happening – we are being cowards in the face of danger. Cowardice only increases danger, however. These so-called preventive measures have done absolutely nothing to reduce sexual harassment of women. If anything, they have increased such incidents. Recently, the papers told us a story of how a couple of teenagers broke into a house and raped the woman inside and then burnt her so as to cover up their crime.

    Where do people get the audacity to commit such blatant crimes? It is only because they know that society will blame that poor, violated woman instead of them – they know that somehow, the woman will be blamed, even shamed. It is not that people will blame the girl in this particular incident I mentioned – the point I’m trying to make is that people would not commit such blatant crimes if society blamed the actual criminals rather than their victims. If a girl wears revealing clothes, she is immediately labeled a slut, someone who seeks sexual attention.

    A girl who wants attention could do so dressed in a sari or salwar kameez too. Girls who are dressed in western clothing may not have any such intentions either. Clothes tell nothing about a person; and even if somebody had the intent to be attractive, how is it any of our business to comment, to label her? Each of us has a sexuality, like it or not, and it is not something to be ashamed of. It is part of human life and exists universally. It is simply what it is – it is not something disgraceful or shameful. Do we ever hear somebody saying such things about a man – no atter how he may be dressed, or no matter how he behaves? Even if a man sexually harasses a girl, nobody labels him a man-whore (equivalent of the female slut). Girls will not be free and equal to men unless and until they fight for it. I must apologize for my use of bad language, but there is really no other way to effectively address the issue – it is necessary to be blunt and reflect what is real. The “dirty” content of this article is not in my writing but in our society. Submitted by Priyanka Vijayaraghavan 1212140 First year, B. A. Sociology

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