TThe alleged killer of eight people, six of whom were Asian American women, reportedly said he was trying to “remove the temptation.” It is as if he thinks that others are responsible for his inner life, as if the horrible act of taking the lives of others instead of learning some form of self-control is appropriate. This aspect of a crime that was also terribly racist reflects a culture in which men and society at large blame women for men’s behavior and the things men do to women. The idea of women as temptresses dates back to the Old Testament and is heavily emphasized in white evangelical christianity; the victims were workers and other people present in massage parlors; The killer was reportedly on his way to shoot Florida’s porn industry when he was arrested.
This week, an older friend recounted her attempts in the 1970s to open a domestic violence shelter in a community whose men didn’t believe domestic violence was a problem there, and when she convinced them that it was, she told him, but “What if it’s the women’s fault.” And last week, a friend of mine posted an anti-feminist spiel in which he blamed young women for the tribulations of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, as if they should put up with rape. the clear and old rules of the workplace, as if they and not he had a responsibility to protect his career and reputation.
Sometimes men are completely removed from history. Since the pandemic began, there have been torrents of stories about how women’s careers have been crushed or left their jobs altogether because they are doing the lioness’ part in housework, especially raising children, in homes. heterosexuals. In February of this year, NPR opened a history with the claim that this work has “landed on the shoulders of women” as if that workload had fallen from the sky instead of being pushed by spouses. I have yet to see an article on a man’s career that is flourishing because he has abandoned his wife, or focuses on how he is avoiding work.
Informal responses often blame women in these situations for their spouses and recommend that they leave without addressing that divorce often leads to poverty for women and children and of course unequal workloads at home. they can undermine a woman’s chances of financial success and independence. Behind all this is a storytelling problem. Family narratives about murder, rape, domestic violence, stalking, unwanted pregnancy, poverty in single parent homes, and a host of other phenomena portray these things as something that somehow happens to women and completely removes men from the history, they absolve them. of responsibility, or turn them into narratives of “she made him do it.” Therefore, we have treated many things that men do to women or that men and women do together as women’s problems that women must solve, either by being awesome and heroic and enduring beyond all reason, or fixing men, or magically choosing the impossible. it lives beyond the reach of harm and inequality. Not just housework and childcare, but what men do becomes women’s work.
Rachel Louise Snyder in No Visible Bruises, her 2019 book on domestic violence, noted that the frame is often “why didn’t she leave?” instead of “why was he violent?” Young women affected by street harassment and threats are routinely told to limit their freedoms and change their behavior, as if male threat and violence are just an unchanging force, like the weather, not something that can and should change. . And sure enough, in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of Sarah Everard by a police officer a few weeks ago, the Metropolitan Police knocked on doors and told South London women not to go out alone.
When it comes to abortion, unwanted pregnancies are routinely described as something that irresponsible women got into and that conservatives in the US and many other countries want to punish them for trying to get out. (From the anti-abortion narratives, one gets the impression that these women are as much the Whore of Babylon when it comes to sexual activity and the Virgin Mary when it comes to conception.) Although people who want to get pregnant can get pregnant on their own, with a sperm bank or a donor, unwanted pregnancies are almost 100% the result of sex with someone who, simply put, put their sperm where it was likely that she would find an egg in the womb. Two people participated, but too often only one will be recognized if the pregnancy ends in an abortion.
Katha Pollitt noted in her 2015 book on abortion that 16% of women have experienced “reproductive coercion” in which a male partner uses threats or violence to override their reproductive choice and 9% have experienced “birth control sabotage”, a male partner getting rid of his pills, punctured condoms, or prevented her from getting contraceptives. ” One of the arguments why abortion should be an unrestricted right is: violations that result in conception must be countered with choices about the consequences.
And of course, anti-abortion laws with rape exemptions require pregnant people to prove they were raped – an onerous, intrusive and lengthy process that often fails anyway, while Pollitt points out how many unwanted pregnancies are the result. violations of bodily self-determination that are not legal. definitions of rape. Rape itself is a crime in which the victim and not the perpetrator are often held responsible. In his impressive memories Know my name, Chanel Miller writes of all the ways she was blamed for having been, while unconscious, sexually assaulted by a stranger: “the rapist swimmer from Stanford.” Also, the legal consequences of his actions were framed as things she was inflicting on him.
When Tulane University reported in 2018 that 40% of female and 18% male students had been sexually assaulted, almost nothing was said about the fact that this meant that they not only had a campus populated by victims, but also by perpetrators. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put a chart warning women that alcohol consumption could result in being raped, pregnant, abused or infected with an STD, as if alcohol itself could and would do all of these things, and only women were responsible for preventing them. Once again men were drawn from narratives in which they are the protagonists.
There are more subtle ways of blaming the victim, including all the ways that people affected by abusive and discriminatory situations are portrayed as disruptive or demanding on one end of the spectrum and as mentally ill on the other. This happens, of course, when those in charge of the status quo choose to protect it rather than those it harms and marginalizes, a decision that makes reporting harm or marginalization likely to lead to more of the same.
Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey wrote in February: “Imposter Syndrome directs our vision toward fixing women at work instead of fixing places where women work.” That is, the diagnosis is all too often “she has subjective feelings of not being worthy or qualified” when it should be “she works in a place that treats her as unworthy or unqualified.” The headline of a March 7 related story shows how this plays out: “Google advised mental health care when workers complained of racism and sexism” and describes how employees who made those complaints were expelled, the people who gave them reasons to complain apparently went unchecked.
Taking the perpetrators out of all these narratives means that while the narratives are intended to care about the victims, the victims are not the ones they are protecting. Perpetrators are, both as individuals and as a class. This is a problem and even a crisis in all the situations I have described, but the bloodbath in Georgia was deadly: A young man learned from his Southern Baptist subculture that sex was a sin and that women were tempting and seductive. . those responsible for his inner life, and punished them with death.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism