Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rage Against Letters to the Editor: Or, I am Worth More Than a Gold Necklace

The following scary bit of victim-blaming was somehow allowed in to the Letters to the Editor page of the Washington Post today. It was written in response to Jessica Valenti's excellent look at SlutWalks. (For more SlutWalk info, check out this awesome post by Holly Pervocracy).

"I couldn't disagree more with the unrealistic premise and immature slogans the new feminists espoused in Jessica Valenti's Outlook commentary. A simple analogy sums it all up: American capitalism relies heavily on advertising. An advertised product sells. Advertising works!
"Advertising your body works as well. Walking the streets in a high-crime area while wearing a gold necklace is stupid. Let's likewise be smart about the way we dress." - Ingrid Wrauseman, victim-blamer

Besides the extremely obvious "you absolutely deserve to be raped if I don't think you were acting acceptably" not-so-sutble subtext which is the basic underlying principle of all Victim Blamers, what I find scariest is what the whole "advertising" thing really means. "Advertising" your body like a gold necklace and then being raped has to mean that rape was the desired result - like someone buying the product that's being shilled. Not only are women asking for it, they want it! In this case, the product being advertised is women's bodies, and the "sell" is...rape. Wait, what?

This is the transactional model of sexuality at its stark conclusion. Under this model, sex is a thing that men take from women, whether they pay in the form of dinner and drinks or with emotional attachment (apparently, women never have sex because they like it). If women advertise their sexuality or attractiveness or even femininity, then sex will be forcibly taken from them just like that gold necklace. In this scenario -- under the transactional model of sexuality -- not only is the horrific experience of rape equated to a mugging, it is also cast as a what-did-you-expect microcosm of capitalism.  Advertise the product, dear, and someone will buy it whether you're selling or not.

This woman apparently believes that her fellow women are just things. We are objects that had better be careful of how we dress and act around men, because if we "advertise" by being attractive or dressing in an unacceptable way then we will be bought or stolen. And men, here, are just muggers who can't control their apparently animal urges long enough to imagine that women are people. But hey, if the author can't conceive of that, how on earth could men?

I have to believe that men are worth more than that. I believe that men can and should respect women as human beings no matter what they're wearing. I have to hope that men see female sexuality and bodily autonomy as more than a "gold necklace" that's theirs for the taking. I believe that the majority of men are not rapists.

And finally, though it's been said before and better: I am worth more than a gold necklace. I deserve the right to walk whatever streets I choose in whatever clothes I'm wearing. I am no billboard, no coupon, and no advertisement. I am not for sale.

1 comment:

  1. People like you, eloquently furious women with undeniable logic in their argument holsters, are the people who taught me what feminism is about. I'm sad to see this latest post is two years old. The Internet could use more of your typings. (Fact! One post from you cancels out about fifty-four YouTube comments.)