Miniskirt or Hijab? The Clothing isn’t to Blame.

It’s not about the clothes.

Following a spate of unsolved sexual assaults in Brooklyn, New York City Police are asking women to show a little less skin.

According to a Wall Street Journal article, an officer explained to women on the street that such clothing could make the suspect think he had ‘easy access.’  You’re exactly the kind of girl this guy is targeting.”   Apparently the reason the officer felt compelled to spell it out so bluntly is that the previous victims were often wearing skirts at the time of their attack.

One woman’s online comment to the article hit the nail on the head, “This is why several handicapped women in diapers at nursing facility were raped recently.”

What a woman wears is not the issue.  Sure, you could argue that miniskirts, stilettos, and midriff baring tank tops are provocative.   Does that mean women are ‘asking for it’?  Is it right to focus on the clothing when attention should be focused on advocacy and education?  Blaming the victims is getting old, as the international success of SlutWalks is proving.

While, I’m not personally a fan of using the word slut as part of a national movement to fight for women’s rights, I understand the desire to take possession of the word and throw it back in the face of those that dare call a women slut or whore because of who she is dressed.  And the controversial word in a marketing sense, has created a global movement.  Elizabeth Webb, the organizer of SlutWalk Dallas said it best,  “If someone breaks into a house, do you blame the owner for having a house that looks appetizing?”  Indeed, a crime should be blamed on the criminal, not the victim.

And let’s face it.  If simply covering up would solve the problem, countries like Afghanistan should be one of the safest countries in the world to be a woman.  Yet in a country where women are often shielded from prying eyes so completely that you can’t even pick one woman out from another in a line up, rape is just as prevalent as in countries where women flash their breasts at college frat parties to get on the latest “Girls Gone Wild” video.   The land of headscarves, hijabs, and burqas, Afghanistan is repeatedly ranked as the number one worst place in the world to be a woman.  The worst.  In the world.   In Afghanistan, many rape victims are in jail under morality codes, while their attackers walk free without even disapproving look.  If the victims live in a rural community away from an urban center, ie. the majority of Afghanistan, then its more likely that the family or community leaders will ‘take care’ of the problem themselves, which doesn’t mean a lecture on covering up or jail time.

Now granted, there is an enormous distinction in how the victims are blamed in a country like Afghanistan, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the victims are still blamed here in the West.  In New York, the police ask women to show a little less skin.  In Toronto, a policeman stated to legal students, “I’m not supposed to say this, but to prevent being sexually assaulted?  Avoid dressing like sluts.”

In other cases women are made to defend themselves in court against their attacker having their previous sexual history trotted out as though its proof that she was complicit in the attack in some way.   Questioning even if they could have been actually raped wearing jeans, implying it must have been consensual due the logistics of access.  Women must defend their actions of owning vibrators, or getting drunk, or being sexually promiscuous instead of the attention landing squarely at the foot of the attacker.

Male rape occurs as well worldwide, it’s much less reported, but common in countries like Afghanistan with their ‘dancing boys’, and as a weapon of war in countries like Congo. It is no less horrific or humiliating, but not once have I ever seen or heard comments about how the man was dressed, his sexual proclivities, or how often he masturbates.  Men are not asked to cover themselves up to be less tempting.

The time has come to stop the gross inequity between how men and women are perceived sexually.  Men in Afghanistan should be lectured to ‘look away’ if they feel tempted by a women’s beauty, not force the women remove his temptation by hiding under a burqa.  This implies that sexual assault is about sex, temptation, and desire.  More often its about power and control.

Stop blaming the sweet little corvette for being to tempting to carjackers and start arresting the carjackers.

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