Thursday 30 August 2012

How to avoid sexual assault: Don't dress like a whore

You open your mouth and on the spur of the moment say something you think may be brilliant or witty or even funny. Unfortunately you don't consider at the moment how time offers the much needed reflection necessary to see the myriad of implications in what you said and how others may have a totally different perspective on your supposed brilliance or wit or humour. Oh my kingdom for the ability to retract what I've written after hitting the Send button! But, too late now. It's out there in cyberspace for the entire world to read, analyse, digest, criticize and even mock and even if you hit the Delete button, it's too late as others have already copied your flight of unreasoned fancy and your miscalculation will come back to haunt you over and over again.

Krista Ford is the niece of Rob Ford, the current major of Toronto, Canada's largest city. She is currently a business student but more importantly, for the purposes of this discussion, she is the former captain of the Toronto Triumph, a team in the Lingerie Football League. (Yes, women playing football dressed in shoulder pads, elbow pads, knee pads, garters, bras, panties, and ice hockey-style helmets.)

Around 6pm on Wednesday, August 29, 2012, Ms. Ford tweeted some advice on how to avoid sexual assault:

Stay alert, walk tall, carry mace, take self-defence classes & don’t dress like a whore. #DontBeAVictim #StreetSmart

Considering her familial connection to the mayor of Toronto and her participation in Lingerie Football, her status is something of a minor celebrity and there has been quite a firestorm today, Thursday August 30. All the major news outlets are covering the story with analysis of this socially unacceptable blaming of women for being raped. Roger Peterson, a Toronto journalist with City News tweeted:

just curious, mace is a prohibited weapon and why are a woman's clothes to blame for a sexual assault

Dear ladies: It's all your fault
Without going off on a rant about Ms. Ford specifically, I underline the idea she expressed: the way a woman dresses contributes to her being sexually harassed. Certainly this idea is not new; it's part of our history. It's the idea that a woman merely by how she looks can excite a man and hence incite him to do things from sexual harassment to sexual assault. It puts the onus squarely on the woman as we seem to accept as some sort of a priori truth that men are always horny and will attempt to copulate with anything that moves. If I stick my finger in a tank full of piranha, shouldn't I expect to get it bitten off?

Ms. Ford is merely repeating what has been said for a very long time by both men and women. Yes, even women in some circles have accepted the idea that men are predatory animals with a sexual urge that sometimes leaves them incapable of rational thought. If a woman gets raped, it's because she incited a man to rape her.

On January 24, 2011 in Toronto, Canada, the Osgoode Hall Law School held a campus safety information session at which members from York security and two male officers from Toronto police 31 Division handed out safety tips to community members. At one point, according to the story, Toronto Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti said, "You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here. I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this, however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized." (my blog: Slutwalk: Support our sluts!)

Two women in Toronto, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis organised a protest march on April 3, 2011 with the message to reject the belief that female rape victims are asking for it. Apparently over 3,000 people participated and judging by the list of other cities sponsoring similar events, this has become something much bigger than a protest against a single Toronto Police constable. In fact, Wikipedia now has an article entitled "Slutwalk".

Women have to have an orgasm to get pregnant
Crazy? Maybe now it's crazy but this idea has existed since just about the beginning of time. Our collective knowledge about sex, our own bodies, and the world in general is so limited and so incomplete, we have absolutely no idea that what we think is the truth is anything but.

In my posting "Rape? No problem! Women must have an orgasm to get pregnant." (Aug 21/2012), I discuss the gaffe committed by Todd Akin, U.S. Representative for Missouri's 2nd congressional district, member of the Republican party, and current candidate for the U.S. Senate during a televised interview. When asked in the case of rape whether a woman who became pregnant should have the option of abortion he replied:

Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.

"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Now follow the logic of this one: if a woman gets pregnant after a rape, it means it wasn't rape because if it was rape, truly rape, her body would not have allowed her to get pregnant. I'll add nothing more here as I'm assuming if you're a woman, you are now turning beat red; there is smoke coming out of your ears and you have momentarily lost the power of speech.

Women who take birth control are sluts
When Sandra Fluke, a law student, spoke before House Democratic members to argue for having contraceptives covered by health insurance, radio personality Rush Limbaugh went off on a misogynist tirade the likes of which you'd have to be surprised didn't raise the ire of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). Mr. Limbaugh didn't just stop at calling Fluke a slut but went on to suggest she wanted the government to pay her to have sex as she was having so much sex she can't afford to pay for her own birth control. Was that enough? Apparently not for Rush. As a taxpayer, he added that if the government did pay for her birth control, he wanted her to film her sexual encounters and post the clips so he could watch. (my blog: Rush Limbaugh: That's spelled with one F and one U)

Okay, while Mr. Limbaugh's most egregious of behaviours is so far out in left field it's laughable, one only has to visit a web site for MRAs (Men's Rights Activist) to realise there is an underlying current of hate towards the female sex by certain men which defies belief. Where does this come from? If the birth of these attitudes came about in certain cultural or historical context, why do these attitudes persist today? Does that context exist today?

Rape is inconsiderate
In February 2011, I wrote about the strange case of a Manitoba judge who basically let a man walk free after the man was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman. (my blog: Justice Robert Dewar: rape is inconsiderate) The judge spoke of the woman not wearing a bra, having high heels, skinny dipping without a bathing suit and having plenty of make-up then went on to say that the circumstances were "inviting" and "sex was in the air". This is a male judge I'm talking about. How ingrained are these ideas in our society? I'd say they are very ingrained; more so than we realise.

No means no. Sex was in the air? As I wrote about Justice Dewar, "Money is in the air every time I buy a lottery ticket but that doesn't mean I'm gettin' any."

Final Word
I don't know Krista Ford. Maybe she's nice; maybe she's not. However what she said is not so strange. There is an undercurrent in our society of traditional values and here I'm not using the word "traditional" in a good sense. These values are patriarchal, misogynist, and parochial. They are also myopic but then again, does a fish know he's living in a fishbowl? We would like or hope that people would be better but these incidents, whether brought about by Krista Ford, Todd Akin, Rush Limbaugh or Justice Dewar are a reminder that we collectively have a long way to go. Yes, we pass laws but that doesn't mean we have automatically changed people's minds. Littering is supposed to be a crime but judging by the mess I sometimes see in public, it would seem that people still haven't bought into the idea. If they behave themselves, it's not because they believe it's the right thing to do, it's because they think that policeman over there is going to catch them. It scares me to think what's going to happen when that policeman goes home.


National Post - Aug 30/2012
Rob Ford’s niece Krista gives advice to women after sex assault news conference: ‘Don’t dress like a whore’
by Vidya Kauri

Twitter: Krista Ford @kristaford
I don't want to be Barbie, I want to bench press her. Former LFL LB/FS #13 • Personal Trainer / @demonathletes / Promotional Model / TV Personality. #occupygym

HuffPost Canada - Aug 30/2012
Dear Krista Ford, I Was Sexually Assaulted, but Not Dressed Like a Whore by Alice Moran
Dear a lot of people, but specifically Ms. Krista Ford,

In advance I'd like to say I am sorry. This is not the ideal situation to first acquaint oneself with someone and I am mortified. Sorry! However, under the circumstance, I feel like you owe me a moment of your time, even though we've never met.

The circumstance being you called me a whore.

I should clarify: I'm one of the victims of the recent string of sexual assaults in the Annex. 'Sup? It's nice to make your acquaintance.

HuffPost Canada - Aug 29/2012
Krista Ford Tweet: Rob Ford's Niece Apologizes After Sex Assault Comment Sparks Twitter Backlash

Google image search: Krista Ford

Wikipedia: Lingerie Football League
The Lingerie Football League (LFL) is a women's 7-on-7 tackle American football league, created in 2009, with games played in the fall and winter at NBA, NFL, NHL and MLS arenas and stadiums. ... The concept originated from the Super Bowl halftime alternative television special called the Lingerie Bowl, a pay-per-view event broadcast annually opposite the Super Bowl halftime show. The television show has become a staple of Super Bowl Sunday festivities for millions worldwide and is broadcast in over 85 countries.
Playing style is full-contact and similar to other indoor football leagues. Uniforms consist of shoulder pads, elbow pads, knee pads, garters, bras, panties, and ice hockey-style helmets with clear plastic visors in lieu of face masks.


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1 comment:

BigLittleWolf said...

"No means no. Sex was in the air? As I wrote about Justice Dewar, "Money is in the air every time I buy a lottery ticket but that doesn't mean I'm getting anything."

Mr Belle, I do enjoy the way you argue your point.