Trigger Warning: The following post, while meant to be educational in nature, also poses the risk of triggering trauma. Before reading, please make sure that you have the support and self-care you need to continue reading about sexual violence.
Following two recent sexual assaults in public transportation buses (one of which left the woman dead), Jakarta’s Governor Fauzi Bowo had some advice to prevent rape: women ought to ride a motorbike taxi side saddle, and no miniskirts if you plan to get in a taxi. Miniskirts might make the driver “fidgety” he says.
Fortunately, women are protesting his ludicrous, misogynistic, victim-blaming remarks.
But, actually, why aren’t men protesting the insult, too? Because let’s face it—blaming a woman in a miniskirt for “inviting” rape is saying something about men, too. It’s saying that when a man is attracted to a woman, he might have little choice but to use his penis to do violence toward another human being. What a twisted way to think about male sexuality. (Go here to see a 3-minute talk by Hugo Schwyzer on the “myth of male weakness.”)
So, just in case Bowo missed the memo: miniskirts don’t cause violence and rape is not about lust.
Rape is about power, dominance, misogyny, racism, and the worst forms of male entitlement. And oh yah, it’s not just about women—men get raped too. Rape is about hierarchies of masculinity played out via a sexualized form of violence.
Miniskirts have nothing to do with the matter. Really, if it was that simple, we would have figured this all out a long time ago. Patriarchy’s rape culture is a hell of a lot more complicated than miniskirts.
So, check back later this week for more information on what creates rape-culture. But, here’s a hint: rape-culture is positively addicted to blaming the victim and implying or directly stating that the victim is responsible for preventing the assault.
To get a feel for how much we are socialized to blame the victim, read this list about how to stop rape and consider why it almost seems comical to assign the responsibility to men.
But just to remember the good stuff happening: if you didn’t already know, there are lots of men working to end sexual violence. I mean, we gotta first thank the women pioneers who largely started these movements—women who courageously spoke out against violence from within many cultures and contexts—but there are many men who have now joined the work, too. Check out this U.N. page for one example of how men are educating men. Awesome.
I think Gov. Bowo could benefit from some education.
So, in summary, here’s some education for him: Men who rape will stop raping when other men stop making excuses for them. Men who rape will stop raping when other men learn from and join the seasoned women anti-violence workers who understand these issues from years of rigorous study and activism. Men who rape will stop raping when other men are fed-up with cultural messages that imply male sexuality is one miniskirt away from claiming the right to do violence to another human being.
Alright, I’ve got to get breakfast now and read some good poetry or go twirl in my backyard. This stuff is terrible to look at first thing in the morning. Make sure you go do something good for yourself, too.