So, Chrissie Hynde has done one of those interviews that gets people talking. I haven’t seen the Sunday Times original but you can read the Huffington Post’s take on it here:
Chrissie Hynde Criticised Over ‘Rape’ Remarks: ‘If You Dress Provocatively, You’re Enticing Someone Who’s Already Unhinged’ http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/08/30/chrissie-hynde_n_8060748.html
To paraphrase, she thinks that if women get drunk or dress revealingly (or heaven forbid both) they are responsible for any attack they suffer. Similarly, us girls should avoid wearing high heels, in case we need to run away. Chrissie feels this is common sense, and surely not “controversial”.
Chrissie also thinks that young women like her 21 year-old self who accept a promised lift to a party, and are instead kidnapped and assaulted, are to blame.
Chrissie is wrong. It’s something I’ve actually been thinking about a lot recently. I’ve been thinking about all the women I know, myself included as I wrote on my previous post Dear Jamelia, who have been assaulted or raped in various settings; at primary school, on public transport, on the street in the middle of the day, at work, whilst watching a play, in their own home or that of a friend. Is a seven year old girl in a skirt responsible for being groped? Is a married woman at work in her uniform to blame for a man feeling entitled to violate her?
Chrissie does concede that some rape survivors aren’t to blame, depending on what they wore and how they acted. But who has the right to draw that line? Is there a cut off for skirt length? A maximum blood-alcohol level which if women exceed immediately entitles men to rape them?
No. Because the trigger Chrissie thinks we need to be wary of flaunting is simply being a woman. Rape and sexual assault are always about power, and always, always the perpetrators’ fault.
Of course, men also get raped, by men and women, and women get raped by other women too; and these victims are no more at fault. But the views Chrissie shared are part of an apparent global social consensus that women must constantly protect themselves from rape or assault by men. We are taught not to go out alone after dark, but men can. We know to message our friends after a night out to say we got home safe, but men don’t. We know to edit what we wear and how much we drink because of what a man might do. Chrissie didn’t start this idea, she just re-enforced what we all do, all the time.
Can we, once and for all, agree that no woman is at fault for her rape? Can we stop accepting a limit to women’s human rights because of what a man might do? Mostly, can we all, including Chrissie, reject once and for all any share of the blame for what was done to us?