Just when I thought equal rights were about to improve, become the norm – at least in our so called progressive and modern European society, this happens.
There is no week passing without another discusting case about victim blaming. The latest event is a video issued by the Hungarian Police about how women could pretend being raped if only they would behave appropriately.
So here comes a short selection of things women should not do in order not to get raped:
(1) Wear skirts
(2) Wear tight stuff
(3) show cleavage
(4) Wear high heels
(5) Wear make up
(8) go out
(9) be a woman
I feel like a broken record, because I continually talk about the same topics, bring the same arguments. Again, why is it so difficult to initiate prevention actions that teach young men how to behave appropriately around young women?! Why is it always us women who should be concerned about whatever we do, every piece of clothes we wear, every step we take?
Just yesterday I talked with a dear female friend about stares, because that is by far not as terrible as sexual assault, but it is when we begin to reconsider our choice in clothing. Worldwide exists a very distinctive stare going from bottom to top or vice versa, involving a satisfied nod, a dirty smile or gross lip licking. It is one look that can make me feel like I am nothing but a cheap piece of meat ready to be torn apart. What kind of world is it where looks have so much power?! I know that I am not alone on that.
And I am self-confident. At least in safe situations I stare back, I straighten my back, I tell myself that I am fine and that I didn’t do anything wrong. Sometimes I think if should be more scared, when I compare myself to friends who walk around with pepper spray at night, one finger on the phone, ready to call somebody in a dark street. I have a lot of friends who trigger immediately if they pass a man at night, regardless of whether they experienced sexual assault or not. At least I don’t do that. Am I naive?
And at the same time I am so tired of that. I don’t want to be scared of men, I like, love and value them. But I feel that we are still in a situation where it is better to be safe than sorry. what does that mean for equality? How can we establish a society where I can be rather sure not to get hurt but to fall asleep with a bad feeling? And again I want to emphasize that this is not purely about rape vs. no rape. Rape is the one horrible extreme. But between an uncomfortable look and the actual rape are so many situations which can make a woman doubt herself.
It happened to me once that I had to defend myself against a drunk man who I knew for a long time and who thought sharing a hostel room with me after a night out would give him the right to have sex with me. Later I told friends “yeah, but luckily nothing happened”, but that is a lie, I mainly told myself. I had bruises on my back and my arms, and felt miserable for a week, not leaving my bedroom, randomly starting to cry. “I could have known”, I told myself.
I talk about this because I don’t think it is anything that effects my personality as it is today. I blamed myself for months about what happened and it made me furious and sad at the same time. Situations like that are so omnipresent, but yet shut out of reality. And then if you finally come out with your story, people shrug their shoulders and say: “Lucky you, you weren’t raped.” It drives me mad how there are constant excuses found to justify actions treating women just like a piece of flesh without own will.
In response to the ridiculous video shared by the Hungarian Police I want to call out to my dear male friends and acquaintance: we women really, really want and need you for the establishment of equal rights. We need you to be role models and to defend even the strongest among us. Having as many women as possible by any means should not be considered worth striving. Being sentimental, romantic and shy are no bad characteristics.
Gender equality is more than female bosses. Gender equality means that everybody can be however he or she wants to be. Having a female chancellor and a quota effecting around 150 women in Germany is only the top of the iceberg.
Gender equality means that there is equal opportunities and possibilities for both men and women. For men and women who are striving for a career, for men and women who are just happy with an average job in an average life, for men and women who want to stay at home and have their life all planned around their family.
Gender equality means that people can be strong and straight-forward if that’s their personality, but that they won’t be condemned for weakness, thoughtfulness or dreamy sentiments.
Equal rights mean in first place mutual respect. And it is only mutual respect which can ever prevent sexual harrassment, assault and rape effectively.