Last week I wrote a post about some of the issues faced by female horror writers – it’s something close to my dark little heart, what with horror being what claws its way out me. While there is a lot of support for female writers within the horror community, there’ll always be those naysayers who believe we shouldn’t tarnish their ‘man-cave’ with our cooties.
But today I’m going to take the ‘horror writer’ out of the equation and talk about living in society as a female – yep, I’m poking that bear again. Sad, really, that the idea of me speaking out about feminism means I’m ‘poking a bear’. I’m not being over-dramatic; there’s a lot of hatred directed toward the word ‘feminism’ – wrongfully directed. And my last post on feminism had a man telling me I was ‘doing feminism wrong.’
So… cards on the table. I’m a feminist. I’m not a ‘humanist’ or an ‘equalist’ – I’m a feminist. I believe in equal rights and equal pay for women (because the gender pay-gap exists); I believe that while steps have been taken in the right direction, equality still eludes us. Does this make me an ‘equalist’? No, that would mean I’d be fighting for the equal rights of women and men, of which there is surely a current imbalance. So I’m an unapologetic feminist.
Right, now I’ve got that out of the way, let’s head into some pretty awful territory. Two days ago I woke to the news of a young Australian woman murdered in Melbourne. Seventeen this girl was, and viciously murdered so very close to her home. At this stage, investigative police believe it a random, sexually-motivated attack (they have a suspect in custody). My daughter watched this with me and said: “This is why you worry, isn’t it?” A seemingly innocent question, but there was an undertone I had to address. I don’t want my daughter to go through life frightened or hyper-vigilant, believing the onus is on her to remain safe – why should she have to? To stay alive? To go through life not being a victim of violence because she was born female?
I told my daughter the truth. Yes, it is why I worry. You see, this young woman who was murdered the other evening was the twenty-third woman this year in Australia to die from a violent attack. That’s right, twenty-three women to date this year – that’s almost eight women a month; two a week.
I’ve seen the questions being asked already: what was she doing out at that time alone? And while that might seem like an innocent enough question, that’s victim-blaming right there. Why not the question: what monster thought it well within his right to do that to her?
It’s that type of seemingly innocuous question that shifts rightful blame from the perpetrator. It’s that type of question that should never be asked. Just as the questions about what the victim was wearing, if the victim had been drinking, if the victim made the right decision by walking home alone, should not be part of the conversation. It. Does. Not. Matter. Apportion blame where it’s due. (Just so we’re clear — that’s the perpetrator.)
The minute these questions make it into any news report, any conversation, any online ‘debate’, then it’s nothing more than excusing the perpetrator. The blame always lays squarely on the offender.
But that’s not always the case. When there are instances of schools telling their female students not to wear certain articles of clothing because it’s ‘distracting boys’ – that’s reinforcing a belief that girls must be responsible for not only themselves, but take into account ‘male thinking’ and act accordingly. That doesn’t just insult women, it insults males as well. I also remember the case where a young girl was kicked out of prom because some fathers were having “impure thoughts”. When is it ever okay to place the onus of another’s behaviour or thought process on the person on the receiving end of such idiocy? Why are they responsible for another’s actions or thoughts? It’s this type of thinking, this type of victim-blaming that is prevalent in society that often makes women who are victims of assault not come forward.
The online world is particularly guilty of rampant misogyny in certain circles, as seen by GamerGate and the subsequent doxing of those women who spoke up about death threats, threats of sexual assault, and ongoing harassment by ‘men’ who felt vilified. Just this month Ashely Judd was subject to such threats for a twitter comment she made re a basketball team during March Madness. Judd, is rightly pressing charges against those who threatened her.
This is the world I live in, the world my daughter lives in. Even walking down the street I’m subjected to whistles or men yelling out things they’d like to do to me. Just last week some jerk smiled and leered “niiiice arse” at me while I was out getting groceries. When I told him to fuck off, he was offended. How dare I speak to him this way when he’d paid me a ‘compliment’. How dare I? How dare you. I’m not here for your amusement, your will, your words, I told him. He then said he wouldn’t fuck me anyway.
When I gave a ‘whistler’ the finger, I was called a lesbian. This is the world I live in. One where I have to be vigilant, one where I have to be aware of my surroundings and who’s in them. It’s a world that has me fear for my daughter – we both deserve better than that. As does every woman.
It’s my right to live in a world without fear, a world without blame, and a world where exercising opinions, ideas and thoughts don’t result in threats against your person. It’s every woman’s right.