It Is Not Victim Blaming
There is a lot going on in the news these days around the sexual predator known as Harvey Weinstein. And as a litany of women come forward to confirm that they, too, were objectified, sexualized, and more, we are also afforded articles and opinions, statements and words of support from many others perhaps not having had the "pleasure" of a one to one interaction, but certainly having experienced this kind of treatment at some point in her life, or knowing someone who has, or being a women and just knowing.
And this is all good. That the dialog is happening. That the conversation is out in the open. That the veil is coming off a bit more. That the shadows are illuminated. And that a reality that there will soon be no place to hide for anyone who engages in this kind of behavior is perhaps more than just hope.
But this is not what I want to talk about specifically.
Because along with all this out in the open speaking and supporting there is also some truth telling that it appears many people don't like to hear. The truth of how the world works and how we - as women - don't get to just be but instead still have to be vigilant and careful.
When Mayim Bialik wrote, in her NYTimes op-ed piece that: "I still make choices every day as a 41-year-old actress that I think of as self-protecting and wise. I have decided that my sexual self is best reserved for private situations with those I am most intimate with. I dress modestly. I don’t act flirtatiously with men as a policy," she received a lot of backlash that she was victim blaming.
I don't believe she was. What she was doing was sharing how she chooses to live her life to feel safe in a world that is not often safe for women.
We are judged by our cover.
When I was practicing law, I always covered my tattoos in my initial consultation with clients. I did not want them to make a judgment about me based on a preconceived idea they might have had about body art. When my son was young and had dreadlocks he had to choose whether he wanted to cut them off as he was treated differently by law enforcement until he was able to have a conversation and they could experience who he was not who they assumed he was.
We all have to make choices every day on how we want to present in this world. Strong. Powerful, Smart. Sexy.
And just as we may choose how we look, we may also choose where we go and how we behave when we get where we are.
When I was in law school I worked at the local prison. I did civil litigation for high security men and women in isolation. Not once, when I was in a meeting with anyone, did I close the door to the meeting room. I helped these people with child custody issues and divorce settlement, with taxes and with employment concerns. I was helping them and they were grateful and I never closed the door. Because some of them were unpredictable, and since I didn't know who, I had to make choices as if they all were. I would say that most everyone reading this would agree that I made the right choice.
Look, I understand how this all works. The power differential that plays into most industries where sexual predators - usually more pronounced the higher up in the food chain they have risen - hold our opportunities hostage as they hold our voices silent. And I know that what we wear, whether heels or jeans, is not truly what makes these - usually men - disregard our selves in favor of their needs. But if we have moments of choice, if we can prepare for where we are going to be and who we are going to see, we may choose to present in a way that makes each of us safe. And this is different to each of us.
Unfortunately, what we wear - and where we are - can often times illicit a reaction that we do not want. Of course this is not fair.Of course we should be able to walk where we want, wear what we want, be who we are unencumbered by the risk of being sexualized and objectified and threatened in any way. But this is not our world. And it is naive to think that we can ignore this.
This is not victim blaming.
10/16/2017 07:31:28 am
Great post Liz. You hit the nail on the head.
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