October 22, 2017 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Caroline Orrr writes for Playboy: Why Do Women Point Fingers? The Rise of Victim-Blaming in a Country Under Assault
The tendency to blame women for men’s transgressions is nothing new, nor is the inclination to shift blame from the perpetrators of sexual assault to the victims of it. Many of the responses to other recent sexual assault scandals, like those involving Bill Cosby and President Donald Trump, mirror what we’ve seen over the past weeks in response to the allegations against Weinstein. And like we saw with those scandals, the tendency to blame victims of sexual assault and excuse or justify the behavior of the perpetrator is not limited to men. In fact, some of the most intense and vitriolic victim-blaming responses came from those most likely to be victimized themselves: women. At first glance, this seems entirely counterintuitive. Why would women attack other women who are victims of sexual violence, a crime that overwhelmingly affects women?
posted by the man of twists and turns (18 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Great piece! I think people really need to understand how biased we are to think the world is predictable and fair. People behave the same way when their friends get cancer diagnosis. It's never that cancer can happen for arbitrary, unpredictable, or even unknown reasons, but that the friend did something wrong. I've heard people speculate that acquaintances got sick from using too many cleaning products, having a sullen attitude, having the wrong religious beliefs, or even just plain not wanting themselves well enough. We want to live in a world where nothing bad can happen if we follow the rules we're given. But the rules aren't always written with benevolence, and awful things do happen.

Further, while I doubt people rationalizing away the awful shock of a cancer diagnosis will do anything to prevent or not prevent cancer, in this case, it does reinforce an artificial, disgusting system. There's no reason Hollywood big shots and other men in power should feel entitled to abuse, except that they've historically gotten away with it and society rationalizes that it's natural. That male awfulness is unchangeable, while women can follow some simple rules. Indeed, just like a racket.
posted by ikea_femme at 1:23 PM on October 22, 2017 [22 favorites]

There is something very meta about a woman writing a sexism 101 explainer for an audience of men, in Playboy, that focuses on explaining why it is in fact women who are the “most vitriolic” about attacking women who come forward with allegations against men.

And not one word in this essay about the sexism of Playboy itself.

I’m so tired.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:43 PM on October 22, 2017 [67 favorites]

This is exactly the reason that there were "consciousness-raising" sessions among women in the 60s - to combat the idea amongst women that they didn't have to put up with this binary.

It's a pervasive thing. I got into a Twitter sass-back-and-forth with a Trump-supporting woman at the time of the Access Hollywood tape. She was defending him with the "It's just locker-room talk" excuse. But then she said "I wish we didn't live in a world where this happens, but it's the world we live in and that's just that." I felt like shaking her and screaming "it doesn't HAVE to be the world we live in, and your putting up with it is why it still IS that way!'
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:19 PM on October 22, 2017 [15 favorites]

It's always disturbed me that defense attorneys for accused rapists will more often than not push for an as-many-females-as-possible jury, and I look forward to a society in which that won't be true.

(well, ideally, it would be nicer to not-have-rapes-or-rape-trials, of course)
posted by trackofalljades at 4:23 PM on October 22, 2017

Benevolent and hostile sexism may seem incompatible, but they’re two sides of the same coin. More often than not, benevolent sexist attitudes go hand-in-hand with hostile sexist attitudes, and people typically hold these views at the same time. Together, these ideologies function as the carrot and the stick that motivate women to “stay in their place.” Benevolent sexism rewards women for conforming to traditional gender roles while hostile sexism punishes women who deviate from these norms. While benevolent sexists’ affection for women is often genuine, it’s also contingent on certain conditions and is quickly replaced with hostile sexism when women challenge men’s power, status or ego.

This is really good.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:50 PM on October 22, 2017 [22 favorites]

I'm getting mental whiplash from seeing that this article is on, particularly since Ol' Hugh almost epitomised the sort of benevolent sexism that stood as the counterfoil to open misogyny.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:04 PM on October 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

2017: the year I read a pretty reasonable article about sexual assault in Playboy that even has reasonable comments.
posted by medusa at 7:32 PM on October 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yes, a small number of women have the attitude that victims of sexual assault had some role in it. Usually it's because they've had a brush with the problem and got away unscathed, or have been victimized in other ways and don't want to own that part of their identity. It is way triggering for others, obviously. It's an "us and not them" thing though, and as such is also a fascinating human quality.
posted by karmachameleon at 8:12 PM on October 22, 2017

2017: the year I read a pretty reasonable article about sexual assault in Playboy that even has reasonable comments.

I guess they had to wait until Hef was dead to do it.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:24 PM on October 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

> This is really good.

It does bind connotations of iniquity to a thesis statement, "two types of sexism form a sort of protection racket," benevolent and hostile. This scheme is ironic and spurious. You got appositive phrasing intended to discriminate discrimination to parallel the purported "feelings" of the perp, rather than any mutual and material benefit ("incentive") typically earned by combining or colluding with additional "misogynists" (whatever that gender) in secret harassment, assault, and extortion. You got the "victim-blamer" as victim: It's a provocative angle --pitting protagonist and antagonist within one tragic shell of allomaternal instinct ("tradition")-- and too clever by half, because the author's "finger-pointer" is incapable of choosing, enjoying, and exploiting her position at the top of the prevailing political hierarchy and protecting her loot. That is not your loot. And that's just offensive, incredible even, scoffed Betsy DeVos.
posted by marycatherine at 5:02 AM on October 23, 2017

> Yes, a small number of women have the attitude that victims of sexual assault had some role in it.

It is not a small number.
posted by languagehat at 6:38 AM on October 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

Yes, a small number of women have the attitude that victims of sexual assault had some role in it

As the article pointed out, 53% of white women voted for Trump. A big concern of that was because Clinton wasn't acting properly feminine.
posted by happyroach at 8:24 AM on October 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Even my mom, who taught me to be a feminist, engages in victim blaming. Our culture is soaking in it.
posted by corvikate at 8:30 AM on October 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

"Our" culture -- could that be the industry of the hellenized abrahamic faiths or something still more insidious? Primatology under cosmetics.

On the occasion of my first Mother's Day honors, mine gave me a copy of Mother Nature, a history of mothers, infants, and natural selection (1999) to study, I suppose. She was cryptic like that. So it was with some amusement some years later that I found by chance this article. Let us note paradox foretold near its conclusion.
The two features considered in hypotheses 3 and 4, male control of resources and male potential for polygyny, have important implications for female reproductive strategies. This brings us to the fifth hypothesis for the evolution of patriarchy.

Hypothesis 5. In pursuing their material and reproductive interests, women often engage in behaviors that promote male resource control and male control over female sexuality. Thus, women as well as men contribute to the perpetuation of patriarchy.

As Hrdy (1981) pointed out, it is not always in a female's reproductive interests to ally with other females against males. Often, females do better by competing with other females and/or allying with males. Among humans, such female strategies can reinforce patriarchy.
Barbara Smuts, "The Evolutionary Origins of Patriarchy," Human Nature. Vol. 6, No. 1.

[emphasis in original]
posted by marycatherine at 1:01 PM on October 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I didn't understand how widespread rape was--then the penny dropped by anthropologist David Graeber talks about the mechanisms of silencing victims, and the effect it had on his mother, an aspiring actress.
posted by mecran01 at 8:50 AM on November 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

Comparing testimony from Vietnamese women and American soldiers, Gina Marie Weaver, in her book Ideologies of Forgetting: Rape in The Vietnam War, finds that rape of Vietnamese women by American troops during the US invasion of Vietnam was a “widespread”, “everyday occurrence” that was essentially “condoned”, even encouraged, by the military, and had its foundation in military training and US culture. She explores why US rape in Vietnam was so common, and why this aspect of US behavior has been virtually “erased” from “narratives of the war”.
posted by marycatherine at 3:28 PM on November 8, 2017

Portia deRossi tweeted this little anecdote today:
My final audition for a Steven Segal movie took place in his office. He told me how important it was to have chemistry off-screen as he sat me down and unzipped his leather pants. I ran out and called my agent. Unfazed, she replied, “well, I didn’t know if he was your type.”
posted by Superplin at 8:45 PM on November 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Your Reckoning. And Mine. As stories about abuse, assault, and complicity come flooding out, how do we think about the culprits in our lives? Including, sometimes, ourselves., Rebecca Traister
This is part of what makes me, and them, angry: this replication of hierarchies — hierarchies of harm and privilege — even now. “It’s a ‘seeing the matrix’ moment,” says one woman whom I didn’t know personally before last week, some of whose deepest secrets and sharpest fears and most animating furies I’m now privy to. “It’s an absolutely bizarre thing to go through, and it’s fucking exhausting and horrible, and I hate it. And I’m glad. I’m so glad we’re doing it. And I’m in hell.”

Part of the challenge, for me, has been in my exchanges with men — the friends and colleagues self-aware enough to be uneasy, to know they’re on a list somewhere or imagine that they might be. They text and call, not quite saying why, but leaving no doubt: They once cheated with a colleague; they once made a pass they suspect was wrong; they aren’t sure if they got consent that one time. Are they condemned? What is the nature and severity of their crime? The anxiety of this — how to speak to guys who seek feminist absolution but whom I suspect to be compromised — is real. Some of my friends have no patience for men’s sudden penchant for introspection, but I’m a sucker; I feel for them. When they reach out, my impulse is to comfort. But reason — and a determination not to placate, not now — drives me to be direct, colder than usual: Yes, this is a problem. In fact, it’s your problem. Seek to address it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:52 AM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

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