Friday, June 3, 2011

The Frisky: "Being drunk is a feminist issue"

Thanks to the wonderful work of the women at Shakesville, I had the glorious pleasure of reading this article over at The Frisky, the pseudo-feminist online entertainment magazine: "Girl Talk: Why Being Drunk is a Feminist Issue". Now, as a woman who likes to imbibe, ahem, now and again, I was intruiged. Why is being drunk a feminist issue? The Frisky's Kate Torgovnik gives us an answer: it's because it makes us more likely to get raped.

Wait, what?

According to Torgovnik, she's just saying what many of us out here in femiblogoland are too afraid to say: "what if [a rape victim] had recognized she was getting drunk, slowed down, and had a few glasses of water before leaving that bar in that cab?" Well, what if? Sure, she could have not been raped. Or she could have. She could also have been blackout drunk and not been raped. The only difference in any of these scenarios is the presence of a rapist.

The problem here, as with most mainstream coverage of sexual assault, is that the question of why rape occurs is answered by looking at the woman's behaviour. She was drunk; she wasn't dressed properly; she was alone; she was out at night. The thing is, plenty of women are simultaneously all of these things every day, and they aren't victims of sexual assault. The difference isn't in the behaviour of the women -- the difference is that there is a man around who sees a girl who is completely hammered and thinks that she's an appropriate sexual conquest.

On top of all of this, Torgovnik makes what could generously be called interesting use of rape statistics to make her point. From the article:
In 47% of reported rapes (and I’m talking in this essay about heterosexual rape with female victims, though of course many other types exist), both the victim and the perpetrator had been drinking. In an additional 17%, the perpetrator only was intoxicated and in 7% of cases on top of that the victim only was tipsy.
After starting the article out with an anecdote where she makes the assumption that two dressed up drunk girls on the subway are likely to be assaulted before the night is out, the inclusion of these statistics makes it seem like those 47% of reported rapes are happening when women leave parties and then drunk rapists, I don't know, jump out of the bushes or drag them down an alleyway or something of the sort. This is simply not the case. As Melissa McEwan of Shakesville notes:
1. Asserting that women can avoid rape via sobriety only makes sense if the victim is drunk in the vast majority of rapes. That is not the case. 
2. Asserting that women can avoid rape via sobriety only makes sense if the vast majority of women who drink are raped as a consequence. That is not the case. 
3. Asserting that women can avoid rape via sobriety only makes sense if every rape that happens to a woman who's been drinking is committed by an opportunistic rapist who would not have otherwise raped her. That is not the case.
As she concludes: "The ultimate value of this advice to potential rape victims is thus negligible, given that, in practical terms, it boils down to: 'If you don't drink, it may or may not protect you from getting raped in some situations'."

Articles like this, while putting on a feminist face of about "becoming empowered" by restricting our leisure activities, contribute to a culture of violence where women's security of the person is considered violable if she doesn't act the right way or do the right things. In order to develop a truly feminist discourse about rape prevention, we need to direct our attention and advice to the group of people who are responsible for sexual violence: the rapists (or potential rapists) themselves. Articles like the one at The Frisky -- or almost every article published on the subject of sexual violence, in the abstract or the particular -- need to take responsibility for placing the focus on the perpetrator, rather than the victim. Handy feminist pro-tip: if you're publishing an article about rape that talks about the "injustices perpetrated against women" or about how women who do certain things are more likely to "get raped", take a look at whether or not you're asking yourself the question -- by whom? Who is perpetrating the injustices? Who is committing the sexual assault? If your article doesn't answer that question, it might be time to take another look.

1 comment:

michphan said...

I can't believe Torgovnik actually believes being drunk is a feminist issue. It's incredibly disappointing to be reminded of the fact that most people believe women should incorporate rape prevention tactics into their daily lives.

On a different note, I don't remember how I stumbled across this blog but I must say that I thoroughly enjoy reading it.

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