I’m angry and sad about Grace Millane, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the rhetoric that inevitably emerges every time a woman is hurt: that she somehow brought it on herself. And I have an idea as to why people so insistently blame the victim. Aside from the bullshit patriarchy, that is.
If it’s her “fault” a woman was raped or murdered then there are things you can do to make sure you’re never a victim. If you don’t go to parties don’t go on Tinder dates don’t hitchhike don’t walk home alone then you won’t be murdered. If you don’t walk down the street don’t go camping don’t travel alone don’t get drunk don’t wear skirts then you won’t be raped.
If you are luckyenough smartenough scaredenough to always have a man by your side to protect you at all times (which must be the alternative option proposed by internet commenters, as far as I can gather), then you won’t be the latest data point in our horrific statistics of violence against women. If you wear the right clothes and go to the right places and know the right people and are also literally invincible then you’ll be fine. Those other women, the victims, they must have been doing something wrong, right? That’s why you blame the victim: because if they were in the wrong, and you’re always in the right, it won’t happen to you.
Even though there is nothing that invites or justifies homicide or assault against women. NOTHING. Women and girls just go about their lives – travelling, socialising, falling in love, falling out of love, having children, wearing clothes, having sex, drinking alcohol, going to school, going to the shops, hanging out at home – and sometimes men hurt them for no reason. That is a factual list of things women and girls (little girls) were doing when they were murdered.
It’s a similar rationale that leads people to judge single mothers. There’s nothing special or defunct about single mothers. We are just mothers who, for a wide variety of reasons, are single with children. We weren’t born with a superwoman gene, which is what the nice people say (“I don’t know how you do it!”). We weren’t born with a deviant gene, which is what the assholes say (“Shouldn’t breed if she can’t keep the baby daddy around.”). It’s just something that becomes a part of some women’s stories. But if you blame the single mother, you can pinpoint a reason why you’ll never become one.
It’s a useful way of finding out what people are most afraid of; see what they blame victims for.
And if you’re a man victim-blaming women? Well, that one is pretty obvious. If it’s her fault, it’s not yours. It couldn’t be yours. Our patriarchal society conditions men to believe they have a right over women’s bodies and women’s lives. “Societal conditioning” is not an excuse for shitty behaviour, it’s showing us where we can do better. INFINITELY BETTER. Most men wouldn’t publicly say that women should be restricted in where they go and what they do. But they will say, “she shouldn’t be walking by herself dressed like that on a date like that drunk like that.”
Barely a few days after being murdered, people are speculating that Grace Millane was on a Tinder date, and that’s why she was murdered. Or that she was backpacking alone, and that’s why she was murdered.
I’ve been on a hundred Tinder dates and I’ve never been murdered.
Which is how it should be.
Nothing Grace did or did not do led to her being killed. Nothing. The sole reason she is dead instead of celebrating her birthday and continuing her travels and returning to her family, is because a man murdered her. It is one hundred percent HIS FAULT. He is completely in the wrong. Unfathomably, unforgivably in the wrong.
I should be able to walk through a park in the dark butt naked and drunk, or meet a different man from Tinder every night, and still not get murdered. Because it is my right to not have my life taken away from me. It is my right to exist and go about my days. It is my right to not be murdered because a man is depraved and violent. Just as it was Grace’s right, and Eurydice Dixon’s right, and Christie Marceau’s right, and Sophie Elliott’s right.
Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to keep living my life.
I’m going to wear what I want and go where I want, even if that’s on a date with a stranger, even if I’m drunk.
I’m going to keep raising my son to be kind; keep teaching him the importance of consent and how to practice it.
I’m going to respond to anyone who tries to victim-blame in my hearing even if I sound like a bitch. (Hopefully I do sound like a bitch, because it is my right to be angry.)
I’m going to keep reminding men that it is their responsibility not to hurt us, to show us that we are safe, even if it’s “annoying” and notallmen.
It is not our responsibility to cower in fear, and I refuse to hide, even though I am afraid.