I've been disheartened by the images I've seen posted around that demand women in the media to take responsibility for the actions of sexual predators. Oprah with Harvey Weinstein and Trump. Meryl Streep with Weinstein and the words "she knew" over her eyes.
If you're having trouble understanding my disappointment in this kind of behavior, let's think of it in terms of our mainstream culture pre-October 2017. We've all been complicit in a world that has so casually undermined and attacked women just for being female. I can name moments in my life when I have laughed off a grown man's touchy advances [or worse accepted them in private disgust] or stood idle in moments when I wished I could have found words to explain why something felt sexist.
The problem is that, at that time, it only felt sexist. It wasn't easy to explain why or how, especially when the norm was that this behavior was completely acceptable. But now we have the chance to change the feeling to a cultural rule.
So this new fad of implying that a woman is somehow at fault for not having stopped this corrupt and gendered power system that allowed grown-men to sexually abuse women [and some men, too] is completely misleading. It's a way of deflecting blame that is neither productive nor progressive. In fact, it harkens back to a long history of shifting blame to women - a tool used to stray the conversation from having to confront that the whole system we live in is rigged.
Let's think about sexual assault. Women have long been taking the blame for a man's actions against them. Being told [often in court] that they dress provocatively or that they were asking for it, to name a few well-known rape myths.
Somehow, we've believed rapists when they say that there was something about the woman that made them think they could take what they wanted. [Oh, was it the fact that she had a vagina and was not a man?] Shifting blame is a tactic that has succeeded in re-oppressing the women who have actually succeeded in speaking out about their attacks. And it is a toxic practice that reinforces this corrupt power system.
Sexism reaches long and wide. It's about me, you, everyone and how much of a role we allow gender expectations to play out in our daily lives. And when the gender expectation bar was set to where it was pre-Weinstein [and even now in some peoples' minds], it was difficult to tell even your father that his joke was sexist, let alone a powerful man in a powerful role using that power for sexual gain.
This kind of behavior, needlessly blaming women for not saying something about a practice that we can't confirm that they were aware of, will have dangerous effects on our ability to communicate our way through this issue. And we have so many other productive ways to be using our smart brains in this conversation.
It's a culture, people!