Monday, 2 November 2009

Hemlines and hypocrisy: fourth column for Morning Star

This season's key hemlines, like the those of last season and the season before that, are short - joyfully short, shockingly short.

Shirts are see-through and short, jackets are spangly and short, and mini-dresses - the staple for all those Christmas parties we're doubtless going to be invited to - are sequinned. And yes, extremely short.

Fashion loves barely-there hemlines. They fulfil almost none of the basic functions of clothing and only look entirely good on skinny teenagers. But there's a downside to short skirts, too.

This season's key hemlines are, according to almost a third of the population, an invitation to rape.

Some 34 per cent of respondents to a recent Amnesty survey believed that if a woman is attacked while wearing "revealing" clothing, she is at very least "partially responsible."

So in a world where rape is often the fault of the victim, in a world where only 6 per cent of reported rapes end in conviction and prominent celebrities can step forward to say that a man who drugged and anally and vaginally penetrated a 13-year-old did not commit "rape-rape," what's a fashion-forward feminist to do?

When we discuss rape, we almost never discuss the men who rape - as if rape were not a real crime but a force of nature, a facet of male biology that can only be avoided, not punished or eradicated.

Our dialectic of rape and consent is embedded in the weasel words and outright denial of patriarchal apologists.

If a woman is raped, she invariably "asked for it," despite the fact that provocation has been shown to be a factor in under 5 per cent of rapes, as compared with 22 per cent of murders.

If a woman reports her rapist, British tabloids would have us believe that she is part of an epidemic of women making false rape charges, despite the fact that no more false charges are filed for rape than for any other crime.

And if she happened, at the time, to be drunk, to be behaving in - heaven forbid - a sexually forthright manner or to be wearing a gorgeously on-trend sequinned micro-mini dress as pioneered by Balmain at London Fashion Week, well, what on Earth did she expect?

In this patriarchal consumer culture, the messages that women receive about sex and shopping are intertwined.

The media we absorb instruct us that in order to be beautiful and admirable we should to buy whatever's in fashion and wear it with just the right note of quiet, demure sexiness.

Our sexuality and our consumption, still women's most bankable talents, should be both conspicious and submissive.

And yet when for whatever reason we choose to play along, we are immediately told that it's our fault if we're not taken seriously, that we are fair game to be mocked and dehumanised and underpaid and underpromoted and objectified and harassed and assaulted and raped...[read the rest of this article at Morning Star online.]

17 comments:

  1. Good, clearly written, sets out some of the double-think engagingly and provocatively.

    It's difficult thinking about fashion, especially when something looks good because it makes the person look more sexually desireable, which when I say it out loud feels like I'm on very dodgy ground, but happens all the time and I accept it without thinking. Should I try to change the way I think? I definately don't want to tell people what to wear, yet neither do I want to find myself admiring their ability to make me find them sexually attractive!

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  2. Link at the bottom of the article to here is broken: suggest it should be http://...

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  3. Dear confused, do not confuse looking sexually desirable as an invitation for sexual intercourse. It's really that simple.

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  4. Has anyone ever actually said that all rape victims are asking for it?
    I`ve certainly never met anyone who`d say that and can`t imagine what kind of character would believe such a thing.

    Anyway, rape and violence don`t have anything to do with the "patriachy", they have to do with a lack of regulation and order, alienation and hopelessness.
    Unless you`re suggesting that modern Britain is more patriachical than 1950`s Britain?

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  5. Mark,
    "Has anyone ever actually said that all rape victims are asking for it?"

    Yes -

    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=a66_1207350091

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  6. Whatever happened to the old saying?

    "Whatever we where, wherever we go,
    'Yes' means 'yes' and 'no' means 'no'"?

    I am aware that in today's world, that should be amended to "in the absence of an agreed safety word, 'yes' means 'yes' and 'no' means 'no'".

    This would, of course, make for much longer placards than simply "'No' means 'no'", but the masochists (male or female) would presumably welcome the opportunity to carry heavy, uncomfortable placards.

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  7. PS Apologies for the spelling mistake.

    I've used my comments today as my latest posting in my own blog.

    Incidentally, does anyone know what happened to dolores?

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  8. Rape is not to do with 'alienation and hopelessness' in society - not of men, anyhow.

    The perpetrators of rape cover a wide social demographic; it is as likely a woman will be raped by a member of the upper social classes, dripping with wealth, power and a false sense of entitlement, than by a disaffected member of the behooded youth.

    Class differences exacerbate rape, in that men have traditionally normalized the rape of women in lower social classes than themselves; for example the high prevalence of rape against women in service by their employers. This was not a case of a 'hopeless' or 'alienated' class of men, quite the opposite.

    Does feeling brutalized and alienated make you more likely to brutalize others? Probably, but is by no means the most important factor in sex crimes against British women today.

    Rape is about a wrongful feeling of entitlement and an abuse of power. It is not a cry for help

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  9. Hmmmm... yes, fair enough.

    Any reccomendations for further reading on this topic?

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  10. The perpetrators of rape cover a wide social demographic; it is as likely a woman will be raped by a member of the upper social classes, dripping with wealth, power and a false sense of entitlement, than by a disaffected member of the behooded youth.

    Do you have any statistics for this?

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  11. >If a woman is raped, she invariably "asked for it," despite the fact that provocation has been shown to be a factor in under 5 per cent of rapes

    You know, I feel that that is irrelevant. Speaking as a man, I honestly feel like I understand the 'asked for it' argument. Women's sexuality is flaunted daily, in our faces, again and again and again. When you see women dressed more down than the nearest streetwalker, she really is pushing the buttons. After seeing this again and again over the years, you become, like Pavlov's dogs, conditioned into believing that women want attention, even though they don't. That they have some sort of problem, either that they don't see their sexiness, or that they are too stupid to understand what it means. That they want the looks, but they don't want the sex. That they turn you on deliberately, but they only want to play you for a fool. It is being played for a fool by thousands of women which makes the rapist. And if thousands of women can't be nice/don't care about you (in the stranger sense, which they clearly don't), why would a potential rapist care about them?

    >The media we absorb instruct us that in order to be beautiful and admirable we should to buy whatever's in fashion and wear it with just the right note of quiet, demure sexiness.

    Again, I feel I must take exception to this. Imo, women demand this. I as a hetrosexual man would demand something far less subtle. Afaics, 90% of het men are similar :) Bearing in mind that complete nudity and easy sex are out of bounds, men will prefer the next best thing (more flesh please). But this is not what men want, that's only the compromise. Women, in the end, have the control. If all the women in the world said "sod the mini, I don't want to be compared to a pron mag", all the men would be forced to follow. Bearing in mind that women do clearly choose to bare a lot and use that control instead, that does kinda feed back into making fools of a lot of men. See the paragraph above. Again, short hem lines are not what men want.

    >Our sexuality and our consumption, still women's most bankable talents, should be both conspicious and submissive.

    Again, a woman in a mini is not submissive. A woman in a mini is conspicious in that she's not having sex with someone, but looks like she might want to. You suggest that her wearing it is submissive. Yet, the act of wearing it asserts her control. Perhaps minis should have 'health' warnings in the definite. (This garment will make men randy for you)

    >And yet when for whatever reason we choose to play along,

    This confuses the minds of men for ages. The easy assumption is that you are actually randy anyway. But really, we've no idea why when fashion says "jump/wear a mini", you actually do it.

    >we are immediately told that it's our fault if we're not taken seriously

    And you're surprised? I've just described the activity of a lemming. You take lemmings seriously?

    Men aren't shining examples either. Often they act like lemmings, forced to act like retards due to the hormones flowing in them. I don't take such men seriously and believe that they are genuinely stupid, shouldn't be taken seriously, and are fair game for all that stuff. (and that's a lot of men). But truly, does oestrogen force you to wear a mini?

    Note that I haven't raped anyone (and never will). However, I feel I understand why. I actually strongly believe in equality and don't do underpaid/underpromoted/'objectified'/harassed/assaulted/raped. As for mocked and dehumanised, well, we could all use a little criticism and I've listened to feminist criticism of men for a long time now, so it seems fair game :)

    Bob
    lawtears"hotmail.co.uk
    (sorry about the length)

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  12. Er, Laurie, why the HELL did you allow the above comment through? What exactly is not "blatantly and horrendously misogynist" about saying that it's women's fault they get raped if they wear short skirts, because men get "turned on" by them (and of course men getting sexual satisfaction when they are aroused is the most important thing in the world)? Seriously, I cannot BELIEVE that a literate person, a person who reads a feminist blog for fuck's sake, is posting this! And that it has been ALLOWED as a comment! I am actually holding back tears of fear and anger about this comment. Why can't men just stop raping people? Seriously. Why do we treat rape as some kind of natural occurrence, like rain, and we have to try to avoid it and are lucky if we do, rather than focusing on the men who rape women rather than the women who get raped? Argh, sorry for incoherence. I am just LIVID with anger about the piece of shit who wrote that comment. Does driving around in a nice car mean that it's ok for people to steal it because you were flaunting it and over time their desire for a nice car overwhelms them? In fact, I'm not even going to waste my time engaging in arguing with this utter bilge. What an arsehole.

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  13. Rose,

    I'm sorry you think I should have rejected the comment - I let it through because I believe that it articulates a position that a lot of idiots out there actually hold, and because, in a way, it proves the point that this article is trying to make. If people feel I ought to take it down, I will.

    Lx

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  14. Why can't men just stop raping people?

    The vast majority of us never start so it's quite for us to stop.

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  15. "Does driving around in a nice car mean that it`s ok for people to steal it because you were flaunting it and over time their desire for a nice car overwhelms them."

    Of course not, but obviously that is the idea that drives Lauries and much of the lefts politics. (That envy should be pandered to rather than being ignored).

    Perhaps the childish notion that equality in all aspects is a fundamental right might have something to do with mens sense of sexual entitlement?

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  16. Oh, I see I'm popular. Can I point out a few facts? I haven't raped anyone and I didn't say that it's the woman's fault. Women's as a gender, perhaps, but ultimately the man's fault. And imo, driving a nice car is not an appropriate comparison. Despite the myths, men don't usually get horny with cars. Sex is relevant.

    I must add, I've gone through life passively sexual. I've always let myself be led by whatever, not knowing what is wrong or right. I am forced to draw my conclusions from seeing women through a sexual pair of eyes, as my body demands I do. Heterosexuality is not a choice. I have always been deeply contemptuous of men. Recently I've seen a lot of reasons to be just as deeply contemptuous of women. I've spent most of my life being celibate, but at the same time being strung by women as a gender (long story).

    Oddly, pennyred and I agree on things. That fashion and clothes dominate our respective genders (but for opposing reasons), for instance.

    Yes, I read a feminist blog. I agree with some tenets of feminism. Unfortunately I was brought up under Dwarkin/MacKinnon etc, and it shows.

    Feel free to email me
    Bob (piece of shit, arsehole, idiot apparently)
    lawtears6"hotmail.co.uk

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