By: Julie Schmidt
She takes a jog through the streets of her hometown and breathes heavily as the sun’s heat, combined with the length of her run, causes her to sweat profusely. Knowing that the high temperature of the day was going to be around 80 degrees, she had chosen to wear shorts and a tank top in order to be as comfortable as possible. Gasping for breath, she cooled down from her run and stopped at the local grocery store to pick up another bottle of water.
She applies her makeup, curls her hair, and chooses an outfit in preparation for the party. With a last look in the mirror, she heads out the door. Once at the party, she mills around, chatting with people here and there. Within an hour, she feels at ease, laughing and enjoying herself.
She sighs with relief after a long shift at a small restaurant in her town. Signing out, she says goodbye to her coworkers and heads out the door at 10 P.M. Having walked home from work every night, she knows the route by heart, the exact count of minutes that it will take to walk home. Zipping up her jacket, she walks at a brisk pace down the pitch black streets of her town, flinching at every unexpected noise and quickening her pace when she hears footsteps.
However, while she is jogging, men and women alike see her run by and judge her for showing too much skin. They criticize her, saying she purposely flaunted herself with little clothing to attract attention. They scoff at her and think to themselves that she is just asking for a man to take advantage of her. At the party, jealous girls take one look at her and conclude that she put makeup on because she wanted guys to look at her sexually. A few guys even venture to think the same thought, believing that she wants them to take her aside and take advantage. They believe her makeup and clothes, along with the smiles and laughing, indicate that she is consenting to whatever vulgar thoughts fill their minds. After work, she hurries home because she has heard the horror stories of women walking home alone and being raped. She has heard of the predators that lurk in the shadows waiting to find a young woman who is helpless to fight back.
Yet, despite what people may believe, she does not want to be raped or sexually assaulted. She wants to be comfortable while exercising on a hot day. She wants to be able to do her makeup and make herself look especially pretty, not for other guys but for herself. She wants to be able to laugh and have fun without worrying about what other people think. She wants to feel safe in the daytime or at night, in a crowded place or a quiet area, and with a jacket on or without a jacket on.
“She” represents one woman and all women. “She” is a victim to society’s refusal to address a problem that originates from a faulty thought process within certain men and is perpetuated by the stereotypes of females being hormonal and dramatic. Society simultaneously scorns women for “teasing” and “inviting” men to look at them as a sexual object by wearing clothing that reveals “too much skin” and supports and encourages women to learn how to protect themselves from sexual predators that attempt to take advantage. On one hand, women are being told that it is expected that men will make a move. On the other hand, women are being told how to protect themselves from the disgusting attempts at rape or sexual harassment by men. When a woman tries to defend herself, society immediately shuts her down, assuming that women are always complaining about something ridiculous, their own feelings an exaggerated overreaction.
She must have been asking for it by wearing provocative clothing or behaving in an inappropriate fashion, right? A man would never push a woman into doing something that she did not want unless she was blatantly asking for it, right? This screwed up way of thinking has polluted the minds of many people in our society. We perpetuate the hypocritical idea that it is the woman’s fault for flaunting herself, yet it is never even considered to lay the fault of the crime on men. Girls are being taught to dress conservatively, to be constantly cautious of how they act and what they say, for fear that they should incorrectly lead a boy on and incite his rage or, at the very least, wrong and hurt him. Meanwhile, boys are being brought up under the safety blanket of the idea that it is never their fault for sexually harassing a girl. Instead of being taught how to stop sexually assaulting women, boys are growing up under the impression that they are blameless. Boys can escape unscathed with minimal to no punishment for sexual harassment or rape, while women carry the physical and emotional scars, all because of the assumption that they cannot know that a girl did not want the result of “clearly asking for sexual attention.”
We all need to take a good, hard look at our society. Our society is not addressing rape and sexual assault. As a society, we are fostering a culture that teaches girls that they are responsible for any unwanted sexual actions being imposed upon them. Our society is teaching boys that they are allowed to interpret a girl simply smiling at them or wearing clothes that show more than her hands and feet as consent to violate her. Our society is teaching the people as a whole to blame the woman and free the man of guilt. Is this what we want the present and future generations to perpetuate?