“Why must we draw these lines, these fine distinctions, these labels and barriers that set us apart? Ace and nat and joker, capitalist and communist, Catholic and Protestant, Arab and Jew, Indian and Latino, and on and on everywhere, and of course true humanity is to be found only on *our* side of the line and we feel free to oppress and rape and kill the ‘other,’ whoever he might be.”—George R. R. Martin, ‘From the journal of Xavier Desmond’
The following day, I attended a workshop about preventing gender violence, facilitated by Katz. There, he posed a question to all of the men in the room: “Men, what things do you do to protect yourself from being raped or sexually assaulted?”
Not one man, including myself, could quickly answer the question. Finally, one man raised his hand and said, “Nothing.” Then Katz asked the women, “What things do you do to protect yourself from being raped or sexually assaulted?” Nearly all of the women in the room raised their hand. One by one, each woman testified:
“I don’t make eye contact with men when I walk down the street,” said one.
“I don’t put my drink down at parties,” said another.
“I use the buddy system when I go to parties.”
“I cross the street when I see a group of guys walking in my direction.”
“I use my keys as a potential weapon.”
The women went on for several minutes, until their side of the blackboard was completely filled with responses. The men’s side of the blackboard was blank. I was stunned. I had never heard a group of women say these things before. I thought about all of the women in my life — including my mother, sister and girlfriend — and realized that I had a lot to learn about gender.
If I was to steal a chocolate bar because it was sitting at the counter looking all tasty, it’d be theft. Nobody would say but oh, look at the creamy picture on the packaging. It was taunting him. He had no choice. It was instinct. Impulse. Drives and desires beyond his control.
If I walked into some person’s home and said I lived there, I’d be arrested. Nobody would say to the owners that they should invest in curtains so that people couldn’t see how nice their house was so easily. Nobody would tell them that they were ‘asking for it’.
And if I beat a guy up because he was a loud mouth I’d be charged. Nobody would say oh but look at him, he’s a dick. He’s got gel in his hair and he’s wearing a shirt that says “How about a nice cup of shut the fuck up”. The dude is a wanker, he got what he deserved. More importantly, even if they did say that, it wouldn’t effect my charges.
But if a woman is wearing a short skirt then it will dramatically sway people’s opinions in a rape case. Was it cut above the knee? Was your waist showing? These are serious questions that will be asked in a court case.