There is no such thing as a “dumb question.” However, there is often a huge disconnect between those who do and don’t identify as feminists. Often those who don’t identify as feminists don’t know much about certain issues, or don’t understand a certain perspective, but don’t feel comfortable asking, for fear of being called a bigot or misogynist.
So this section is for the questions you are afraid to ask the feminists in your life. Don’t worry, we’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume integrity and sincere curiosity in your questions. This is a safe space! Email us at email@example.com, or comment anonymously below, to submit questions.
Question: Stranger rape happens and date rape happens and I find that as a young woman I have been trained since a young girl to fear these two things to a point where where I can go when is restricted by this fear of the what if. I’m not saying that it won’t happen, but how do you suggest women live in opposition of this fear without putting themselves at risk?
This is an excellent question and highlights a struggle many women (and other people) deal with on a regular basis. Ultimately there is no good answer in terms of how to balance feeling and being safe without simultaneously feeling trapped by those concerns. I think each person needs to find a way to negotiate these conflicting interests in the way that best suits them. This negotiation will look different for everyone, and could include:
1. Learning and taking basic safety precautions. For example, don’t leave any drink unattended at parties or bars, and if you do, stop drinking it.
2. If you feel so compelled, take a self-defense class. For some people, this gives them more confidence and leads to a greater feeling of security as they go about their life.
3. As much as you feel safe and comfortable doing so, live your life exactly as you want to. If you want to wear a short skirt and heels when you go out at night? Go for it. If some asshole street harasses you while you walk around your neighborhood? If you feel safe, call them out. If not, ignore it. If you find a concentration of street harassment on one particular street or area, choose whether or not you still feel comfortable walking there, or if you’d rather take another route. These decisions are yours, and you are the one who best knows what will work as the best compromise between safety, comfort, and living your life with the freedom you desire.
4. Most importantly, find ways to feel empowered. Challenge rape culture, and challenge the idea that it is normal for you to go about your daily life feeling unsafe, because that should not be normal. This can take on any number of forms. It could be joining a group like Take Back the Night or Stop Street Harassment, it could include writing about the subject on blogs like this one or Feministing, or it could be challenging the norms of rape culture in conversations with friends.
In my own life, I struggle with this question a lot. I often feel unsafe walking home at night and frequently question my ability to defend myself. This is frustrating and exhausting, but I’ve found the best way for me to handle it is to challenge rape culture in the settings where I feel safe. In doing so I feel more empowered and like I have more agency in my own life, which helps me deal with the uncertainty and fear I feel at other times. And finally:
5. Find a community of people, friends, family, whoever, that you feel comfortable talking about this with. Doing so can take pressure off of the constant struggle of negotiating between safety and freedom, and also creates a safe space for you to discuss this question further. It can also be a space to discuss specific instances when this has come up in your life, and ways you and others deal with the practicalities of your question.
We hope this helps, and if you have any other questions or further concerns please feel free to reply here or contact us via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Also feel free to check out our resources page to look for other support.
Not to be insensitive to male survivors…but how can men get raped?
While very often sexual assault and sexual violence are presented as women’s issues, men (and anyone of any gender identity) can experience sexual assault. In fact, in the U.S. almost 10% of sexual assault survivors are men. Sexual assault encompasses a range of crimes, from unwanted touching to forcible penetration, any of which men can experience. Men can be assaulted by both men and women, and it is important to remember that erections are a physiological response, and their presence does not delegitimize an experience of sexual assault. If you know a man who has been sexually assaulted, it is important to listen and be supportive of him, and to empower him rather than pressure him into handling the situation in a specific way or taking what action you might think is right. If you would like resources on male sexual assault some can be found here from RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) as well as under the Resources tab of this blog.
Regarding rape- what’s the difference between “victim” and “survivor?” One of my friends was offended recently by the use of the word “victim” in an article but it seems like an issue of mere semantics…
Victim is often preferred in legal settings, however those who work with people who have experienced sexual violence, prefer to use “survivor” as it is more empowering. Ultimately, it is the prerogative of the person who has experienced sexual violence. Whether one considers themselves a survivor, victim, or neither, their choice is valid.
I don’t get why ‘street harassment’ is a real problem. So someone cat-called you. Isn’t it a compliment? What’s the big deal?
Something like a wolf whistle or a “nice ass” comment might not seem like a big deal, but these casual remarks are symptoms of a larger attitude in society, and have a lot of negative consequences.
For starters, these sorts of comments, often coming from men and often (but certainly not always) directed at women, can make a woman feel unsafe. These comments are aggressive and establish male ownership over the space and the situation. Both of these can make a woman feel like she is unsafe and in an unprotected space over which she has no ownership. Beyond that, rape myths like the ‘Stranger Rape Myth’ have given women the idea that sexual assault most often happens while walking down the street alone, and is committed by aggressive men who are strangers. Experiences of street harassment can reinforce these fears.
On another note, street harassment establishes public ownership over a woman’s (or any other person’s) body and objectifies them, reducing them to simply an object designed for men’s sexual pleasure rather than a person. When someone wolf whistles at another person’s body or passes a judgment on it with a comment like, “Hey sexy,” they are saying that the person’s body is public property, on which they can freely pass judgment, or voice an opinion. Rather than being a person, a person who is street harassed is reduced to an object of sexual pleasure for the viewer (the harasser). It is a statement meant to disempower the person being street harassed. We already operate in a world where women are frequently told their bodies are not their own and exist solely for men (see: male gaze) and reinforcing this idea via street harassment is good for no one, and is very harmful for those who are harassed, as well as the world at large.
This is why street harassment matters, and this is why it is important to work against it.
I feel like feminists are angry all the time. Is it really worth it? Do you really want to get angry all the time?
The angry feminist stereotype is just that, a stereotype. In fact, the coordinators of this blog are some of the happiest people around town. However, those who identify as feminists often are frustrated or angry with the persistence of gender inequality. Anger is not inherently bad. Rather, anger is defined by what we do with it. A brief angry rant here and there is an excellent release, and reduces, rather than perpetuates, anger. Anger can be used as inspiration. It can be a call to action. It is often key to awareness. While feminists are about as diverse as the human population itself, anger is not central to feminism. Most people face frustration on the daily. Don’t mistake a feminist’s brief frustration for sustained anger. Rather, for many it is a mere reminder, it is reinforcing and motivating, an initial reaction, but not a life attitude.