Last night, Christine Fox (@steenfox) started a remarkable conversation on Twitter about rape culture, victim blaming, and that infuriatingly common question of “what was she wearing.” The responses that she got were just as varied as actual thoughtful people would assume, and it was an incredible display of shutting down that “what was she wearing,” victim-blaming bullshit.
As you would expect, the responses ranged from sweat pants to dresses to pajamas to jeans to skirts to basically every single item of clothing in existence. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, because there is no link between what a person wears and their likelihood of being raped. The thinking behind the “clothing causes rape” mentality betrays a type of ignorance that stems from a deep hatred of women (anecdotally, I can say the type of person who says “What was she wearing” is also likely to say “men don’t get raped, they get lucky”), and a fundamental lack of understanding what rape really is. Victim blaming isn’t just about misogyny or pinning down “legitimate rape,” though, it’s about affording the benefit of doubt to the rapist, and not giving that same benefit to the victim. It’s a crutch for people who don’t want to believe that their child, favorite celebrity, or neighbor or football star raped someone. It makes it easier to take the news in. Rape is an easier pill to swallow when she was asking for it.
This has been a pretty fantastic use of social media, which at its best represents scores of diverse voices in an organized way and allows for conversations that we wouldn’t ordinarily have access to. Fox was also remarkably measured and careful in her handling of the situation–she made sure that anyone who tweeted their response to her approved a retweet to her 16,000 plus fans. It was a consideration that Buzzfeed failed to take in their round up of the tweets, which was certainly well-intentioned but left some of the survivors feeling revictimized. It’s a good reminder of the care the media (us included) needs to take with survivors of rape, because it’s easy to revictimize, even without trying to.
You can read all of the brave, varied responses here, and share them with anyone you know who still asks “what were you wearing?” The clothing a person was wearing at the time of a rape is as irrelevant as what the victim had for lunch six weeks ago. Nothing you will ever wear in your entire life will be an invitation for rape. We need to stop asking.