Friday, April 15, 2011

Toronto police blames harassment victims

"Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized."

The Toronto Police, referring to sexual assault, recently offered us this gem. I have decided to write a letter in response.

Dear Toronto Police,

Thank you, you sexist bastards. On behalf of women everywhere, I am truly appreciative for your concern, made apparent by your identification of this issue. If we are on the receiving end of sexual assault, it is our fault. In fact, dressing "like sluts" really is an invitation to be assaulted. I know that's what we women have in mind when we choose our outfits for the evening. You have every right to blame us. Your acknowledgement that we had it coming might steer us from dressing like sluts in the future.

However, I bet you didn't expect the backlash, or you probably wouldn't have made such a ridiculous statement. I'm sure by now you know all about "SlutWalk," organized by the fine citizens of Toronto. In case you don't know, because I suspect your powers of observation and general intelligence may be a bit limited, as demonstrated by your statement, "SlutWalk" is an event in which the awesome folks of Toronto have banded together to protest the horrible proclamations you made. Some of them dress provocatively, some don't, but they all choose to wear what they wear without broadcasting that they would like to be sexually assaulted. Despite the obvious rebellion present in their dressing like sluts after you just told them not to, their response isn't so much about the "dressing like sluts" component of your statement, but the implications of what it actually means.

You see, when you say that women actively factor themselves into being sexually assaulted, you are perpetuating victimization. Even if you don't explicitly say it, you are telling women that they deserve to be raped for expressing their perceived notions of femininity. Is that the kind of message you want to send to women who have been sexually assaulted? Your statement suggests that it is. I suggest you reconsider.

You may want to think about what you've done for other reasons. Did you know that Yale is going through something similar? A recent news article commented that Yale received $510.4 million in federal funding. They let their students get away with making statements like yours, and now they might lose that money.

Their students, however, are a different breed of awful. Let me tell you about some of the things they've done. Did you know that some of their fraternity pledges displayed signs that read "We Love Yale Sluts" near the Yale Women's Center? Did you know that, at an event in the fall, another fraternity's members shouted things like "No means yes! Yes means anal!" in a public setting? Yale didn't do much about the sexual harassment complaints, and look at what's happening to them. I should also mention that these fraternity members probably have these incidents on their records now, which will probably make getting certain jobs pretty difficult, let alone doing anything that one might expect people from Yale to do, like run for political office.

The problem isn't that you could take a financial hit for what you've said, or that you might not be able to move up in the office hierarchy. The problem is that you, as members of a community with authority and some power, suggest that it's acceptable for the young men of Yale to develop these attitudes about women. You, as police officers who are supposed to be concerned with protecting everyone, have created an exception; people don't deserve to be victimized, unless they're women who dressed like sluts. It doesn't matter that your abominable sentence doesn't actually say that you think women who dress like sluts deserve sexual assault. What matters are the implications that women are active members in the sexual assault, that they provoke and cause the sexual assault, and that women who ignore your kind advice must be doing so intentionally because they want to be sexually assaulted.

I invite you to reconsider what you've said, because even though you probably feel that you have my best interests in mind, your statement holds a lot of meaning that I'm not sure you really want to convey.

Have fun at "SlutWalk," and give them my best.

By Madi Whitman

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