Men’s Rights Groups and Slut-Shaming

by July 20, 2013
filed under Activism

www.huffingtonpost.ca

www.huffingtonpost.ca

I am that gurl.

What am I talking about?

In Edmonton, the “Don’t Be That Guy” anti-rape campaign that was started in the city in order to combat sexual assault against women by men has been parodied by a Men’s Rights Activist group. Posters with the tagline “Don’t Be That Girl” were plastered around the city’s university area by a group called Men’s Rights Edmonton. The tag line and accompanying messages slut-shame women, blaming them for the assaults that they are the victims of, while also railing against false accusations of rape, which their posters imply are pervasive. (Click here to view posters from both campaigns)

I don’t know if Men’s Rights Edmonton’s intention was to be funny, clever or what, but their posters are none of the above. What the people behind this campaign are actually doing is contributing to our existing rape culture by throwing blame back on sexual assault and rape victims. They are reinforcing fears that keep victims of sexual assault from reporting this crime to police. Perhaps these posters will instill fear in a sexual assault victim that she has the potential to falsely accuse someone of rape because she doesn’t know how to differentiate between rape and a “regret[able] one night stand,” as the Men’s Rights group’s poster implies.

While lies concerning the perpetration of sexual assault do sometimes take place (reports and accusations of any crime, not just rape, can be based upon lies – I am not excusing the actions of anyone who lies about crimes), the “Don’t Be That Girl” posters make it seem like false accusations are made all of the time. More often, incidents of sexual assault are not reported to authorities at all. For instance, Statistics Canada notes that the 2004 General Social Survey on victimization indicates that only one in ten sexual assaults are reported to our police.

The posters also seem to place a lot of responsibility and blame onto real and hypothetical women for getting drunk and engaging in regrettable sexual behaviour. While getting drunk is not exactly responsible behaviour, this perspective again perpetuates and fosters

www.motleynews.net

www.motleynews.net

rape culture. How? All of these warnings and accusations concerning questionable behaviour seem to be directed at women- female victims and not rapists themselves. Don’t get drunk. Don’t have a one night stand. Don’t dress in a provocative manner. Don’t, don’t, don’t.

Although men can also be the victims of sexual violence, we never see any similar warnings directed at them. Don’t wear those scanty muscle shirts and soccer shorts – you may attract unwanted advances. Be careful: That woman you pick up at the bar might turn out to be a predator. Have you ever heard such advice? Neither have I.

Indeed, society has set a double standard: Women have to be careful and men don’t. For men, casual sex and excessive drinking (and the consequences resulting from this) are perhaps expected or are considered unproblematic. Men can wear whatever they want. Women, on the other hand, have to be careful and will be held accountable for anything that happens to them if they are not. It should be noted that Canada’s 2004 General Social Survey also showed that the rate at which women were the victims of sexual assault was 5 times higher than that at which males were victimized and in 2007, 97% of those accused of sexual offenses were male. Not only does the “Don’t Be That Girl” campaign perpetuate this view that we can hold women accountable for their victimization and hold them responsible for ensuring they don’t get raped, but also it implies that men, who are disproportionately accused of sexual assault against women, are not responsible for their own victimization or for their perpetration of sexual offenses. A more poignant message that would undermine rape culture would be one that tells men they should not rape. Period. And that is what the “Don’t Be That Guy” posters try to do.

Finally, in defense of the male gender, the majority of whom don’t rape, a distinction needs to be drawn between these so-called “Men’s Rights groups” and advocacy groups for men. In recent years, a number of support groups have emerged for men who are having difficulty seeing their children; adult male survivors of abuse; men dealing with issues surrounding equity in terms of spousal and child support and other completely legitimate things that are of concern to some men.

But yes, I am that gurl. I am that gurl who thinks “Men’s Rights groups” that attempt to slut-shame are discrediting their gender. They are part of the reason why so many women who are sexually assaulted don’t report this crime- because they are afraid of the potential backlash.


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