Thursday was UCSB’s annual Take Back the Night rally. For those who might not know, TBTN is an awareness and protest march that happens on college and university campuses all over the country. The aim is to increase awareness of sexual violence against women and to protest such actions to let people know that we won’t stand for it anymore.
The UCSB rally started at 5 p.m. with music, dancers and general good times. There were tables with people from Students Stopping Rape and the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center. And at 10:15 we marched in the streets of Isla Vista shouting about how we don’t like rape, and how yes means yes and no means no. And then women started mocking us. Women. Women were mocking our protest of rape and sexual violence. Some of them threw water balloons at us.
I expected the men to mock us. I knew they would. They’ve mocked us every single year I’ve been on a march like this. They moon us and tell us we’d like it if they got into us. I never expected women to throw water balloons at us.
But then it all became very clear to me later that night while listening to the testimonials of survivors. Once the march was back at the park, we all sat down to listen to survivors tell their stories. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s part of the awareness campaign; if people talk about it, then it can’t be ignored.
I sat in the misty cold with my friends while woman after woman got up to tell her story. I found myself thinking the most horrible things when women would talk about getting drunk at frat parties, or about passing out at a neighbor’s house or about going home with a guy.
I found myself thinking, “How fucking stupid were you?” “Are you serious?” “What were you thinking?”
That’s when I realized exactly how pervasive and insidious rape culture is. Women are complicit in it every time we think something like that. Women are complicit in it every time we doubt the stories of the victims of sexual violence. Women are complicit in it every time we judge another woman by her short skirt or low-cut top. Women are complicit in it every time we let men make those kinds of comments.
Here’s the thing: Since when is rape the punishment for being stupid? If it is, then I know a lot of men who’d better bend the fuck over.
It doesn’t matter if she was stupid. We should never ask, “How stupid was she?” Because to say that exonerates the rapist who is the criminal. Women should be able to be stupid, get as drunk as they want, walk home alone, pass out at a party or run around naked without fear of getting raped. The only thing a woman could possibly have said or done to make it ok for a guy to stick his dick in her is, “Please fuck me” — or some equivalent.
The minute I thought, “How fucking stupid were you?” I blamed her for being raped.
I blamed her for being raped.
I hear this sort of thing all the time around here. “What was she thinking?” “Can you believe she wore that? She’s asking for it.”
The men who inflict sexual violence on women are responsible for their actions, whether she was drunk, wearing a short skirt or passed out in some guy’s bed. Women should not be held accountable for the crimes committed against them. I ask you all to pay attention to your own thoughts and actions. If you’re a woman or know a woman – and I know you all have mothers, sisters, daughters, friends – you should be outraged any time you hear someone make comments that suggest a woman is responsible for the actions of a rapist.
While I would assert that it is a necessary strategy for women to learn self-defense and for women to avoid walking alone at night and all that, it shouldn’t have to be and it pisses me off.
So don’t come to me to tell me how women ought to dress modestly or drink less or fight back. Fuck you.
Go tell the men and boys you know that it’s not ok to rape women. Don’t tell me how to dress or act. Go tell people that you’re not going to stand for it anymore. Stop being friends with rapists. Don’t protect them. Don’t blame women for the actions of rapists.
Challenge your own complicity with rape culture.
Emily Schmidt is a graduate student in the Religious Studies Department.