tag : bright yellow-green apples: asking for it

"I see little point in persisting in a discussion with one so obstinate as you" Martin White

Monday, November 21, 2005

asking for it

"yes I wore a slinky red thing
does that mean I should spread
for you, your friends
your father, mr ed"

Me and a Gun, by Tori Amos

I somehow ended up listening to Women's Hour today, while out walking the dog. Normally I switch it off quickly, feeling somewhat disenfranchised - but today's was just too compelling. According to a poll by Amnesty International, around a third of those asked thought that women were responsible for getting raped if they wore revealing clothing or were drunk/flirtatious.

This really shocked me - to find such an attitude still prevalent is appalling. What’s particularly scary here is that here's an inherent notion that those who commit the violence of rape are only following a course set by the victim, who make themselves available for sex whether they like it or not. Indeed consent is apparently utterly lacking in the respondents - i.e. there seems to be the view that if you show yourself off, that means you're asking for it. It’s foolish and bizarre to abdicate responsibility from the perpetrators of violence, who can so treat other people like a resource or object. There can be reforms of the legal and police systems, but there sure needs to be a lot more reform of our social attitudes.


Blogger Rach said...

I heard this statistic on the radio this morning too and was equally appalled. It's completely ridiculous - the idea that one third of the population don't think the raper is to blame, in certain circumstances anyway! Social attitudes definately need to be changed and as soon as possible!!


4:49 PM  
Blogger ash said...

i heard it too, on Radio One. My immediate reaction was "yes, well it doesn't help, but it doesn't make it their fault..."

And i stand by that. I don't think you can blame the victim, i think that's a very rubbish excuse. But it probably doesn't make you any safer to go out on the town wearing very little. that's probably a controversial thing to say, I dunno. I would just tell people to dress sensibly. I think they'll be safer. Doesn't make it right mind.

I'm all for people wearing what they like, but i just don't consider it safe.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

I don't disagree with your comments or the other commenters here, but a word of warning.

I have not been able to find out anywhere where I discovered what the questions were that were asked. I would be very, very surprised if the question was phrased in the same way as the answer. I'm going to have a look now, but lest we forget (from the recent Labour terrorism consultation if nothing else!) that you can get the answer you want if you ask the right question.

It may, of course, be entirely honest, but I would always make that warning about any survey like this, so I think it's worth saying anyway.

7:09 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

Okay, having now found the poll in question it does seem that the questions asked were in that way. It is merely the answers that have been utterly misrepresented.

I would read that third question and think that the overwhelming statistic that sticks out is that in all six questions over half of those interviewed believed the woman was 'not at all responsible'.

The third is actually 30%, 34%, 37%, 26%, 22% and 22% respectively, but that first requires to you to conflate the figures of "partially" and "totally" responsible, and as you can see the latter figure varies between 4% and 8%.

The result, as AI knew would be the case, is that they (and the BBC) publish a figure for 'partially/totally responsible' and you and most others, I imagine, misread it as a figure for 'totally responsible'. 'Partial' is, in any case, a very stupid word to use in a statistical surveys, as it could mean anything between 0.01% and 99.99%. It is even stupider if you do what AI have done here and make statements that read it as 100%.

Hard to see what it's doing there, then. But, of course, without the 'partial' category it would demonstrate that in each case the overwhelming majority (more than nine-tenths in each case) do not believe that women are responsible if they are raped. That is obviously not sensational enough for AI's campaign, hence the spin.

That 4-8% of those questioned believed that in a particular situation a woman could be 'totally responsible' if she was raped is still shocking, but it is not helped by exaggerating the figures.

7:29 PM  
Blogger hatchris said...

Thank you for that balanced comment!

I listened to it being debated on radio 2 today, and was surprised at the number of people calling in to say how disgusted they were to hear that people thought that 'women who flirted deserved to get raped!'
Never did any question responded to suggest that rape victims somehow deserved what they got, only that they may have made themselves more open to the possibility by their actions.

An all to oft repeated case of the media taking a fairly unspectacular report or survey and attempting to make shocking news from it.

Sadly the radio debate had chosen to go down the road of getting two people in who could not have more opposing views, and who would not listen to each other at all, leading to an irritating and rude conversation that simply went round in circles!

In terms of my opinion on the matter , people probably ought to be careful but rape is inexcusable, and all cases should to be treated seriously, regardless of how the victim was dressed or acting at the time.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

As I see it, Chris, it was Amnesty International themselves who attempted to make this sound more shocking than it really was. For example:

Amnesty International UK Kate Allen said: “This poll shows that a disturbingly large proportion of the public blame women themselves for being raped."

Assuming she means the 'a third' figure rather than the 4-8% figure, that is an outright (and probably deliberate) misreading of those results.

The other, non-statistical, issue here is that I imagine most of the respondents said women were 'partially responsible' when they did things which were perceived as increasing risk. It is perfectly logical to suggest that women are never responsible for their being raped, but that certain actions may increase risk (the most obvious being drinking, which increases your likelihood of being a victim of all kinds of violent crime). I think Amnesty International have conflated the results in a way that deliberately blur the distinction between responsibility and risk, and that creates more problems than it solves.

11:40 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Thanks to Martin, for managing to find out the original results on which the reports were based. It certainly helps no end to see what the headlines were interpreted from.

I spent ages trying to find a way to slip in every proviso I had, whilst keeping it a minimum length - but had to stray within the bounds of a reaction on the basis of what the media had said. Now I can see for myself that (1) there are definately degrees of reponce, partially and totally (2) the questions might be a bit ambiguous - sufficiently so for people to potentially mix up notions of blame and factors increasing risk. If the latter were given greater clarity, then we might be sure-er - even if responsability does currently cumulate at around 1/4 to 1/3 each time.

11:51 PM  
Blogger John said...

Was this a poll of only British women?

I wouldn't be surprised if the same result came out here in America. There is an old-fashioned misogyny here, but there is also a strong new misogyny, particularly in Hip Hop culture.

2:19 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

I believe it was conducted in this country - so the full lessons might only be safely applied in Britain, even if we can presume patterns across the 'Anglo-Saxon' regions.

Hip-Hop is rife with the worst of our western misogyny, unfortunately. Though if you're careful, you can find a heck of a lot of creative and original approaches around - people who aren't just lazily repeating the same tired formulas. De La Soul, par example.

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Donna said...

You are so absolutely RIGHT!

5:28 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Since you havn't specified which of us is I'll take that as a rather flattering general affirmation, to everyone having commented, from your good self.

1:43 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

Laurence - I recall that you took a very principled stand against Beenie Man when he was accused, rightly, of writing homophobic lyrics. Yet when hip-hop artists, including those you like, are accused, rightly, of writing misogynistic lyrics you seem to treat it as merely 'unfortunate'. How do you reconcile these two positions?

8:02 PM  

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