Here’s a quick example: read anything about preventing Zika virus from spreading, and all the responsibility belongs to women.
“Women . . . are now being told to hold off on getting pregnant for months or even years to avoid the risk of having babies with birth defects caused by the mosquito-borne Zika virus.”
“In January, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a first-of-its-kind travel alert: American women of childbearing age . . . were told to avoid countries where the Zika virus has been circulating. . . . women in countries that already have Zika outbreaks have been told to avoid getting pregnant.”
Yes, it is the woman who gets pregnant. While the CDC admits that a man carrying the Zika virus can pass it on to both male and female partners, none of the articles advise men not to impregnate women. None said that men should avoid sex. Nope, they place the entire responsibility for avoiding sex on women. Although it is always the male equipment that creates pregnancy.
I’m not a fan of reality shows, but I noticed several conversations and checked out the trend: On The Bachelor, the man gets to canoodle and have sex with many women while choosing among them. His behavior is called “discriminating,” and is praised as if he were choosing a pineapple for ripeness.
On The Bachelorette, the woman in the same position of choosing, who makes out with more than one contestant, is labeled as “slutty,” and using “whorish behavior.”
A man is a gigolo, which is considered masterful and enviable; a woman is a whore–dirty, diseased and morally corrupt for the same act–having sex.
We can roll back the clock to life before the birth control pill (which was FDA approved in 1960.) Women who got pregnant were called “bad girls,” “fallen women,” or blamed: “she got herself pregnant.” No women ever “got herself” pregnant. It has always taken sperm and egg to create pregnancy. Males were never part of the blame equation. It was always the woman’s responsibility to avoid pregnancy. When she refused sex, she was called a “cock-teaser,” who was often raped because men cannot control their own emotions. That is a woman’s job, too.)
There were no “homes” where males who got women pregnant were sent to be disgraced, shamed, and shunned from society. A girl who demanded justice from the boy who impregnated her was often accused of sleeping with all the boy’s friends. It was a successful lie told by a lot of males. They got a wink and a nod, and the woman paid the price.
Which brings around the latest rape story: B.T., who raped an unconscious woman. (I’m not using his full name because I do not give criminals the opportunity to see their name in type.) But wait. Time magazine helps us understand it wasn’t really rape: “. . . the former Stanford swimmer who was sentenced to six months of jail last week, did not penetrate his victim with his penis. Therefore, no ‘rape’ happened in the eyes of the law.” Before you say, “Well, that’s the law in California,” let’s get back to the point of this blog post: our language stacks the deck against women.
The very lawmakers who are supposed to protect us all, seem to be far more interested in protecting men a bit better. B.T. used his fingers to penetrate his victim, he tore her clothing, he pulled down her panties, he was lying on top of her while she was unconscious. But it’s not rape unless he uses a penis. The language of our culture does not protect women, it blames them for the behavior of others.
And before you say, “Well, she was drunk,” look at that as well. Men getting drunk is “just fraternity behavior;” women getting drunk is “shameful” and she “gets what she deserves.” No one who is drunk deserves to be raped. Neither a man nor a woman. Being drunk is not a criminal act. It might be dumb, but it is not criminal. A smart woman wrote me, “drinking too much is a reason to blame the [woman] victim, while drinking too much is a reason to excuse the [male] rapist.” Exactly.
B.T. gets off with a six-month sentence (which he has appealed as unfair), while lawmakers fuss and fume over “our women, our sisters, our daughters” being in a bathroom with a transgender woman. We’re fine in our bathrooms, it’s outside, by the dumpsters, that women need protection from rapists.
Worst of all, because language is the common way to communicate, it becomes culturally OK to blame women for rape and for transmitting the Zika virus. Other blaming also falls on women:
- For being ambitious. (A man is “powerful,” a woman is “a ball-breaker”.)
- For wanting to be President. (A man is “a deal maker”, a woman is “untrustworthy”.)
- For being the main breadwinner in the family. (A man who is a stay-at-home-Dad gets headlines, a woman who stays at home “doesn’t work.” A man who earns a lot of money is sought after as “a catch,” a woman who earns a lot of money “slept her way up.”)
Our language defines our culture. But it works the other way, too–our language shapes our culture. Let’s start telling the truth about responsibility and change the culture of blame against women.
—Quinn McDonald pays a lot of attention to the words we use and how we use them.