“She was basically asking for it. I mean, look at what she’s wearing!”- Sound familiar? Most people who have a Facebook or Twitter account, or generally have an internet connection, would have seen the latest pictures circulating of Rihanna at the CFDA Awards. Notable for the sheer number she wore, allowing onlookers a glimpse of what lies beneath; a nude g-string and a pair of nipples. Oh the outrage! Boobs! Bums! I can’t believe what I am seeing! Hold on- yes I can. While the ‘suitability’ of the dress has been questioned and outright blasted, there are more concerning issues at hand. The real reason I felt it necessary to draw attention to Rihanna at the CFDA Awards is not because of her dress or its suitability, but because of the general public’s reaction to it. Scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook, the pictures of Rihanna appear here, there, and everywhere. The other thing that appeared everywhere was the nasty, sex-shaming, victim-blaming comments. I am past the point of trying to understand or reason with people who call Rihanna or any woman not wearing a turtle-neck a ‘trashy whore’ or ‘stupid slut’. Those people are obviously ignorant and close-minded bigots who will only only bring you down to their level of stupidity if you try to engage in debate.
However, while we are on the note of sex-shaming* based on a woman’s attire, I do have to wonder what the hell is all the fuss about? These photos of Rihanna have sparked outrage and attracted the nastiest of comments, yet I am clueless as to what is surprising people. Have we not seen this before? Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus, just to name a few, are all female celebrities who regularly don forms of underwear in favour of pants. They perform in front of masses of people, including children, every year in this attire. Butt cheeks out, g-string on, some sort of crop top that is basically a bra, and ta-da! You have the normal female celebrity. They’re all doing it, so why isn’t Rihanna’s dress suitable after all? Something to think about. Anyway, getting back to my point. Rape culture. If you don’t know what it is or are curious, you can read all about it and much more in this wonderfully written piece here. I cannot recommend it enough. Bookmark it for later if you don’t have the time. Anyway, to avoid this post getting way too long and boring, I will cut to the chase. Casually scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, Rihanna pops up in her sheer Swarovski dress. My first thoughts? Crickets! Her boobs are perky without a bra. I’m envious. Second thought? Oops, I think I can see her nipples. Third thought? Oh wait, that isn’t a wardrobe malfunction because she just turned around and I can see her thong. Judging by the comments other people had left on the picture above, I was alone in these observations. The amount of misogynistic, sexist comments I read was incredible.
One Facebook user commented,
“The definition of dress: to put on clothes… What are we telling young ladies and then telling the men to keep it in their pants- mixed messages. What’s wrong with covering up and leaving a little for the imagination… Judge a person by the content but how do you judge this?”
Right. So apparently we are sending ‘mixed messages’ to the males out there because while we tell them to ‘keep it in their pants’, there are women like Rihanna who have an amazing butt and boobs and decide they’d like to flaunt them. How dare she! Heavens forbid we expect men to actually take control of their thoughts and actions, obviously it’s up to us females to dress appropriately to prevent any harassment. Know what that’s called? Rape culture.
It gets worse. Another Facebook user apparently discovered the formula to Chris Brown beating up Rihanna. Her clothes! He wrote:
“This is why Chris pimp slapped her… if the mother from Everybody Hates Chris saw her in this she would knock her into next week.”
Because of course, violence is the answer. Said nobody ever. This misogynistic mindset is unfortunately nothing new and definitely not uncommon. Domestic violence against women is one of Australia’s biggest killers, and it’s obvious why when we have men judging and mistreating women based simply on their clothing or sexual liberation.
To top it off, we have the comedian of all Facebook users:
“Cop’s thinking what a skank, if someone tries to grab her, she’ll expect me to put my life on the line to help her.”
Clearly just trying to be a good citizen and looking out for this poor police officer. But seriously, this is an exemplary attitude condoning rape culture. This man is saying that if someone attacked Rihanna that night, that ‘poor’ cop would have to protect her. Shit. God forbid he actually does his job! Basically, this guy, and evidently many others, are saying that Rihanna is ‘asking for it’. Ah, sweet victim-blaming, we meet again. On top of that, it is sending out the message that only ‘good girls’ (‘good’ loosely defining a woman who doesn’t show skin or warrant the ‘slut’-branding) deserve protection. What utter bullshit. This is no different to saying a sex-worker doesn’t deserve protection if she is assaulted or raped. This is like saying a stripper doesn’t or deserve protection if she is being sexually harassed or assaulted because, hey, she doesn’t have feelings! She doesn’t really feel the pain of rape or violence the same way an ordinary woman does.
Doesn’t she?! Last time I checked, unless you’re Spiderman, regardless of your occupation, you are still a human who has feelings. How is this still a prevalent attitude in the 21st century? These comments are only a few of what is defined as blatantly victim-blaming. We as a society are still looking at what the victim is doing to answer for the actions of the perpetrator. This is rape culture. We don’t question what the children must have been doing when a paedophile decided to sexually assault them. We don’t assume that a wife deserved to be strangled and stabbed to death by her physically absuive husband. We don’t say the shopkeeper deserved to be held up at knife-point because, hey, that’s what you get for being open at night. No, we don’t.
So why do we still look to the victim when it comes to sexual violence? What do clothes have to do with anything? Do you think the girls that are raped by strangers in the street at night were wearing a sheer gown? Do you think their breasts were out for the world to see? Do you think their g-string was showing and that is what caused them to be raped? Obviously not. A rapist will rape regardless of how ‘sexually provoking’ the woman’s clothing is. Do you know why? Because they are only thinking about two things. How physically easy of a target (agility etc) the woman is and what’s in between her legs. That’s it. You don’t get the average bloke walking along the street and stopping when he sees a woman showing ‘too much skin’ and thinks, ‘hey, she’s obviously up for a good time, and look at what she’s wearing- obviously wants my penis in her.’ NO. That doesn’t happen. The reason, in fact, why it does happen boils down to the (mis)representations of women in our media and in our society. We are apparently the weaker sex, the nicer sex, the kinder sex, the submissive sex. It is a result of our patriarchal society- unless a woman is deemed worthy of respect and protection in the male gaze, she is nothing. We need to stop associating women with their relationship to men, and instead look at them as human, equal, individuals.
As a society, we need to stop victim-blaming. Sure, some people probably don’t even know they’re doing it. But it needs to be made known that commenting on what a woman is wearing and relating it to being attacked IS condoning rape culture. And you, whether male or female, are part of the problem if you are doing this. Don’t think what a girl is wearing is ‘suitable’? That’s (kind of) fine, you are entitled to your own opinion. BUT, for the love of humanity, please keep that opinion to yourself and DO NOT go and associate what a girl is wearing with sexual violence or abuse. They are not related issues and you’re victim-blaming if you do. If you can see a woman’s clitoris hanging out of her skirt, guess what? It doesn’t even matter, she’s not asking for it. Nip slips? Still not asking for it.
A WOMAN IS NOT ASKING FOR IT UNLESS SHE PHYSICALLY, VERBALLY, ORALLY and CONSCIOUSLY ASKS FOR IT WITH HER OWN MOVING MOUTH.
Breasts, bums, vaginas, legs; they can’t talk. They can’t ask for it. Rape culture is ubiquitous and inevitable while victim-blaming comments are still being thrown around. Regardless of what a woman is wearing, she is not asking for it. She does not deserve to be raped.