I came across this adorable comic (I genuinely like the talent behind Kate or Die) in the condescendingly titled Pharyngula post “Here’s the Situation“.
What bothered me about it, though, is the phrase “how fucking scary it is to be a girl”. The character in the comic talks about how she’s saddened by misogyny and rape culture and is fearful when going out in the evening and/or alone. She also mentions the statistic that 1 in 4 women have been raped and that women and LGBT people are at greater risk of being victims of rape.
Now, this is a webcomic, so I don’t expect this to be a deep discussion with citations, but I’d like to express my thoughts about these claims.
First, like the title says, I’m not scared to be a girl. That doesn’t mean I don’t get scared in certain situations, only that I don’t feel it’s scary to be a woman or attribute my fear of a situation to the fact that I’m female. If I’m in a situation where I fear being alone and possibly getting raped, kidnapped, mugged, etc., it’s typically based on how safe I evaluate the environment I’m in. The biggest factor in evaluating the safety of place isn’t how misogynistic it is, but how violent it is.
Consider some countries, like Japan, whose culture could be argued to be more misogynistic, yet have lower rates of rape because they have lower rates of violent crime in general. Canada may have a less misogynistic world view, but higher rates of violent crime than Japan, and therefore higher instances of rape. Then, there’s war–women are at highest risk to be raped by a stranger in a war zones.
I feel pretty safe in my little remote northern Ontario town walking alone at all hours; because I feel that rates of violence in general are low here. When I’m in Toronto, I don’t feel quite as confident alone in the streets because I feel the chance of being the victim of violence is higher in general. But, if you asked me about the difference in culture, I’d say my little hometown is likely to be a bit more misogynistic than the progressive views of Toronto citizens.
So, it seems like the best way to lower rates of violence against women is lower rates of violence in general. When it comes to violent crime, men are at greatest risk to be assaulted by a stranger. You’re far more likely, regardless of gender, to be raped by someone you know. And when it comes to that someone you know, it seems you’re just about as likely to be raped and sexually assaulted by a woman you know than a man you know.
A look at the subject of female sex offenders shows that rates of abuse and rape by women is shockingly high. “For a variety of societal reasons, female sexual abuse is likely to remain unnoticed. Some researchers have found that the incidence of sexual contact with boys by women is much more prevalent than is contended in the clinical literature (Condy, Templer Brown & Veaco, 1987).” link. This makes me believe that lowering misogyny might not have a strong impact on lowering rates of sexual violence.
If women want to feel safer in their communities, lowering rates of violence seems to be a more effective approach. Whereas, fighting misogyny might most likely have a stronger impact on human rights issues, like pay equity, and views of women in pop culture.
It doesn’t make much sense for me to be scared to go outside because I’m a girl if the reality is that I’d be more likely to be attacked if I’m a man. When it comes specifically to sexual violence, focusing only on women victims by male offenders is ignoring the very non-trivial issue of female offenders and male victims.
Canadians may be familiar with these types of cases by remembering one of the worst cases of serial rape by Karla Homolka and her husband Paul Bernardo, which included their rape and murder of her own sister. The deal The Crown made with Homolka to ensure Bernardo’s life sentence is often referred to as the worst bargain in Canadian legal history, as later video evidence show her to be a very willing abuser, rather than a victim herself as originally purported. Most recently, male victim Lin Jun was murdered and sexually assaulted by accused Luca Rocco Magnotta, a gay porn star from Montreal.
Overall, I don’t like hearing things like “it’s fucking scary to be a girl” when we’re talking about rape because it perpetuates assumptions about the profiles of victims and offenders. And let’s say, for some reason, you only care about rape of women victims by male offenders; high rates of violent crime and wars are your main culprits, rather than misogyny. But when it comes to rape, the reality seems to be that there are large numbers of male and female victims whose abusers are women. This makes it very “fucking scary” indeed for these individuals, living under the myth that rape of men, boys, girls and women, by women is rare and trivial (in some states, legally impossible).
And when it comes to fighting misogyny, the best approach seems to be reinforcing the idea that women are human individuals and you can’t make assumptions about people’s character or experience based on gender.