A Toronto Transformation

No Excuse

Yesterday it was announced by news outlets that a series of sexual assaults has been committed against women and girls in my age group in my neighbourhood over the past couple of weeks. 

My heart immediately went out to the women who were attacked and I heaved a sigh of impotent frustration as I felt a little kernel of fear settle into my belly, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my solitary walks home from Barreworks in quite the same carefree way for a while.

Inevitably, in came the emails and Facebook messages from concerned loved ones, kindly reminding me to be extra alert and aware of my surroundings and to protect myself and my girlfriends as much as possible.

In this particular situation, where it is known that someone seems to be targeting a specific demographic in a specific neighbourhood, it is helpful to be advised to consider taking any extra precautions that are possible.

But what exactly are the precautions to take against a man who approaches women from behind and assaults them? I’m lucky enough to live with a guy who is happy to meet and chaperone my walk home after dark and I can afford to shell out some money to take public transit most of the way home, and hopefully that limits my chances of being attacked by this/these particular rapist/s.

Not everyone is so lucky.

Fortunately, everyone’s favourite Toronto mayor’s niece has helpfully tweeted some positively foolproof advice for women hoping not to be raped: “Stay alert, walk tall, carry mace, take self-defence classes & don’t dress like a whore.”

 Stay alert, sure.

At barely 5’2” I’m not sure how tall I can really walk. I guess I could dig out my platform heels?

 I suppose I could carry mace, although it’s illegal to do so, and from what I’ve heard would be just as likely to harm me as any potential attacker.

I could (and have) taken a self-defence class, and sure, if I wasn’t paralyzed with fear I would do my darndest to fight someone off, but I have to admit, being smaller than some 10-year-olds, for me, successfully incapacitating a grown man would all come down to sheer luck.

Don’t dress like a whore.

Well.

Now that’s a tricky one. Are platform heels considered whorish? Probably by some. I guess I can cross “walk tall” off my list, then. Lipstick? A short skirt? A push-up bra? No bra? Nail polish? Ankles showing below my burqa?

And then of course there’s the fact that how you dress has NOT ONE GOD DAMNED THING TO DO WITH IT.

Rapists don’t lurk in the bushes waiting for a woman with just the right length of skirt to walk by. They attack people, regardless of what they are wearing because they want to feel power over another person or because they live in a society that says it’s ok to follow their basest instincts, to ignore a person’s right to be free from harm, where they know they’ll be forgiven because it is so commonly believed that by daring to leave the house and allow whatever random body part is fetishized in that particular region to show or almost show, a woman must secretly want to be attacked. 

They will rape you because they are a rapist, because there is something wrong with them, not because there is something wrong with your outfit.

Don’t dress like a whore?

I’d be hard-pressed to imagine a more hideously ugly and just supremely stupid thing to say in the wake of such a disturbing wave of attacks.

So, to clear things up for any men who might be confused about how to tell if it’s ok to have sex with a woman, what you’re looking for is not, in fact, whorish clothing.

What you’re looking for is ENTHUSIASTIC CONSENT.

 There is no excuse for rape.

11 Responses to No Excuse

  • Rob. says:

    Great post. Completely agree, obviously.

    Thinking about canceling my subscription to the lingerie football channel in response. It’s all fixed anyway.

  • Cassie says:

    Okay, reading that really made my blood boil. What a bitch. Can I say that? ‘Cause she’s a bitch for saying THAT. I’m so tired of people putting blame on the victim. It’s awful when anyone does it, but WOMEN especially… it’s just mind-boggling. As females, we have a hard enough time as it is. When fellow women also participate in the blaming, it’s just downright disheartening. We have such a long way to go in terms of equality.

    • Infuriating, right? I too am baffled when women in particular repeat this kind of victim-blaming garbage. Even if you are lucky enough never to have been assaulted yourself, it is extremely likely that at least one of your friends has. Take a minute and think about what you’re saying to them. Ugh.

    • Ugh. It’s true. I generally try to just ignore them as they tend to feature the ugliest side of people and are often just nonsense, but this one was too high profile to be ignored, and clearly struck a nerve.

  • LR says:

    Okay so I live in the same general area as you do and I am still shocked and appalled by Rob Ford’s niece’s comment. I literally thought my friend was “joking” when she told me what she had said. Geez.

    Needless to say, stay safe out there. For what it’s worth, I bought a whistle, just in case. It may not be much, but it’s making me feel a little safer.

    • Totally. I think I heaved the biggest sigh/eye-roll combo of my life after reading what she’d said.

      I used to have a whistle somewhere too. Maybe I’ll see if I can dig it up. Here’s hoping they catch this guy soon and that some of these discussions will help change people’s attitudes about victim-blaming.

  • Alli says:

    Wow, just wow. Great post. Rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power and control so, as you astutely point out, rapists don’t hide out waiting for a certain “type” of girl who must clearly want it because her pants are tight or her shirt is low.

  • I find it interesting that all this concern and advice pops up only when there’s an assailant on the loose. I mean, of course, you should be safe and take precautions to make sure you don’t become a victim. But, isn’t that true everyday, not just the days when a known rapist is on the loose? I think Chicago is much like Toronto – both are big, easily livable cities. Around here, there are certain neighborhoods people deem “safe” because theyr’e more upscale than others. I shake my head. Upscale neighborhoods might be considered safer, because only a certain income can afford to live there, but they’re also considered targets, because everyone knows that it takes money to live there. When you live in a city, no matter what neighborhood or what is on the latest news station, you must be aware of your surroundings, be assertive and don’t be afraid to change course or tactics if something just doesn’t seem right.

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