“The only thing I care about more than feminism,” writes Caitlin Moran in an interview with Salon magazine, “is being funny.”
I like Caitlin Moran — British columnist and author of “How To Be A Woman” — because it’s easy to like her. She’s funny. She’s accessible. I don’t like Moran because her highly public, self-appointed position as ambassador of feminism is undermined when she makes rape jokes.
In a recent interview with blogger Mia Freedman, Moran stated that she doesn’t wear high heels because they are loud and ‘alert’ a rapist that she is coming. This was her response to Freedman’s remark that a woman who walks home late at night is analogous to “(leaving) your car unlocked with the keys in the ignition.”
Moran is no stranger to controversy: Earlier this year, she incited anger by making a rape joke on Twitter.
This is not a column about whether or not people should take general safety precautions (the answer: everyone should). This is a column about rape culture.
Or, put otherwise, the consequences of subtle cultural blame-shifting that emphasizes teaching people not to get raped more than teaching people not to rape. Moran and Freedman’s comments play into a lazy, boys-club misogyny that makes rape seem more a crime of passion than power.
Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. Period. Ascribing things like high heels to rape only exacerbates a cause-and-effect ethos, which communicates the idea that sexual violence is an effect, rather than the cause itself.
To describe a woman’s body as a car ready to be stolen is offensive for many reasons. Just because a car is running doesn’t mean you can steal it. Also, the comparison objectifies women. A vagina is not a sports car.
Freedman’s comment is not merely a harmless aside because it accompanies a long history of society dehumanizing female sexuality. As a feminist role model and how-to evangelist of being a woman, Moran should be held to a high standard.
Would rape cease to exist if every woman in the world burned her high heels and wore running shoes instead?
No. Rape is a choice located in the ideology that another person is a vehicle for someone else’s use.
When dreadful things happen, a more helpful response would be to ask why these ideologies exist at all, rather than wondering what the victim was wearing or what time it was.
Last month, a university student named Jyoti Singh was violently gang raped in India. Her death sparked national protests about violence against women, given that the government response ran the normal gamut of victim-blaming.
In light of such brutality, it may seem frivolous to be concerned with Moran’s comments, but it’s important to examine the patriarchal narratives being reinforced in popular culture. Caitlin Moran is a decent place to start. It’s time to start caring more about feminism than being funny.
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