Blogger Scary Mommy recently posted about a side-by-side comparison of the covers of Girls’ Life and Boys’ Life, leading with this nonsense:
We’ve got a very serious problem here. Hell, we’ve had a serious problem here for a long time. And it’s what we’re telling our girls. Girls only care about fashion and getting boys to like them. Or some version of that.
Their worth is determined by their bodies, what clothes and shoes they wear and what boys think of them. Girls are encouraged to do well in school, but not to worry about having a serious career. … What in the actual hell are we teaching our girls?
What you are teaching your daughters and sons is what you intend to teach your daughters and sons, not what they pick up on.
The message received is not the message being taught, so you cannot be “teaching” something against your will. If you believe that, then you are establishing the environment in which rape culture thrives.
If “how you made me feel” and “well, that’s how I feel after what you just said,” is what rules at the end of the day, then so also must, “Well, she made me feel like I should do it to her” be a valid conclusion. “She made me feel like I should do it to her,” is NOT a valid conclusion — in the SAME WAY that “that’s how you made me feel, after what you just said,” ALSO isn’t valid. If you believe these two to be unequal comparisons, then you have stumbled upon that which you must sacrifice in order to end rape culture, and how unwilling you actually are to go through with it.
The only message that is allowed, is the actual intended message, and that’s it. Period.
If ‘stop” means an assailant must halt their actions, then “calm down” means the angered must halt their anger.
Failing to obey “calm down” is the failure of someone to obey “stop.”
Justifying becoming more angry when told to calm down, justifies failing to stop when told to stop.
If no means no, and yes means yes — then no can’t be interpreted as yes, and yes can’t be interpreted as no.
If how a girl dresses DOES NOT mean she wants it, then “what I teach my daughter” is what you INTEND to teach her, not the message she picks up on.
If the way someone walks DOES NOT mean they’re advertising, then you cannot mistakenly teach your daughter or your son something — your son or daughter can FALSELY believe something based on a perceived context (in the SAME way that the onlooker believing someone is advertising is a false context). If the source that does not say it, it does not teach it. The fault of the flawed message is with the recipient, not the teacher, if the teacher did not intend it that way.
In the same way that it is the responsibility of the assailant to ensure consent is actually given, it is the responsibility of the feeler to ensure their feelings match the intention of the person who made the statement.
If you’re saying that “My reaction is based on how I felt, and you’re to blame,” then you’re saying that it is the interpreter who has the power, and you’re GIVING UP power to the interpreter, when it is the sole authority of the speaker to properly and authoritatively interpret their own message.
If you are teaching that it is the listener of the message whose false reaction is what the message really is, then you’re giving the power over to assailants to misinterpret as they wish.
“Can we do it?”
“Good, take off your clothes.”
“But I said no.”
“But the way that you said no, tells me yes.”
“But I am saying to you, no, we cannot do it.”
“You’re saying no, but you’re making me feel yes.”
How the assailant feels doesn’t matter. What the consenting party’s actual message is, is what matters. The person from whom consent hinges, is the authority of whether the event takes place. The event is the lesson being learned. The idea that “our sons and daughters learn these lessons” without you having taught them, gives them the power, not you. By giving power to the interpreter over the message, then the consenting party is giving power to the assailant whether their no means yes.
“Are you saying I’m limited to only these occupations?
“No; you can have any occupation you wish.”
“But the magazine you bought me seems like I can only have these occupations.”
“No, it doesn’t; I am saying to you, you can have any you wish.”
“You’re saying I can, but this magazine makes me feel like I can’t.”
Compare this conversation with the previous.
How the interpreter of your message feels about your message is irrelevant: what is relevant is what the message is, and the fact that you define what your own message is. It is the responsibility of the interpreter to accurately interpret the message as the speaker intended, or better research the speaker’s message to ensure their feelings correspond with the feelings of the speaker.
If the speaker’s message can be credibly interpreted the way the interpreter desires, then the speaker’s yes or no doesn’t matter. Every time you continue to feel shamed, or continue to feel hurt, or continue to feel angered by someone’s message that was not intended to do so, you are placing importance upon your feelings AGAINST what the person’s actual message is. You’re choosing to dwell on YOUR interpretation, instead of the speaker’s ACTUAL message. That policy is what establishes rape culture: that the assailant’s feelings matter more than the consenter’s message. The interpreter is the assailant, and the speaker is the consenter.
If you’re going to say that the interpreter has power over the message, then you are fertilizing the ground for rape culture to grow.
If you say that the speaker is the sole authority of the message, and that the interpreter has no say in the nature of the speaker’s message, then you uproot the environment upon which rape culture thrives.
The solution is to be a student of the speaker’s message, and stop giving credit to “feelings” about a speaker’s message without the consent of the speaker, and encouraging others to likewise be students of each others’ words. Explore what the speaker’s message BEFORE reacting. Halt the tendency to knee-jerk react, and INVESTIGATE with additional questions, having made no decision on HOW to feel YET.
If someone does not intended offense, and you are offended, then you are offended by that which the speaker did not even say — you are offended by your own interpretation of the speaker’s message and have not halted your decision to react yet, and are relying on your own reaction to justify the offensiveness of the speaker’s statement. This policy is the fertilized ground upon which rape culture grows exceptionally well — that the feelings about the message are what matters, that the boy feeling like she wants it makes it okay. If the boy’s feeling is not what matters, then neither do yours.
Insisting that your feelings override what the message really is, despite the speaker’s objection to how you reacted despite their intention, is precisely the permission given to the assailant to assault.
The solution is to promote the halting of the reaction until research can be conducted. The solution is to investigate first, before reacting. The solution is to change your feelings, when presented with evidence that contradicts your feelings. If you are helpless in the battle to alter your feelings, by what authority do you expect assailants to change theirs when confronted with that which they believe you to be advertising? If a speaker’s, “that’s not what I meant, calm down,” does not calm you down, how do you expect, “Stop, I am saying to stop,” to carry any weight? By having the policy that failing to calm down is reasonable when told to calm down, then you must also simultaneously agree that an assailant failing to stop is also reasonable.
If you do not agree, then your pursuit to destroy rape culture without understanding it, is that which most enables it. If what I suggest sounds too complicated or convoluted, then you are beginning to understand the complexity of the world you have so drastically oversimplified.