Are women responsible for rape?

Published: March 14, 2015
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If a mother cannot teach her daughter “no means no,” then who can? PHOTO: SHUTTERSHOCK

“You know I’d never wear something like that. It’s so… so inviting.”

This was said with an air of such self-righteousness that I wanted to get up and say a prayer for this woman who thought she’s the epitome of piety and all things good. There have been numerous occasions when I have found myself fuming at such women (and men) who have taken it upon themselves to decide what women should and should not do.

Often I am compelled to consider whether I am a feminist or not, which leads me to conclude that I possibly cannot be a feminist, for being one entails believing that women should be equal to men.

As if men alone are a threat to us women, who are otherwise united as one entity.

As if only men are the big bad enemies hovering over us, as we huddle together in one corner, trying to guard each other’s respect and honour.

Men may have the requisite private organs to deprive us of our dignity, but women perhaps have a more public way of using the most lethal of all organs – the tongue – to strip another woman completely naked in front of all and sundry.

Now hold on there before you hurl a string of abuses towards me.

When I say that women shoulder a great deal of moral responsibility towards their own kind, I do not mean that men do not owe it to women to have the highest regard for them. This should be the case regardless of how they dress or behave around them, thus, the argument that “she was asking for it” must be nullified as soon as it is made. A respectable man does not need reasons to be respectful.

Having said that, I will move on to the age-old debate of rape and consent. What value does the consent or non-consent of a woman hold in a barbarically patriarchal society like ours? In fact, what does it matter in the more modern parts of our society, where the women are educated and even financially independent?

In some cases, consent is so unwillingly given or is the result of such manipulation that it becomes non-existent. For instance, take the inability of young girls unable to say ‘no’ to sleeping with their boyfriends just because that would be misconstrued as them not loving their conniving partner enough.

Why can they not muster the courage to safeguard their values, however unacceptable they may seem to the men they love and who claim to love them? By succumbing to their demands, you are making them believe that their carnal needs are above your emotional needs and that it is okay to be physical with a woman against her will. And when he goes off to another woman, he might even take this liberty to another, even more dangerous level, merely because he thinks he can.

What’s worse is the way mothers have “the brother is always right” approach at home. What may be abhorrently wrongly for the daughter is something worth celebrating in the son’s case. And these are not just limited to conservative mothers who are pressured by their husbands or other men in their lives to be a certain way, this also extends to the more seemingly liberal women who simply refuse to utilise their own capacity to think outside of socially enforced norms.

Of course, the son should have the upper hand where it matters; the daughter must only know how to be subservient to her father, her brother and whoever they choose her husband to be. By doing this, she is being told by the most influential female figure in her life that her opinions, her views, and even her consent, are a male prerogative. If a mother cannot teach her daughter “no means no,” then who can?

Respect may be earned under most circumstances, but when patriarchy becomes rampant and rapists begin to have the audacity to say out loud that if a woman is out at nine in the night, she deserves to be taken advantage of, respect must be demanded.

And these demands should be made at the most fundamental level. When a male friend objectifies another woman’s body, even as a joke, he should immediately be b*tch-slapped for doing so. The feeling of superiority that is followed by another woman’s insult must be tamed, if not eradicated.

It has to be understood that character assassination in the form of statements akin to “she is successful because she has her ways” turns into excuses for men to impose their will against ours. Each time a woman does not raise her voice against the injustice being done to another woman, and more importantly, against the injustice being done to herself, she too becomes responsible for the insensitivity shown towards every woman in societies like ours, which eventually leads to crimes approximating domestic violence and even rape.

The deliberate failure to disarm this patriarchy means that men alone are not rapists. Women are too.

Faiza Saleem

Faiza Saleem

A lawyer by profession and a comedian at heart, she occasionally likes to voice her opinions much to the displeasure of most people around her. She tweets as @FaizaSaleemM (twitter.com/FaizaSaleemM)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Osama

    Wanted to stop reading after you ~wisely concluded that youre not a feminist.. The only reason you’re even a lawyer or writing blogs is because of feminism so it’s pretty ironic…

    It is so careless to make statements that imply feminism is against men and really takes away from everything else you write for it clouds your credibility as a writer.. Sigh. It’s about achieving substantive equality and equal opportunity for everyone, regardless of their gender, sexuality, creed, colour, etc. Feminism is for a brown male being refused a job in the US due to his colour as much as it is for a woman in Pakistan wanting education and training….

    Otherwise your point of women being discouraging towards women is correct….why does it happen though? Oh yeah, patriarchy and values of society that have systematically made u this way oh right…….. Please don’t take away the responsibility that males have in restoring balance to our societies…. We’re very able and the youth is very informed. Gender violence is a men’s issue and we’ll need to take care of it. Recommend

  • Robert Riversong

    She claims to not be a feminist, and yet regurgitates every fictional and misandrist meme of radical feminism. She excoriates women and men for telling women how to think and then declares that liberal, educated women who don’t toe the feminist line are victims of Patriarchal consciousness who require re-education.

    She wants to hold women responsible for complicity if they do not raise their voices, but wants to hold women blameless for public displays of sexuality.

    I’ve rarely seen in one person nearly every contradiction of the Victim Feminism dogma.Recommend

  • lyra

    I think in the 3rd to 5 lines of this article in regards to feminism you are confusing men in general with the system of patriarchy. It is the later that feminism is against, not men. the thing is, because patriachy values men in a way that gives them more power, usually, they are often the people you have to go up against with stuff like this. the women you describe is an example of someone who might perpetuate the ideas but as long as men make up the majority of people who get to decide laws and how to punish offenders, its ultimatly going to be men who you have to fight against this type of thinking, not women like that. Simpley put the people in places of leadership are those whose opinions are most accepted.Recommend

  • Loser

    wow Its like saying the murdered is equally resposible as the murderer… consider this… you wear perfectly “honorable” clothes and your on your way home and two guys come up and have their way with you … would you be equally repsonsible???Recommend

  • imrana

    Miss.Faiza!!you are absolutely right.Mothers have to change the way they bring up their baby girls.A society where people hesitantly congratulate on the birth of a
    babygirl::what else can we expect????pakis need to be educated.
    Recommend

  • Tahera

    This made me sad.

    We are a product of our times, our environment and our experiences. In a patriarchal society, the concept of male superiority is ingrained in our minds from birth and we pass it on, believing it to be the absolute truth. Mothers who give preference to the males in their household or teach their daughters to be ‘subservient’ are a product of the same society. They teach what they know, and they have not known any different. That is their reality. They are victims too. They are not to be blamed.

    Rape is not about intimacy, but power and control. A culture of misogyny objectifies women to perpetuate their subjugation. Women are not objects or property and cannot be owned. They are thinking, feeling human beings who deserve respect, and have the God-given right to exist and lead independent, fulfilling lives.

    Let us all stand together to end this injustice: decent men stand up for women – not just for their own mothers, sisters or daughters, but for ALL women. Start today. Start now.Recommend

  • yh

    This is a poorly written and irresponsible piece of ” journalism”. It reflects a complete failure to appreciate a critical perspective on the larger context of women’s oppression. The best thing that can be said about this piece is that it is incoherent, the worst is that it is dangerous. Reinforcing the narrative of mysogyny, which perpetuates the lie of women’s responsibility for sexual violence committed against them is beyond offensive. Shame on you.Recommend

  • Hadeel

    Women should not be equal to men because? Maybe you should have elaborated on this.Recommend

  • Zulqarnain Abbas

    noppe you will not be in this case , but consider this you are almost fully drunk and you wear half naked clothes then two sick minded guys come and have their way with you , are you not partially responsible for what happened with you ?Recommend

  • Zulqarnain Abbas

    noppe you will not be in this case , but consider this you are almost fully drunk and you wear half naked clothes then two sick minded guys come and have their way with you , are you not partially responsible for what happened with you ?Recommend

  • Qasim

    This is a profound question, and the cliche shallow answers that keep coming up don’t answer anything.

    Perhaps this belief that both men and women ought to do more to avoid rape, comes from Islam. It says right there that both believing men and women should “lower their gaze and guard their modesty”.

    Because there are scoundrels in every society(usually around every corner). Try carrying a stack of money(a month’s salary) out in the open. It’d be *VERY* likely that you’d be robbed before too long. You could get all haughty and indignant when people point out that you shouldn’t be carrying that much money around like that.

    You’d think it’s wrong that you are being blamed for the robber’s action. While it is true that the robber is to blame for doing what they did, you should also take protective measures.

    I’ve tried to give an honest answer. I hope it doesn’t make anyone ubber mad.Recommend

  • Qasim

    This is a profound question, and the cliche shallow answers that keep coming up don’t answer anything.

    Perhaps this belief that both men and women ought to do more to avoid rape, comes from Islam. It says right there that both believing men and women should “lower their gaze and guard their modesty”.

    Because there are scoundrels in every society(usually around every corner). Try carrying a stack of money(a month’s salary) out in the open. It’d be *VERY* likely that you’d be robbed before too long. You could get all haughty and indignant when people point out that you shouldn’t be carrying that much money around like that.

    You’d think it’s wrong that you are being blamed for the robber’s action. While it is true that the robber is to blame for doing what they did, you should also take protective measures.

    I’ve tried to give an honest answer. I hope it doesn’t make anyone ubber mad.Recommend

  • Guest

    Well said. Guarding your modesty is prescribed for men and women, and limits are placed (even in single sex company).
    Telling a woman (or a man) to take sensible precautions, avoid going at night alone, avoid being alone with a male, where modest clothing is not shifting the blame, but acknowledging society is far from perfect.
    In our context the paradigm of non-consensual being a criminal act and consensual acts being a right of a woman is not something which would gain much traction. Since that is something which contravenes IslamRecommend

  • Ihtisham Khaliq Waseer

    Can woman clear gutter?Recommend

  • infowolf1

    she makes good points about a girl insisting on her right to say no that you as an alleged feminist should appreciate. women often play a role in continuing women’s oppression, they are the main players in female genital mutilation, for instance. women always pass on tradition good or bad. mothers train boys to be bad as much as their fathers do. I remember when my father got me a punching bag on a stem when I was a little kid, my mother said something against it, and it disappeared later.Recommend

  • infowolf1

    yes, there is a difference between the issue of stupid lack of precaution against evil people, and claiming someone made someone attack her. there is also another issue, though you shouldn’t be kept from freedom and feeling the air on your skin, both sexes should be modest enough not to incite sin in the hearts of viewers IRRELEVANT TO WHETHER IT IS ACTED ON OR NOT.Recommend

  • infowolf1

    “responsible” is perhaps the wrong word, but its hard to find another one. The issue here is security. A person who leaves their money lying around loose “invites” thieves AS IF “asking for it” though they did not mean that, were just stupid or absent minded, and the thief has NO RIGHT to steal it, but one who wants to steal will look for an easy target.Recommend

  • infowolf1

    a problem can also be that while there may be good laws the enforcement people are not good. I read that Pakistan passed a law decades ago that allowed a woman to kill her rapist in 4 hours of the event because things were so out of control there. But how many women are going to have the guts and opportunity and how many will be prosecuted for murder because no one believes her?

    And if shariah is in place, she can forget complaining about rape, because shariah requires 4 adult male muslim eyewitnesses to get a conviction on anything. So when you file a rape complaint, you have made a signed confession of having engaged in fornication if single or adultery if married, and your defense is he forced you, but without those witnesses or his confession to using force, you get flogged if single or killed if married, because of your own confession.Recommend

  • infowolf1

    in her society men are the problem as are the older women who train them up in the traditional attitudes.Recommend

  • Custard_Pie_In_Your_Face

    Thank you for reminding me why I should not bother even reading your online publication, let alone take the time and effort to comment on any articles.

    My posts may be controversial but they are never offensive or break your rules, yet are often removed for no other reason it seems other than the fact that I often expose the writing for the absolute nonsense that it is.

    I’m deleting this site from my favourites link and will avoid it from now on.

    In parting and my last post to you….

    …..go fuck yourselves.Recommend

  • Zafar

    It is, after all, a man’s world. The way you say it is that women’s actions should have no consequences.Recommend