Just copied and pasted a post I made on facebook, of all places. Feel free to offer feedback (either where I'm wrong or where my arguments could be strengthened). I'm a little nervous, I feel like I'm in the company of those who could speak with much more eloquence and authority on the subject.
I'm a little late to this discussion, I hope you don't mind me interceding. And interceding, and interceding. I promise it's not spam.
Full disclosure: I identify with the 'strong feminist' side of this discussion.
To people accusing others of victim blaming, and engaging discussion:
I'm with you, however ... many of you are speaking in language and assertions that those of us who already agree with you, already know the nuances of, and failing to educate your opponents-in-debate to these nuances. Specifically, the argument that suggests (paraphrasing): Telling women to not walk alone at night is victim-blaming - is clear to you and me, but as a statement with limited background, it must be evaluated on it's literal meaning, which includes a large leap in logic.
To people who offer advice to women about how to stay safe:
Victim-blaming includes literal victim-blaming (You wore a short skirt to Stages, of course you're going to be fondled!), but it also includes contributing to an atmosphere that indirectly supports or encourages victim-blaming. One reason these things are lumped together is because there is a terribly fine line between the two.
Let me guess what you're thinking (how presumptuous):
1. There's a huge difference between the two explanations.
2. Besides, isn't preventative safety a greater good than victim-blaming is an evil?
1. Despite the introduction of rape shield laws (in 1992 in Canada), direct and indirect victim blaming are still entertained in court, and to a greater degree in the media. The following article mentions two court cases in the last 3 years where the victim's condition was used to excuse the behaviour and lessen the sentencing of the perpetrator:http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/article/948827---a-new-form-of-victim-blaming-in-rapes
This other article discusses a recently sensationalised case in the states where many media outlets overtly blamed an 11 year old girl for enticing gang rape, due to her fashion choices:http://www.aolnews.com/2011/03/08/in-2-gang-rape-cases-communities-blame-11-year-old-victims/
2. Preventative safety is important. No one denies this. But what are the undertones of your safety advice? Every woman has heard your advice, and most maximize their safety. Your gut reaction sounds a little bit like: Weren't you paying attention when mom said Don't Talk to Strangers? Further, you discount the valid reasons women (and men) have for being in those situations. Holding down two jobs to support your kids could be one of them.
Consider why this is your gut reaction. Three reasons are given in this really well written (with references) document (pdf:crcvc.ca/docs/victim_blaming.pdf):
The Just World Hypothesis: "the social system that affects them[us] is fair, legitimate, and justifiable"
Attribution Error: "a person’s personal characteristics are the cause of their actions or situation."
Invulnerability Theory:“She was raped because she walked home alone in the dark. I would never do that, so I won’t be raped.”
I hope this sheds some light onto why victim-blaming is such an important issue, and why perfectly innocent advice is sometimes taken as an evil.