In the Blog
“Ladies beware” - of everything
At work today my co-worker, a well-meaning and wonderful woman, asked me to watch a special video clip on the dangers of some type of breast cancer with her.
I was feeling unwilling. Not because I wanted to be ignorant (although some days I do want to bury my head in the sand), but because I was healthily suspicious. My suspicions bore out.
The video clip was actually a short news segment from a local television news show. You know the ones: they run about 5 minutes, they have news heads like “Your children are being poisoned by their toys and no one is telling you anything about it” or “You thought your doctor knew all the risks, but we found out that you are doomed” etc etc. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating, but these intense stories are generally overblown “unknown” risk stories, where you are the victim of some strange disease, or manufacturing defect, or nasty pedophile, or whatever, and you really have to pay better attention and look out for your vulnerable self in this dangerous world.
It is not coincidental that these stories are directed at women; women, who are generally portrayed as the victims or the caretakers of potential victims (ie children and the elderly). These stories have email vareities, too - “don’t buy this cough medicine” or “don’t park on a downward slope facing east near a pschiatric institution” blah blah. I feel a momentary twinge of guilt when I deny my forwarding powers. You know these scare emails - you’ve likely forwarded them, well-intentioned woman that you are - they are about the perfume killer (perfume sample offered to you is actually chloroform) and the abduction in the mall parking lot (just when you thought that being a good shopper would save you from the bandits).
The current issue of Bitch Magazine debunks many of these emails as powerful hoaxes of the urban myth variety. (The best source for debunking these things, I find, is the site www.Hoax-Slayer.com.) Finally! This scare tactic revealed for what it really is - an attempt to foster fear-mongering about women in public places - the old anti-woman, pro-domestic attempt to convince you that you are simply safer if you stay home and stay unnoticed (and cover yourself up, too!). Writer Niki Papadopoulos does a great job of pointing out that while your female relatives are ostensibly looking out for you by forwarding you this stuff, the circulation of these emails serves to reinforce a skewed picture of threats to women’s safety. (Now, I won’t even talk about how many of the forwarders are my same women friends who don’t send me links to petitions and actions on abortion, women in education, because that stuff is too “political” for them!) Now, if I seem to be overreacting, think about it this way. If we continually encourage women to not dress or act a certain way in public to avoid being scrutinzed/catcalled/raped, it is a short step from blaming women for the violence they encounter (“She was dressed like that, she asked for it!”). Once again, women must be responsible for their choices to avoid danger - men are not held accountable for their “hormonal instincts”.
In fact, men are much more likely to be the victim of a violent attack by a stranger. So warn your men. And keep forwarding emails to your women-folk that urge them to support actions to expose the epidemic of domestic abuse in our country - a far, far far greater cause of violence against women than any dude with a perfume sample.