Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Finding Fault

I read that Ricky Gervais (among others) landed in hot water for a tweet about the latest nude celebrity photo scandal.

Celebrities, make it harder for hackers to get nude pics of you from your computer by not putting nude pics of yourself on your computer.
Outside of the fact that it's not an accurate description of what happened, as near as I can tell, it doesn't seem all that over the top. And so while CBS news refers to the backlash as "not surprising," I'm not sure that I understand what was so problematic about it.

When I first became acquainted with the concept of "blaming the victim"the definition seemed to me to be along the lines of: "Offering an affirmative defense for the perpetrator of an action, based on the behavior of the victim." I suppose a classic example could be a lynching, where the killers defended their actions as necessitated by the behavior of the murdered person.

More recently, the definition seems to have shifted, and it strikes me as often reading along the lines of, "Implying that there was any action that could or should have been taken by a victim to reduce their vulnerability." One example that seems to consistently raise hackles is advising young women to be careful about their alcohol intake as means of reducing their risk of sexual assault.

To be sure, there are people who will happily do the first under cover of doing the second. I understand that. But it seems to me that it's not possible to expunge the world of disingenuous statements. And I'm not sure of what we hope to accomplish by making people out to be helpless. I don't know if the expectation that only the perpetrator be the target of anything that can be construed as the least bit critical is going to have the desired effect.

Part of this strikes me as being about gender - women have long had to shoulder varying degrees of blame for the acts committed against them, and this has lead to a focus on redirecting that opprobrium to the perpetrators instead. Which is long overdue. I wonder, however, if seeing an admonition to "let's be careful out there" as a remnant of the bad old days does them the service we might want it to.

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