Serena Williams and How Apparently We’re So LuckyJune 20th, 2013 by Chimene Suleyman
Just so we all know, the 16-year-old girl who was raped by school peers in Steubenville, August 2012 – she’s lucky. When she was undressed as she lay unconscious and carried in this state across town, it was a pretty fortunate time for her. As she was repeatedly sexually assaulted throughout the night, by more boys than the two who were convicted of her assault, it was a real blessing. That they took photos and videos of the rape, which they sent to friends and posted on social networking sites to mock, was a definite bonus. It’s a good thing too that people took to Twitter to vilify her and let it be known that she deserved the attack.
Adult news reporters wept in front of CNN audiences; “Our poor boys,” they cried, the tears joining in dots across their face to paint a portrait of the stars of the football pitch. “They have had their lives ruined,” they told us, “it will never be the same for them! How unlucky can they be!” Well, I’m afraid, the young girl who was gang-raped and blamed by her nation for it, took up all the lucky vibes. So now there’s none left for anyone else. If you’re going to point the finger at anyone, blame that greedy bitch.
Because, surely, this is what Serena Williams was getting at when she said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine: “Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don’t know. I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously, I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position…”
Unfortunately, Serena Williams (who, by the way, is completely blaming the girl) is not the only one to think like this. Only in February of this year I wrote a piece against Joanna Lumley’s “helpful” tips for women on avoiding rape, whilst Caitlin Moran blamed our footwear. Even our second-in-command to the throne, Helen Mirren, has had a pop over the years. There is a disconcerting number of people – women included – who think the blame lies partially, or entirely, with the victim.
Equally troubling, Lindy West very recently debated the “rape-joke” with comedian Jim Norton. Her arguments against the rape-joke and why – for the most part – it does not work, was full of well thought analysis and smart observation. What she received in the end was a Twitter feed that looked like this:
“I love how the Bitch complaining about rape is the exact kind of Bitch that would never be raped. ‘why is my vagina being used as a crutch?’ Bitch have you looked in the mirror? Your vagina isn’t being used for shit.”
“holes like this make me want to commit rape out of anger, I don’t even find her attractive, at all, she’s a fat idiot, I just want to rape her with a traffic cone.”
“wouldn’t the best ending be that jim norton rapes the fat girl.”
Yes! It would be the BEST!
Only today, ITV’s This Morning featured another story on honour killings (no doubt feeding EDL’s Tommy Robinson with more material for 140 characters-worth of typos and bastardised grammar). The frequency with which we receive articles on this topic – whilst absolutely important – sometimes works to do little more than highlight how “backwards” other cultures are, whilst smugly congratulating ourselves for not having the same problem here. Only, it doesn’t really matter what you call it when two women every week are killed in the UK by their husbands or partners.
Only today it was revealed that at least a third of women have been the victims of violence or sexual attacks. And this is only the number of women who have come forward. I’ll let you in on a little secret: You’ll be pushed to find a female friend or relative who hasn’t been attacked by a boyfriend or a stranger, date, work colleague, or narrowly escaped this as they were followed home. A date that ended with a man trying to assault the woman he was with, was reported to the police. The police mentioned to her that, perhaps, she should consider choosing her dates more wisely.
Katie Hopkins (you’re not expected to remember, but she’s the moron who’s been clinging on to a career off the back of being a moron on The Apprentice) tweeted to over 6,000 people that we should all, “Get out of Nigella’s life. Saatchi is a brilliant creative mind. She is a strong woman and business brain. Stop preaching you pious fools.” Not only is Hopkins implying that powerful men can do whatever they want, she also suggests that Lawson does not need help or, perhaps, that the abuse hasn’t even taken place because Lawson is a strong woman. To propose that strong women do not get abused is exactly the sort of shaming our society is guilty of: If you have been abused, you are weak. And if you are weak then it is only a matter of time before someone takes advantage of this. Ultimately, it is always your fault.
The Steubenville boys who raped a 16-year-old girl at a party did not do something “stupid”, as Williams casually puts it, but rather they acted out a well-contemplated and knowing cruelty. It is not, contrary to popular belief, spurred on by alcohol and high libidos, but is reproduced by a social sociopathy that allows some men a sense of entitlement over women’s bodies. Strip-clubs, Page 3, music videos, song lyrics, whistling at women from cars, touching a girl up in a club, are all examples of this misinformed prerogative. When Williams questions whether the girl was even a virgin it is troubling, but not surprising, as she apathetically encourages the age-old myth that sexually provocative (read: comfortable) women get what’s coming to them.
“But if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that,” Williams says, “your parents should teach you: Don’t take drinks from other people.” But you are going to take drinks from other people. Because you are 16. You are 18, you are 26, and 43, and 67 and sometimes you go to social gatherings and drink together, without expecting to be raped. Instead, what Williams’ parents should have taught her, and what the parents of these boys should have taught them, is don’t rape. You may give someone as many drinks as they want but, just so you know, don’t fucking rape them.
Since 1993 there has been a popular campaign across billboards, TV and the Internet, where famous and powerful people have asked, “Got Milk?” Milk. We can raise awareness in an expensive and extensive campaign… for milk. But where are the George Clooneys, Fassbenders, Beckhams, and Megan Foxs to ask, “Got a dick? Wait to be asked to use it.”
I have previously criticised Caitlin Moran for saying that high-heels contributed to rape. “I don’t wear high heels – ” she said, “because when I’m lying in bed at night with my husband, I know there’s a woman coming who I could rape and murder, because I can hear her coming up the street in high heels, clack-clack-clack. And I can hear she’s on her own, I can hear what speed she’s coming at, I could plan where to stand to grab her or an ambush. And every time I hear her I think, ‘Fuck, you’re just alerting every fucking nutter to where you are now.’”
Moran has analysed the shoe for us. Yet, what I’m thinking is if you’re wearing heels, you should probably avoid walking past Moran’s house at night. Or shake-up your walking style: Attempt the Thunderclap between steps to throw her off your scent. Or mimic a horse gait. The Icelandic Pony, perhaps. Yes, do the Icelandic Pony past her house at night. Then she won’t be able to tell, in precise detail, what velocity you’re travelling at.
When I was much younger I was continually irritated by my mother telling me to “take care” whenever I left the house. As I get older, 30, perhaps slightly closer to contemplating children myself, I am able to understand a little better her never-ending maternal concerns. She did not only say this when I was leaving the house, but also when I was taking something out of the oven (anyone who knows me, knows this is a lie), carrying objects down stairs, changing a lightbulb, petting the dog. Yet, what I was sensitive to was the very idea that I wouldn’t take care.
We are always taking care. Whether we are drunk, or it is two in the morning; whether we are only wearing knickers on our head, and Thunderclap’ing our way home, I can assure that we are always taking care. This is all we do – look after ourselves as best as we can, in the circumstances that are afforded to us. Do not think for one second that the fear of rape is not etched into your brain, no matter how drunk you are or what time it is. Whether I am at a party, or lying in bed, or getting the train at midday; it is not the high-heel of Moran’s thoughts that are following me down the street, but the constant and unshakeable fear of rape. I carry this on my shoulders everywhere I go, no matter what time, what I am wearing, or what state of alcoholic indulgence I am in. And, quite frankly, I could do without having to carry the abuse of senseless rape-apologists, or a pair of fucking shoes, on my shoulders as well.