Are we ladies protesting too much? The intention was good, but is it fair to damn the Angono police as leading women to somewhere infernal? How good is good advice if it comes unsolicited from men? Before answering, let’s hear what the men in uniform had to say to women to prevent or at least minimize their chances of being raped. Last week, they said:
1. Be wary of meeting up with strangers you have met only through texts or on social media.
2. Do not wear skimpy clothing.
3. Do not walk by yourself in dark places.
4. When going out on a date, do not drink alcohol.
5. During a date, do not leave your drink unattended; otherwise, your date may spike your drink with a drug that will render you unconscious.
6. If possible, study self-defense.
7. Arm yourself with tear gas or pepper spray or any object that can inflict damage to an attacker.
8. If attacked, do not panic and try to think of ways to escape.
9. Shout for help.
10. Ask for help from the police.
Except for no. 2, the rest come across as common sense. It is no. 2, however, that has offended women’s groups: their beef is that the police have no place dictating to women what they should or should not wear. It’s the patriarchy thing all over again, of blaming rape victims for possibly inviting rape because of their clothing, although it is an interesting proposition for me to speculate if the reaction would have been as fierce had no. 2 been given by a woman, or if the Angono police were an all-female vice force, to a woman.
But, for the moment, let’s set aside no. 2 and look at the rest. As I said, they sound immensely practical, I mean, I would be afraid to walk by myself along unlit streets. I would also consider good advice to learn how to defend myself as well as to invest in some good pepper spray. I would also advise women to keep their wits about them should they be unlucky enough to be attacked, but I would tweak the police’ reminder to shout for help during an attack: do not shout “Help!” Instead, shout “Fire!” I read somewhere that people are more likely to respond to a fire alarm than to a disembodied female voice shouting for help.
I also consider as sound—if unrealistic—the suggestion against agreeing to meet with a man that one has come to know only through text messages or chatting on social media. What our grandparents warned us about being wary of strangers is an eternal truism, but we are in the 21st century and social media and texting are how people meet up these days. But it’s still good advice.
I find particularly sound the advice against drinking alcohol when out on a date. Again, I read once—and I have no reason to disbelieve it—that majority of rape cases are perpetrated by men who are known to the victims. And I would not limit it to dating situations—we’ve all
heard these instances of women being taken advantage of by supposedly male “friends” during supposedly “friendly” drinking sessions. With regard to leaving drinks—even a glass of water— unattended during a date, I would advice women to finish the contents of their glass if they have to visit the ladies’ room and to order a new glass when they return to the table. It is true that perverts will try to slip a drug into their date’s drink, sad but true.
What I tried to do with the preceding three paragraphs is separate sensible recommendations from polemic. The rest cannot be dismissed simply on the basis of rhetoric because, really, who can argue against the wisdom of learning to defend oneself? Or keeping a cool head. Or asking for help. But the discussion has been co-opted by ideology which is regrettable, I think, because what sounds fine in theory may cloud the issue. Regardless of the depth of one’s convictions, the fact remains that there are perverts out there and women need to learn to look out for their own well-being because men cannot be counted on to do it.
That said, we return to the issue of clothing. It has nothing to do with appropriateness, of being suitably dressed for the occasion, of being au courant with fashion, or of dressing to minimize one’s flaws and maximize one’s assets. It has to do with dispelling the notion that some women are asking for it simply because they chose to wear a miniskirt that day, or a blouse with a plunging neckline, or a tight-fitting pair of jeans. That stupidity has to stop and men who think that way have to stop being stupid. I agree that clothes do not rape women—rapists do.
Permit me to conclude with a lesson from Jesus. He said that there is nothing external one can imbibe that can make one commit a sin. The impetus, He teaches, comes from within. Ergo, nothing a woman wears will impel a man to sexually assault her; the decision comes from
inside him. Stop blaming the woman. Or her clothes.