Why Does Society Still Blame the Victim?
I went for a 7 mile run the other day, per my marathon training plan. Did I think about safety? I always do. I can’t afford not to. I’m a woman. I also thought about the abduction and death of a female runner as I ran. And I ran alone. On a college campus. And I couldn’t escape the irony of my accidental path on which I ran. Eliza Fletcher was abducted and killed while out on an early morning run near the University of Memphis campus in Tennessee a few weeks ago.
Comments on news stories relating to the horrific crime are, well, less than kind to her. These ranged from questioning why she dared to run alone, to run when it was dark, and to run in just a sports bra. But why are we blaming her? Why aren’t we asking the bigger question, which is why do some men feel like they have the right to a woman’s body?
As a female runner, I totally get the mentality and drive to get up early, before the sun has the opportunity to drive temperatures up to even more uncomfortable levels, before work, and before the rest of your family awakens, just to make sure you can tick off that box in your training manual for that next race. I am this woman.
But to question this mentality? Clearly some of her biggest critics are not runners. And the simple solution from most was to buy a treadmill. Some of us, and by us, I mean women who are runners, don’t have the means to purchase a treadmill for personal use. Some of us don’t have a gym membership. And some of us simply prefer to run outdoors. And when it’s hella hot? We will wear whatever we damn well please to beat the heat.
Why our culture is partly to blame
But let’s go back to this larger question. We should never blame the victim. Eliza was running. That’s it. We have a culture in America that is patriarchal in nature. This absolutely stems from teaching purity culture, one aspect of which is to tell girls that if they expose skin, it tempts boys and men and their lustful nature. That girls are responsible for the behavior of boys. That boys and men simply cannot control their desires, nor are they expected to do so. Even in my county’s sex ed curriculum in the public school system, with regard to consent, they highlight a teaching objective that…