Dame Angela Lansbury has recently said that women should take some of the blame for being harassed. She told the Radio Times on Tuesday that “there are two sides to this coin. We have to own up to the fact that women, since time immemorial, have gone out of their way to make themselves attractive.
“And unfortunately it has backfired on us – and this is where we are today. We must sometimes take blame, women. I really do think that.”
This statement has caused quite a stir. Rape Crisis England & Wales responded, saying: “It is a deeply unhelpful myth that rape and other forms of sexual violence are caused or ‘provoked’ by women’s sexuality or ‘attractiveness’.”
But is there any truth in what Lansbury said? Should women take a measure of responsibility for being harassed if they have set out to attract attention?
It’s true that woman do sometimes make the effort to look attractive. However, as far as I’m concerned, this is not always for the benefit of men.
Occasionally women will make themselves up to catch the eye of a certain someone, but more often than not it’s to make ourselves feel good. If we ‘make an effort’ it is so that when we leave the house, we feel good about themselves. If I wear an eye shadow that makes my eyes stand out, when I catch a glimpse of myself reflected in a shop window, I’ll be able to say to myself that I look good today.
If a woman works out it’s in order to become fit and strong. Or so that we can wear that dress and feel good about ourselves in it. Each reason is just as valid as the next. What one of this is for, is to please or excite the male population.
One night last year my friend was walking back from campus. She wasn’t wearing anything special – just jeans, coat and trainers. She was followed down her road by two older men, who touched her inappropriately and cornered her. Luckily she had the sense and the strength to knee one of the men and make a run for it. She made it home but it could have been much worse.
My friend had not “gone out of the way” to make herself attractive, and yet it still happened to her. Should she therefore take some of the ‘responsibility’ for their actions?
My 18 year old sister enjoys going on nights out because she loves dancing and having fun with her friends. She likes wearing makeup and enjoys taking her time putting it on. She’s an art student, so she enjoys the artsy side to make up and clothes. She also enjoys looking her best, so she can take good photos of her and her friends. Yet when she goes out, more often than not, men try to touch her. They assume that because she’s “made the effort”, it must be for them, so they’re allowed to touch.
In fact she hasn’t done this for their benefit; it’s for herself. Yet at the tender age of 18 she’s already decided it’s just “one of those things” which she has to accept. Again, does she have to take some of the ‘responsibility’ because some men assume they have the right to touch her?
To both these questions, the answer is no. Men are of course allowed to think a woman is pretty, and approach her respectfully if wanting to talk to her; just like women should do to men. But there is no way in which a woman is responsible for men’s actions.