Is becoming a woman a “messy process”?

Sophie Walker took part in a web-chat on Mumsnet this week.

I am a member of WEP, and have been since the very first day membership was available.  I acknowledged that it can be problematic – a very “top down” approach to feminism, but I really felt that it was something I wanted to be part of, and that no one organisation could be perfect or tick all the boxes I needed, but that this approach was a vital one

However, the statements made in this webchat in particular are causing me real problems.  Sophie Walker said:

“I am old fashioned enough to believe that one is not born a woman but rather becomes one. The process of becoming a woman is a messy one, filled with contradictions and influenced by many different factors”.

And this brings me up short, as it almost feels like victim blaming.  I didn’t choose to be a woman, I am one.  And the point about the discrimination I face as a result is that it’s not based on my choices.  It doesn’t matter that I’m child-free by choice, I am still seen as a “maternity risk” by some potential employers.  Discrimination doesn’t start when we declare ourselves to be women; we know that girls also experience discrimination, just take a look at Pink Stinks or the testimonies on Everyday Sexism.  We can’t choose whether or not this is the case – the patriarchy is something imposed upon us.

I am really struggling to see what Sophie Walker meant by this statement.  What is the point of a Women’s Equality Party that believes women only face discrimination when they choose?  What is the point of a Women’s Equality Party that doesn’t really believe that women exist?

I am deeply troubled by these statements.  I haven’t made a decision about my membership yet, but I don’t feel that I can avoid that decision much longer.


New lows in victim blaming

Victim Blaming seems to have been taking a disturbing new turn this month, with a few horrendous stories emerging of child victims being blamed.

A councillor in Scotland has recently been sacked for suggesting a 9 year old “wanted it to happen” when she was raped.    The New York Times this week seems to have more sympathy for the “boys” (aged between 18 and 27, hardly innocent children) who will “have to live with this for the rest of their lives” than the 11 year old girl they gang-raped.  She sometimes wore inappropriate clothes, and y’know, what was she doing outside her home anyway?

These incidents are especially concerning, as they are happening in the mainstream, amongst people who really should know better.  A councillor, in a court room, on the record.  The New York Times.  Ok, not known for being liberal, but hardly extreme.

I blogged recently about the reporting of rape and the desire in the mainstream press to brand all women as liars.  But this additional step, that all females – even girls as young as 9 – are evil temptresses, and to blame even in cases of rape is truly alarming.  The phrase “Promiscuous behaviour” being used as a justification for assault – even in the case of children – is extremely worrying for all of us.

Not only is this 9 year old child being blamed based on her own behaviour (not fighting back hard enough) she’s also being judged on the behaviour of any girls vaguely in her age group.  “walk into any high school and observe girls in short skirts coupled with their promiscuous behaviour”.  Well, 9 year olds don’t often go to high school, but even if they did, this is not the point.
Women being able to wear short skirts, maybe to drink, or even <Shock / Horror> enjoy sex does not mean rape is justifiable.  In fact, the behaviour of other women and girls has nothing to do with one individual case of rape.  And y’know what, the previous behaviour of the 11 year old girl in Cleveland has nothing to do with her being gang-raped by a group of adults.

New York Times writers and public officials should learn what we’ve known for ages.  Victims aren’t to blame for rape.  Rapists are.