For today’s rant, I’d like to zoom in on how some university students have been trained by their gender studies professors to view their world, and how the media is terrified to question them.

As a result of the six sexual assaults against female students at UBC this past summer (crimes that police say were probably committed by one violent individual), officials increased campus patrols and asked students—especially female students—to be extra careful when walking at night. According to CKNW news reporters, some students said they were “offended” by this request because it “implies that [female students] are asking for trouble.”

Oh my: where have all the good arguments gone? Asking students to be careful, when someone is, literally, out to get them, is not in any way blaming the victims; instead, it is simply trying to reduce students’ risks of further attacks. Sadly, there will probably always be violent human predators in our society: they seem to be a fact of nature (and/or nurture), and like other such powerful forces, the act of preparing for them, so as to mitigate their reach, is a reasonable thing to do. Asking students to participate in their own safety is not insulting them; it is showing care and respect for them, as it suggests that they can be proactive in their own safety.

I am aware of the concern with blaming victims, and I think it is legitimate to check law enforcement for language that seems to suggest the victims are culpable for crimes committed against them. However, what is the basis for criticism here? If these critics were to script the perfect phrases for the police in cases where there is a dangerous offender in their neighbourhood, what would they suggest? And if such critics were aware of precautions that, in their experience, seem to reduce one’s chance of becoming a victim, would they withhold the information just to avoid suggesting that one could reduce one’s risk? (To that end, would they consider the suggestion of taking a self-defence class also to be offensive?)

I am baffled by the lack of critical thinking exhibited by these complaining university students from my alma matter. What exactly are they arguing? Should one never adjust one’s behaviour for the sake of safety? Are these auto-offended students really advocating that their classmates go solo wherever they normally would at night, and not worry about a possible assault, because after all, they’re not doing anything wrong? (By that same argument, one shouldn’t practice defensive driving either.) This is a dangerous suggestion that could put easily-persuaded students at increased risk, which makes me wonder why the journalists who reported the students’ radical argument (that safety suggestions are offensive) didn’t seem to challenge them.

Why didn’t the reporters ask the allegedly offended students what the alternative was to the police’s request for students to be vigilant (and avoid being alone as much as possible) when walking at night until the rapist was caught? I realize reporters are loathe to criticize female university students who are claiming to be feminists, but when those students are making potentially dangerous arguments, is it not the duty of journalists to challenge them?

One such feminist student was, in fact, given a forum on CKNW to explain why the safety request was offensive: instead of telling women “not to get raped,” she explained, “we should tell men not to rape women.”

I’ll take on the misandrist element of this remark in my next post Attacking Men, but for now, I would like to clarify something: law enforcement agencies that advocate being careful in dangerous situations are not necessarily suggesting that criminals have a right to commit violent crimes in poorly lit areas. Instead, it’s conceivable that the police want to catch the bad guys, but are aware that they cannot be omnipresent, and so, until they have cleared the streets of all violent offenders, they are suggesting, that—for our own safety—we the citizens avoid dangerous situations when feasible. I think the police probably thought it was implied—by their increased patrols apparently aimed at catching the rapist—that they are, in fact, opposed to rape. Indeed, I think all but a tiny fraction of the male population consider rape to be a moral outrage. So telling men not to rape when there’s a serial rapist in our neighbourhood would be like reminding citizens not to murder when there’s a serial murderer out there.

Nevertheless, these bizarre arguments were published without any criticism by the Vancouver media. This is not good news for the pursuit of gender equality: when the worst arguments are allowed to spread without contradiction as representatives of feminism, genuine equality-persuing feminism is unlikely to see much time in the spotlight.

6 thoughts on “TAKING OFFENCE”

  1. Thanks vmacaroon! I just wish the media would put it (or something like it) to the gender feminists.*

    *Christina Hoff Sommers’ term for these misandrist feminists (as opposed to equity feminists who believe in the equality of all genders).

  2. Who wouldn’t agree with the phrase “well, we need men to stop raping women”?
    Well, sure, that argument can be whipped out anytime, no one of sound mind will disagree, but it seems to be trotted out anytime a perceived “feminist” issue crops up… which this is not, in any way, shape or fashion.
    If a coyote was running around grabbing cats, wouldn’t you keep your cat indoors until the coyote was caught?
    But then, I was kicked out of my first class of Feminist Studies at SFU, so what do I know…

  3. Thanks Tamsen. I think you should see it as an achievement to have been excommunicated from a class that I suspect was allergic to critical thinking. As for the coyote attacking cats: instead of suggesting the people keep their cats indoors, can’t we just ask the tell the coyotes to leave the cats alone?! 😉

  4. I too am irritated with the feminist students at my Alma Mater of UBC. It sounds like they have over-simplified the argument to the point of not offering a functional option, ie: “we should tell men not to rape”. The fact is rapists exist and clearly we should employ due-diligence to avoid getting raped.

    Having said that, I do feel that we should consider the possibility that we are putting too much of the onus upon the victim (ie: women at risk of rape). I would have liked our feminist sisters to have suggested the police increase their patrols such that the victim is not overly-burdened with safety by having to walk in pairs, carry a pistol, wear a burka, etc, etc.

    Similarly, the gay community has at times demanded increased patrols such that couples can walk hand-in-hand in public without fear of assault. In the deep South, black kids had to be escorted to public school by police for fear of assault or worse. While I’m not familiar with how that situation played out, I would hope that the initial response to the black kids was not, “you should walk in pairs to the white schools if you don’t want to get beat up, and leave school before it gets dark”. Clearly that would not have sufficed, nor would it have been a fair demand.

    Essentially I think that there is a balancing act to play out here: what we offer as a society as safety measures, versus what your personal expectations are to ensure your own safety. In the case of the UBC situation, while the feminists do seem to have over-simplified, I tend to agree more with their side of things (albeit with perhaps a slightly different rationale).

    Calum McD., a proud “slut walk” veteran

  5. Thank you, Calum. Your point is well taken (if only it were the point that these feminists were making). Indeed, I cannot disagree with your premises, but I think your conclusion (that these particular feminists have a point) is problematic.

    I agree that we as a society should make all reasonable efforts to take the burden of safety away from individual citizens. And, if that is not being done, police and government should be criticized until it is. However, there is no evidence that the police and campus officials were not making extraordinary efforts (to combat the extraordinary circumstance of a serial rapist) to protect students in this case. As I vaguely recall, the campus safe walk increased its offerings, campus patrols were upped, and there was a greater police presence (although, to increase their chance of catching the attacker, they may not have wanted to advertise exactly how much more present they were, especially in the case of undercover officers).

    However, given that this was an extraordinary situation, providing adequate safety was, I suspect, daunting. The police didn’t necessarily have the resources to suddenly cover all areas of UBC at all times of night. And so (perhaps consequently) they were respectfully suggesting that students take certain precautions to increase their safety. If these feminists wanted to argue that the police were not prioritizing these rapes and attempted rapes sufficiently and/or that more government money should go to the police for these extreme situations so that more resources could immediately be deployed in such cases, then I would not object. (In fact, I’m personally in favour of more police and surveillance everywhere to protect us – although, I’m not sure if the BC Civil Liberties Association would back me up.).

    Strangely, though, these nuance-free gender feminists did not – at least in the media reports – make any such argument in this case. Instead, their reported argument was simply that any suggestion that students take extra precautions in any situation was offensive because it blamed the potential victims. No it did not. At least, there’s no evidence that it did. Instead it implied to my ears (and I think any reasonable person not under the influence of gender feminism), “Rape is a horrific crime that is against the law. Thus, we’re doing everything we can to catch this dangerous criminal. But, since we can’t be everywhere, please take these precautions until the threat has been neutralized.”

    As for the “slut walk,” I thought that was an overstated demonstration against a single police officer who used an ill-advised set of words to express his alleged experience that less-dressed women in Canada are more likely to be attacked. His phrasing may have implied some (unwarranted) blame of the victim for not being more careful when playing near fire, but that does not necessarily suggest he thinks she deserves to be attacked. Just as telling someone going into a fundamentalist religious country that you’re safer wearing certain coverings is not necessarily suggesting that attacks there are justified for those who don’t.

    I, of course, believe that everyone has the right to wear whatever they want (and no crime can ever be justified by such behaviour), but it turns out that not all vicious criminals are enlightened, and so it may be that the eloquence-challenged police officer was arguing that it might be wise to avoid tempting the wrath of evil creatures when in less secure locations (such as back alleys at night where there is little to protect them). The slut walk is not going to persuade empathy-free violent offenders not to attack short-skirt wearing ladies, but I suspect that it might help to quash nuance in this discussion. I do not think that the police officer should not have said what he did, but the reaction to his statement is unnecessarily aggressive, and surely scares concerned police officers and other well-meaning citizens from joining the discussion about how we can best ensure and promote safety in our community.

    Returning to the original argument, if the police cannot even suggest that people be careful when there’s a serial rapist in the neighbourhood, then what can they say?

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