They still want us to cross the street.

PZ Myers picked up this…humorous…new meme, but I refuse to put another copy of the unaltered image into Google, so I’ve done my part with it:

Original meme shows compact car hitting female pedestrian on roadway. Text was: "FEMINIST LOGIC" "Don't tell me when to cross the street. Teach drivers not to hit people."  I have super-imposed new text: "ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME? DO YOU THINK RAPE IS JUST LIKE AN ACCIDENTAL COLLISION? WHO ACTUALLY THINKS THIS WAY? WHO?"

Original meme shows compact car hitting female pedestrian on roadway. Text was: “FEMINIST LOGIC”
“Don’t tell me when to cross the street. Teach drivers not to hit people.”
I have super-imposed new text: “ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME? DO YOU THINK RAPE IS JUST LIKE AN ACCIDENTAL COLLISION? WHO ACTUALLY THINKS THIS WAY? WHO?”

Short version: there is no universe in which this analogy is not completely fucking inappropriate in every possible way. This is another one of those analogies that say more about how anti-feminists think of men than about how feminists think of women.

As PZ points out right away, we actually DO have a system of education aimed at preventing motorists from running over pedestrians. Some countries might be more lax than others about enforcement, but here in the US, you need a license to drive. You can be criminally prosecuted for driving without a license. Part of the licensing process is demonstrating that you know how to watch out for pedestrians. Not everyone has the right to drive a car. Some people are not eligible for driver’s licensing because they do not meet the conditions for operating a motor vehicle without putting lives in danger.

What would be the rape-prevention equivalent of driver’s licensing? I’m picturing: we make all children take a test to make sure they understand the importance of consent. They are expected to pass that test by age 14. If they don’t pass the test by that age, we lock them up in carefully monitored camps until they pass the test. When they pass, they get their Decent Human Being license and are allowed to associate freely. Since women can also rape, we also put girls through the licensing process, but since the vast majority of rapists are men, the licensing requirements are more stringent for boys.

Mostly, though, this analogy falls on its face before it even leaves the house because, as PZ says, “Never, in the history of humanity, has a man been at risk of a woman leaping out of the bushes and accidentally impaling herself on his onrushing erect penis.” We teach kids to look both ways before crossing the street, and we have crosswalks and traffic signals because collisions can happen accidentally. It is possible for a driver to run a red light or Stop sign, and to run over a pedestrian because they’re just not paying attention. You all do realize that rape isn’t an accident, right? Nobody commits rape because they simply failed to apply the brakes when the victim darted suddenly into the intersection. If there’s a vehicular equivalent to rape, it’s when a driver deliberately goes off-road and plows into someone’s front yard with the intention of hitting the person standing on the property. When that happens, we don’t wag our fingers at the homeowner for standing outside where any driver could deliberately choose to run them over.

Just in case it got buried in the middle of that paragraph, I’m gonna say it again:

You all do realize that rape isn’t an accident, right?

We don’t tell pedestrians to wait to cross the street until there are no vehicles anywhere in sight; we tell them to find a stop sign, or wait for a green light, and use the crosswalk. This is because we have legislated for times and places where pedestrians can reasonably expect to cross the street and not get run over. Even when there are also cars on the road. We expect motorists to be able to share the road with pedestrians in a way that does not result in pedestrians getting killed or maimed. When a car does hit a pedestrian, the law expects the driver to prove they were doing their best not to hit anyone. The law does not surround the injured pedestrian in her hospital bed and demand to know what the hell she was doing in that intersection, and is she quite sure she didn’t lead the driver on? Is she quite sure the green light was in her favor? Was she really in the crosswalk? When are women finally going to learn that it simply isn’t safe for them to cross the street! We can’t get unsafe drivers off the road, but YOU can protect yourself by not walking anywhere that motor vehicles might be present!

If the simple act of not committing rape feels like keeping alert for jaywalking pedestrians, what does that say about men’s impulse control, and why is no one trying to figure out why not-raping is so damn difficult? Why are men the ones who are allowed to walk alone at night, drink as much as they want, and generally go about their lives on their own terms, if they are such destructive, inherently out-of-control creatures that they’ll rape anything that walks in front of them at the wrong time?

Feminists expect men to be better than that. How is it that we’re the ones who hate men?

But, seriously, folks, I hear you. For the umpteen-millionth, time, I hear you protest that maybe THIS analogy is out of line, BUT STILL, surely we can encourage women not to do stupid things that put their safety at risk? Surely, it isn’t victim-blaming if we’re JUST telling women to take reasonable precautions to keep themselves safe from violence? That’s what the meme is really about! It’s really just about emphasizing reasonable precautions, rather than insisting that dangerous things shouldn’t exist!

There are some “stupid things” that perhaps “put us at risk,” like drinking, dating, socializing with men, meeting new people, going to parties, falling asleep in the same buildings as men, stuff like that. If all women actually stopped doing those “stupid things,” the world would look very, very different, and most people wouldn’t be happy about that. If we really took sufficient precautions to keep rapists away from us, then we’d be man-hating dyke harpies, and why can’t we just give the poor guys a chaaaance? The precautions are not reasonable and the Enforcers of Personal Safety don’t really want us to be that cautious. They don’t. This is not advocacy for serious people. This is advocacy for people who want us to stop talking about sexual violence. Nobody actually wants us to stay out of the road whenever a car is in sight. Nobody actually wants us to live our lives in such a way that the people who want to rape us are barred from doing so. Nobody would like the way the world looked if we went that far.

2 thoughts on “They still want us to cross the street.

  1. Alyson, do you realize the link to your post about #WhyIStayed seems to be broken? I get notification of your posts in my email, but when I tried to come here right to the blog, it doesn’t show any post by the subject line which was written in the email. I hope you repost it because I would love to see what you have to say!

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