Saturday, June 28, 2008

Malaysian City's Advice For Rape Prevention: No Lipstick No Heels

Some people might read this story from the Guardian and give in to the temptation to smugly bash Malaysians for their backwards thinking regarding rape prevention. The problem with giving in to this temptation is that all you have to do to turn this advice into something that is common in the US is to substitute what women shouldn't do in order to preserve their dignity and avoid rape.

Women in a northern Malaysian city ruled by conservative Islamists are being urged to forsake bright lipstick and noisy high heels in an effort to preserve their dignity and avoid rape.

Authorities in Kota Bharu have distributed pamphlets recommending that Muslim women do not wear heavy makeup and loud shoes when they go out to work in restaurants or other public places.

But municipal officials in Kota Bharu, capital of Kelantan state which is run by the hardline Pan-Malaysian Islamic party, stressed that the code was not an edict, merely advice for women wishing to follow the "Islamic way".

This is in no way Islamic, it is sexist victim blaming ideology and the idea behind it thrives among good Christians who believe Christian women and girls should dress modestly as rape prevention. It also thrives among non-Christians in the US who do any form of victim blaming when they talk about how to prevent rape.

It doesn't take long for people to talk about victim irresponsibility which can be anything from stereotypical risky behavior to walking through a parking lot while not scanning the area like a member of a swat team.

Lecturing women on how they can prevent men from turning into frothing rape machines seems to be a global problem. If people who fall into this trap cannot see the flaw in their own advice when the flaws are pointed out to them because the trigger/response seems logical then maybe they can see the flaws when the same approach is applied with a different set of rape inducing triggers.

Once you realize that the clicking of woman's heels doesn't trigger rape -- even in a different culture where different sounds mean different things -- then you've begun to bust out of the myth that there are any rape trigger/responses. Once that happens you can start realizing that popular triggers provide rapists with easy excuses to help them rationalize rape and then help them dodge responsibility after committing rape.

Unfortunately, for many people this paradigm is like an old foul-smelling pair of slippers that are infested with nasty foot fungus which should have been tossed years ago but are kept near to your bed simply because they are familiar.

I'm sure non-Islamic, non-Malaysian people would be appalled to learn that their rape prevention messages -- with only a variation in the "what not to do" list -- is considered the "Islamic way" by a party referred to by the liberals in their country as Taliban Lite.

Here's an example of a US version of the message sent in Malaysia:

Any decent young girl of that age should not even be out at that hour of night unless she herself was looking for something (or had parents who either did not care what she was doing or did not even know).

Those who condemn the conservative Islamists must also condemn this commenter if they truly believe that the conservative Islamists are in the wrong.

The bias of focusing on victim behavior shows itself whenever a decent man or boy is accused of rape and the observer states in the face of undeniable evidence that it must have been the victim who made him cross that ethical and legal line.

This lie is told around the world and we need to toss it out wherever it pops up like a fungus filled pair of slippers.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:38 AM   0 comments links to this post


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