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The message of ‘you’ve made your bed so now you can lie in it’ will continue to oppress women under the guise of ‘feminist success’.

I recently read a fantastic blog entry called An open letter to the guy who followed me while I was on my bike. It made me think; when hearing stories where a man has grossly over-stepped the mark, how often does it cross your mind that the woman “shouldn’t” have done this or that- which then led to her being in such a position in the first place? I broadened this out; how often are a woman’s choices blamed for practically anything that befalls her at the hands of a man?

Who can argue with the notion that women should be allowed the same rights and freedoms as men, both publicly and privately? I believe, however, the wider implications of current popular culture mean that women are being subjected to severe mixed messages from the media when it comes to what it means to be ‘equal’  especially when it comes to women becoming the victims of sexual abuse or violence.

A recent example of this is the Steubenville Rape Trial Case[1], where the popular News Broadcaster CNN reported on the ‘lives being destroyed’ as the two convicted rapists were being sentenced; making scant mention of the victim except to refer to her as ‘drunk’. CNN may have openly expressed sympathy for the two rapists at the hands of the ‘drunk girl’ but that type of sentiment is far from uncommon. It did attract widespread outrage and has reignited the charge that the media assemblage is pro-rape; as Patterson and Sears[2] point out,

A post feminist media culture, helps promote ideas of choice and individual responsibility in relation to issues such as domestic violence, and assists in the surveillance and regulation of women’s actions.

In reference to this particular case (although there are many more), in my view the media have been either unwilling or unable to grasp that regardless of the choices made by women in their lives and the culture in which they live- they should not be subjected to abuse and never blamed for crimes committed against them. Yet, this happens so often in our supposedly ‘civilised’ society.

I read a reaction to the Steubenville rape case where CNN reporter Rachael Simmons asks the question; In Steubenville, why didn’t other girls help?[3] She concedes that girls are given conflicted messages of identity and femininity but asserts that it’s not just a male rape culture – in the ‘old’ feminist cry, girls need to ‘learn’ to support each other. Instead of attacking the rape apologist culture of the media which allows rape to be seen as the females fault; she attacks female culture instead stating,

Girls must understand not only their moral obligation but their power to be allies to each other at parties and other potentially unsafe spaces for girls. If boys knew that girls banded together to support each other, they would be less inclined to share on social media, much less commit, these horrific acts of sexual violence.

I know, right? You’d think she’d maybe ask why those guys felt the need to stick their dicks in a girl so drunk they called her ‘dead girl’ rather than asking why feminine sisterhood didn’t swoop in to rescue her but hey-ho!

Another example I cannot help myself including is the Rhianna and Chris Brown domestic violence incident. Public opinion seemed to recognize that it was terrible that Chris Brown assaulted Rhianna but where continually given reasons to reconcile the reasons she was assaulted; media reports accusatively stating she gave him an STD, or they were arguing and she was ‘acting like a man’.  Sears and Patterson[4] point to this type of phenomenon as being directly in contrast with (Second Wave) feminism,

Reframing domestic violence in this way – as an individual problem facing women which requires individualized solutions – creates new ways in which women are disciplined and regulated, and thus, diminishes the hard work of second wave feminists who demonstrated the social and systemic pervasiveness of abuse and fought to highlight issues of women’s oppression and inequality. It leads to the questioning and judging of women’s experiences which casts doubt on the experiences of victimhood.

The ‘mitigating circumstances’ rhetoric gave rise to a degree of sympathy for Chris Brown because what it boiled down to was, ‘What choices did Rhianna make that led to Chris Brown feeling like he could assault her?’ In this instance and similar instances (think of practically any), if the media or public decides the reasons for harming a woman are good enough, a pardon is issued and the crime is erased from public consciousness.

Are women are becoming casually complicit in the suppression of feminist issues? It might indeed be true that women are now forced to stay quiet  lest they be seen as a inviting trouble through their ‘hard-won’ right to personal choice. Why condemn a man who rapes/beats a woman  when we can simply ‘recognise’ the ‘choices’ she made beforehand and then blame her for them instead?* That statement may as well have been the only training given to police departments in almost any part of the world you can think of- although apparently some are really trying to change that.

It seems to me that thanks to the mainstream neo-liberalist media and the proliferation of the post-feminist ideology, that women now bare the sole responsibility both publicly and privately, of patriarchal control. The message of ‘you’ve made your bed so now you can lie in it’ will continue to oppress women under the guise of ‘feminist success’. After all, it really is much easier if woman believe they are responsible for their circumstances by enjoying their ‘freedom’ to dress like ‘sluts’, get drunk or ride their bicycles alone in the park…

Wait…what?


[2] Patterson, N & Sears, C. (2011) Letting Men Off the Hook? Domestic Violence and Post feminist Celebrity Culture. Online journal: http://www.genders.org/g53/g53_patterson_sears.html ( last accessed 03/07/2013)

[3] Simmons, R. (2013) In Steubenville, Why Didn’t Other Girls Help? (online article: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/03/20/opinion/simmons-steubenville-girls/ (last accessed 03/07/13)

[4] Patterson, N & Sears, C. (2011) Letting Men Off the Hook? Domestic Violence and Post feminist Celebrity Culture. Online journal: http://www.genders.org/g53/g53_patterson_sears.html ( last accessed 03/07/2013)

*Also referenced; McRobbie, A. (2011) Top Girls – (Un)Doing Feminism.

One thought on “Made Our Beds: Post-Feminism, Rape Apology And The Media

  1. Although I believe you implicitly already addressed this, it’s interesting to note that the media doesn’t ask why any of the males didn’t help. Also interesting to note is that the hackers who released the data from the cellphones, etc are facing more jail time than the rapists themselves.

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