On blaming the victim…

Let’s say you read the following article in the paper:

Yesterday Sulyane Smith was driving home from work on
Hwy 64, when a drunk driver crossed the median and 
slammed into her car.  The police have been able to 
determine that she was on no illegal substances, doing
the speed limit, and driving in the far right lane.  
Ms. Smith, age 26, was huge Earth, Wind & Fire 
fan and was listening to "September" when the oncoming
vehicle hit her.  Doctors at the local hospital say 
that she will likely be paralyzed for life.

I’m guessing your responses would range somewhere from:

“Oh God, that’s terrible!”


“I hate drunk drivers! Is the guy who hit her still alive?”

Which are all, I think, really reasonable responses and indicate that you’re a compassionate person and you think young Sulyane was the victim of an *awful*, terrible, crime.

I’m guessing that no one…not a single one of you…would say:

“Had she taken a defensive driving course?”

“Didn’t she swerve to avoid him”

“If she hadn’t been listening to music this wouldn’t have happened!”


“Didn’t she see him coming?”

Because we don’t tend to blame the people who are hit by drunk drivers for not being *better drivers* or not being able to anticipate and avoid the situation.

Yet, that’s exactly what we do to rape victims.

11990393_1633760873560619_7278251565956441803_nSo when this graphic started making the rounds on Facebook (and I reposted it because I think blaming the victim for being raped is rediculous) it provoked some interesting discussions amongst my friends.

One friend said that she too does not believe the victim is ever at fault, but said “there are things you can do to lower your risk of being raped.”  She continued by asking: “What would you tell your daughter?”

As in, wouldn’t you tell your daughter that wearing short skirts or walking around alone at night is more likely to put you in danger of being raped.

Ugh.  I mean, yeah. I would, if I had one.  Just like I don’t walk through dark, abandoned parking lots in a late at night by myself if I can avoid it.

And yet, I still Very Much Agree with the graphic.  And I realize I can mostly reconcile those two things by the word “cause,” as in “correlation does not imply causation;” however, I still have troubles with that, because as a woman, anyone making a statement about what women should or shouldn’t do to lower their risk of being raped still *feels like* it puts the impetus for not being raped on me.

And I tend to figure things out by analogy (working through similar situations and finding out where the math doesn’t work anymore), so last night as I was not sleeping while worrying through this I came up with the drunk driver analogy.

We don’t blame the victims of drunk drivers for

  • not having taken defensive driving class
  • not being better drivers (and being able to swerve to avoid being hit)
  • listening to the radio or
  • not seeing the driver coming

…even though there’s a decent chance they could have avoided being hit if any (or all) of those things were true.

Think about the last time you took extreme measures while driving to avoid someone who did something bat-shit-crazy and nearly hit you.

That person could have been drunk.  And if they had been drunk and they had hit you, No One Would Ever say that “You could have avoided this, if only…”

We don’t blame the victims of drunk drivers.

And that’s the difference.  Because we never blame drunk drivers, it’s totally cool to say “Hey, defensive driving class is a thing you should do — you can never tell what kind of drunken idiots will be on the road.”

But saying “Hey, dressing conservatively and not drinking are things you should do, because you never can tell what kind of vicious rapists are out there,” is not.

I *know* this isn’t a black-and-white situation.  It’s shades of grey, like everything else.   But the kind of thinking that tells women to not wear skimpy clothing (so men don’t want to rape them) leads straight to women being clothed head-to-toe with no skin showing at all.

(BTW, I would *love* to see statistics that correlate % of women who are raped with % of their body covered by fabric.  I am guessing that if you look back through history and across cultures, you’d find that there’s no correlation at all between amount of skin and incidence of rape.  I don’t have the metrics to back up or refute this, but please holler if you do.)

Target changes signage to make things less gender-specific — YAH TARGET!

via What’s in Store: Moving Away from Gender-based Signs.

I’ve tried to explain before (probably not here, but definitely in person to a lot of people) how I was extremely lucky when it came to gender expectations:  both my Dad and my maternal grandfather (“Grumps”) let me play with “boy stuff” (and, in fact, encouraged me to).

With Dad it was taking apart stereos and playing with Erector sets, while my Grumps let me build things in his shop (supervised, of course).  In both cases I didn’t have any sense that I wasn’t supposed to be doing these things, and it wasn’t until I was much older (middle school, maybe?) that I realized that it was considered somewhat weird to be a girl who liked computers and science. I still remember Dad teaching me how to add in binary when I was in the seventh grade — I ended up going to computer camp that summer and programming in Basic on “trash-80s.”

But my experience wasn’t the norm then, and it feels to me like it’s even less the norm now.  It seems everywhere I turn it’s the Pink Pink Pink Princess World (which you *have* to be in if you’re a little girl) versus the Superhero Robot Machine World that little boys get.  Most of my friends who are raising children are exceptions — one of my dear friends was delighted when her boy-child took an interest in home decorating, and another friend made her daughter a Thor costume.  Because Thor.

Of course if you are little girl and you love princesses and pink and all things glittery, that’s delightful too — I’m just saying that shouldn’t be your only choice!  In fact, I happen to also *love* all things glittery, much to the chagrin of my husband, who understands the …contagious… nature of glitter.

Growing up with the idea that your choices — about what to like, how to act, how to dress, and what you can do — aren’t defined by your reproductive organs is incredibly powerful. This choice by Target to examine their signage and remove the genderdness except for where it makes sense (to help a parent determine a size, for instance) is wonderful.   It’s a great step towards helping to eliminate all those subtle cues designed to keep kids stuck in their gender stereotype.

Any child should feel equally at home looking at the pink sparkly backpacks…or the laser-building-robots.

Restoring history…

T. Ed Pickard, Order of the Long Leaf Pine

T. Ed Pickard, Order of the Long Leaf Pine

Going through some old photos over the weekend, I found pictures that I took of my Granny and Grumps’ kitchen wall, which was covered with awards, certificates and photos that reflected that his years of service to North Carolina.  One of them was for  the “Order of the Long Leaf Pine,” which Wikipedia said was created in 1965.

Well, my Grumps was presented the award on September 9, 1964 (which means Wikipedia was wrong, and I had proof!).  Looking further, I found the website for the Order of the Longleaf Pine and the listing for all recipients — and Grumps wasn’t listed.  Apparently record-keeping was somewhat sparse during the early days of the award’s existence, and the site asked anyone who knew of a missing recipient to send that information in.

So I did.  And I just got a very nice email back from the current manager of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society saying that not only was he delighted to add Grumps, but that Grumps’ certificate was one of the earliest he’d seen.

And I’ve made a mod on the talk page for the Order of the Long Leaf Pine on Wikipedia explaining that the award existed at least as early as 1964.  We’ll see what happens.

An amazing discovery

My Grumps, my mom’s father, loved photography (it runs on both sides of the family: Grandpa, my Dad’s dad did too).  He had a series of cameras, most of which I’ve now ended up with, from old Brownies to Kodaks to Polaroids.  Apparently he took mostly slide film, as I ended up with *hundreds* and *hundreds* of slides, mostly Kodachrome (gives you those nice, bright colors).

Some of the slides, though, were a type I’d never seen before: stereo slides! I knew they existed, but I’d only seen them in commercial format; I hadn’t realized that home photographers could take them.  Well, take them they could, and Grumps did, with what I assume must have been a Stereo Realist camera (sadly, the camera has not yet turned up).

I ended up with 30ish boxes of stereo slides, so perhaps 200-300 images total.  I’m having them scanned, some in 2D (the ones that are “meh” in quality) and some in 3D (to Blu-Ray, for the ones for which the 3Dness would be worth it, according to the company that is doing it for me).

I’ve gotten back the first batch of 2D ones — check it out:


My Grumps, apparently a fan of the selfie!


My Granny and my mom at Grandfather Mountain


My Aunt Sister and ??


Fantastic pic of the Golden Gate Bridge