Feminism Fodder

Why are we so quick to engage in self-blame

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photo credit: Hammonton Photography via photopin cc

I had an incident occur a couple of days ago. I was driving home from work and was talking to my friend J on my hands-free mobile. Traffic was slow going near a set of lights. From the corner of my eye, I noticed a white 4WD next to my car. And I heard a male voice. As did my friend. This despite all my windows being rolled up. I turned to look and noticed there were 4 guys in the 4WD all looking at me and the one at the back was saying something pretty loudly. At first I thought there might have been something wrong with my car. It took a few seconds to realise he was making a sexually inappropriate comment. My immediate instinct was to stick up my middle finger and tell him and his mates to fuck off. But I realised which suburb I was in and thought the better of it and just ignored him and his grinning mates.

I let them go ahead at the lights while I waited. But I caught myself wondering this: What was I wearing to evoke such a comment?

Then I got pissed off with myself for thinking that. It shouldn’t have mattered what I was wearing. They were fucking idiots and it speaks more about them than about me. But I couldn’t help but wonder just how conditioned we are as women to blame ourselves. This was me — a feminist — so quick to question whether I had done something to provoke that comment. When all I was doing was driving and talking to my friend.

It makes me think further about the messages we get from society, our upbringing and well, the media. My parents were pretty open-minded but I still grew up in a society that blamed (and continues to blame) women for crimes against them. Raped? It’s because you were out late at night or wearing something provoking. Harassed? It’s because you gave an indication you were interested. Molested? It’s because of your outfit or your looks or just because you are a woman!

It’s the same with domestic violence, isn’t it? If as women we are subject to physical or verbal abuse from our partners, we somehow automatically blame ourselves {or make excuses for them}. We must have said something to deserve that punch. Or we should have known they were tired and not engaged in conversation.

When are we going to learn that it is not our fault?

When is that automatic mindset of self-blame going to change?

I personally thought I’d worked on it. But this incident {and it’s only the second one since I’ve been here unlike every other day back in India} made me realise that perhaps the self-blame instilled in me by society is still there. It just needed an incident to show me that.

I will still fight it though. I have to. Like every one of us.

Even if we find that we automatically blame ourselves, it is imperative to unlearn that. To admonish ourselves when we realise we are unnecessarily holding ourselves responsible.

Society does enough of that. We shouldn’t have to subject ourselves to it too.

The next time this happens I think I just might stick up my middle finger and tell them to fuck off.

Or at the very least, note down their registration number and make a complaint.

Why do you think we are so quick to blame ourselves?

What would you have done in this situation?

Please do share your thoughts.

***Linking up with Grace for FYBF***

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

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  • Magical Mystical Mimi
    4 October 2013 at 8:48 pm

    Great question and I’m not sure why we have those feelings but I’m pretty sure they pass as we get older. I joke to people that I’d have to reach into my rolodex of feelings from the 80’s to remember the last time I gave a shit about what someone thought of me and I’m pretty sure that’s when I stopped blaming myself. It’s sad that so many of us carry around this bucket of insecurities but I think we learn from them and move on, at least I did and I hope others don’t carry that bucket longer than necessary because it truly is like walking around with a stone around your neck and who needs that. Oh, and PS, I would’ve totally flipped those guys off no matter what neighborhood I was in, as long as you stay in your car, are aware of your surroundings and the nearest cop shop or public place you’ll be fine. 😉 Next time tell ’em fuck off! 😀
    (UBC on FB)
    Magical Mystical Mimi recently posted…WE ALL KNOW THAT ONE PERSON… – UBC 2013My Profile

  • Magical Mystical Mimi
    4 October 2013 at 8:48 pm

    Great question and I’m not sure why we have those feelings but I’m pretty sure they pass as we get older. I joke to people that I’d have to reach into my rolodex of feelings from the 80’s to remember the last time I gave a shit about what someone thought of me and I’m pretty sure that’s when I stopped blaming myself. It’s sad that so many of us carry around this bucket of insecurities but I think we learn from them and move on, at least I did and I hope others don’t carry that bucket longer than necessary because it truly is like walking around with a stone around your neck and who needs that. Oh, and PS, I would’ve totally flipped those guys off no matter what neighborhood I was in, as long as you stay in your car, are aware of your surroundings and the nearest cop shop or public place you’ll be fine. 😉 Next time tell ’em fuck off! 😀
    (UBC on FB)
    Magical Mystical Mimi recently posted…WE ALL KNOW THAT ONE PERSON… – UBC 2013My Profile

  • Viji Venu
    5 October 2013 at 5:13 am

    I don’t blame as I have been there. Used to stay sober and just get past with the incident or phase. But later felt sometime that I am insulting the womenhood, by not responding to such ill-minds. If you are dressed appropriate and presented well, no one should have reasons to speak about it.
    Such people you find everywhere, not just on the roads and bus stops. I have witnessed incidents at work place. I make sure to pull the plug and make him shameful for the comment passed. We got to react when we can and make the point clean that women are not laughing stalk. Will never advise anything adventurous which may put you in trouble.
    Viji Venu recently posted…Sister LoveMy Profile

  • Viji Venu
    5 October 2013 at 5:13 am

    I don’t blame as I have been there. Used to stay sober and just get past with the incident or phase. But later felt sometime that I am insulting the womenhood, by not responding to such ill-minds. If you are dressed appropriate and presented well, no one should have reasons to speak about it.
    Such people you find everywhere, not just on the roads and bus stops. I have witnessed incidents at work place. I make sure to pull the plug and make him shameful for the comment passed. We got to react when we can and make the point clean that women are not laughing stalk. Will never advise anything adventurous which may put you in trouble.
    Viji Venu recently posted…Sister LoveMy Profile

  • Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me
    5 October 2013 at 6:37 am

    I would have been furious, and this has happened to me lots of time over the years, but mainly about 15 years ago, not a compliment, more a sign of the idiot mentality that exists. I used to flick the bird but it just made them laugh and mock me more. I have never blamed myself though, they are just yobbos, idiots trying to look ‘cool’ in front of their mates! Sorry you had to go through this x

  • Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me
    5 October 2013 at 6:37 am

    I would have been furious, and this has happened to me lots of time over the years, but mainly about 15 years ago, not a compliment, more a sign of the idiot mentality that exists. I used to flick the bird but it just made them laugh and mock me more. I have never blamed myself though, they are just yobbos, idiots trying to look ‘cool’ in front of their mates! Sorry you had to go through this x

  • Mamagoingsolo
    5 October 2013 at 11:01 am

    I would have found it funny I think, but them I am a bit of a ball-crusher! I have worked in mining for so long that I rarely find something hurtful or offensive that I can’t respond in equal or greater force! But I am well aware that many women don’t have the same ability, and I have hurt in sympathy with friends who have been upset or harrassed by bullies and perverts of the male variety. It is definitely saddening that we still have this to deal with in today’s world.
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  • Mamagoingsolo
    5 October 2013 at 11:01 am

    I would have found it funny I think, but them I am a bit of a ball-crusher! I have worked in mining for so long that I rarely find something hurtful or offensive that I can’t respond in equal or greater force! But I am well aware that many women don’t have the same ability, and I have hurt in sympathy with friends who have been upset or harrassed by bullies and perverts of the male variety. It is definitely saddening that we still have this to deal with in today’s world.
    Mamagoingsolo recently posted…An Expat’s Child – Part IIMy Profile

  • Grace
    5 October 2013 at 12:57 pm

    I think unfortunately, it can be natural instinct to look inward when abuse or harassment happens. It’s not right but it’s the easiest way to react to something so complicated. Good for you to quickly snap out of it and realise it had nothing to do with you and it was just those losers.
    Grace recently posted…FYBF – Spring MakeoverMy Profile

  • Grace
    5 October 2013 at 12:57 pm

    I think unfortunately, it can be natural instinct to look inward when abuse or harassment happens. It’s not right but it’s the easiest way to react to something so complicated. Good for you to quickly snap out of it and realise it had nothing to do with you and it was just those losers.
    Grace recently posted…FYBF – Spring MakeoverMy Profile

  • Rah
    5 October 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I wish I knew the answer. I am first to blame myself for EVERYTHING.
    Rah recently posted…Why I unfriended you on FacebookMy Profile

  • Rah
    5 October 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I wish I knew the answer. I am first to blame myself for EVERYTHING.
    Rah recently posted…Why I unfriended you on FacebookMy Profile

  • Amelia @ chai a cup of life
    11 October 2013 at 2:25 pm

    I would have done exactly what you did and ignored them, especially since you mentioned about the suburb they were in. Getting angry and swearing at them could have been worse…they may have followed you and kept at it… So good you ignored.

  • Amelia @ chai a cup of life
    11 October 2013 at 2:25 pm

    I would have done exactly what you did and ignored them, especially since you mentioned about the suburb they were in. Getting angry and swearing at them could have been worse…they may have followed you and kept at it… So good you ignored.

  • thescribbler
    22 October 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Why do you think we are so quick to blame ourselves?
    –> Its because the way that we have been brought by our families. And we cannot say that its because of the society.. Society is all about how OUR family see things and how behaves and reacts. We are always been brought up DICTATING that girls should ALWAYS have patience(like a non-living thing), should be subtle, should be silent, should not be expressing anger because we are into so-called bloody traditional upbringing methods.

    Whatever books we read, whatever knowledge we gain, whatever experience we have had, GIRLS should be silent and calm in any given situation, whether it may be humiliation or abused and girls are the provokers for ANY DAMN mistakes whoever do around us(girls).

    What would you have done in this situation?
    As you said, first I would have checked myself especially my dress, then I would have stared at those ____ guys and moved on.

    What else we could have done in this situation than staring…
    thescribbler recently posted…Silence!My Profile

  • thescribbler
    22 October 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Why do you think we are so quick to blame ourselves?
    –> Its because the way that we have been brought by our families. And we cannot say that its because of the society.. Society is all about how OUR family see things and how behaves and reacts. We are always been brought up DICTATING that girls should ALWAYS have patience(like a non-living thing), should be subtle, should be silent, should not be expressing anger because we are into so-called bloody traditional upbringing methods.

    Whatever books we read, whatever knowledge we gain, whatever experience we have had, GIRLS should be silent and calm in any given situation, whether it may be humiliation or abused and girls are the provokers for ANY DAMN mistakes whoever do around us(girls).

    What would you have done in this situation?
    As you said, first I would have checked myself especially my dress, then I would have stared at those ____ guys and moved on.

    What else we could have done in this situation than staring…
    thescribbler recently posted…Silence!My Profile