Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Banning fraternities is a form of victim blaming

Imagine someone were to make the following argument in a feminist forum:

“If that women didn’t want to get raped, she shouldn't have gone to that fraternity party!"

That person would be rightly accused of victim blaming. Just like discussion over what she was wearing or how she was dancing, criticizing the decision to attend a certain party diverts blame away from the rapist, and puts the onus on the victim to prevent their own rape. All feminists should agree this is perverse.

But if the victim’ decision to attend a frat party should be irrelevant, what does that mean for the stance of many feminists that we should ban frats

Such a stance is not only an admonishment of the people who organize these parties, but also a de facto admonishment of anyone base enough to attend them. It amounts to a cluck of moralistic disapproval at the risky and promiscuous behavior these parties encourage, rather similar to the sentiment expressed by a conservative grandmother scolding her progeny for wearing XYZ outfit.

The reason that grandmother is wrong is that women should be able to dress provocatively if they want to, without being raped.

The reason it's unhelpful to tell women to avoid rape by applying special roofie-detecting fingernail polish is that women should be able to wear whatever polish they like, or lack thereof, without being raped.

And the reason it's wrong to tell women to avoid rape by not attending fraternity parties is that women should be able to get free alcohol if they want to, or dance with strangers to loud music in crowded basements if they want to, or play flip-cup if they want to, or do keg stands if they want to, or chant "Toga!" if they want to, or take somebody home if they want to, without being raped. Banning fraternities only attempts change by means of limiting those opportunities for women and men alike, which hardly makes women freer than they were before.

It wouldn't work anyway. College-aged people will continue to host and attend parties with lots of booze no matter what administrators do. If this policy is enacted, they'd just be called something else besides frat parties. Many women would still choose to go to those parties, and would defy any rules telling them they can't. Some of them would get raped. The only change relative to the status quo is that under such circumstances, a "no-frat" policy insinuates that the woman attending the underground party was at least partly at fault for breaking the spirit of the rule. Whether it's the government making you wear a seat belt to avoid death, a college telling you not to party around certain people/in a certain fashion to avoid rape, or your mother telling you not to play with a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle to avoid shooting your eye out, condescending paternalism about how to avoid X amounts to an allegation of blame if X is not avoided.

If it is victim blaming to advise women to avoid frat parties, why is it not victim blaming to prohibit them from going to frat parties?

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