Thoughts on victim-blaming, it’s never good but sometimes it’s far worse than other times

I read this article recently and it made me feel uncomfortable. The author says he was wearing Google Glass in a neighborhood that’s being gentrified by Google and its employees and he was assaulted.  He talks about feeling that his personal space was violated and expresses disappointment because a lot of people were blaming him for the attack because he was wearing a $1500 gadget on his face.

I don’t condone victim-blaming no matter what. But I found myself seeing where the blamers were coming from. And that made me uncomfortable because it is seemingly this same reasoning that leads to victim-blaming in crimes, like rape and assault. I also felt less bothered by this victim-blaming and that bothered me because then did that make me hypocritical? And I loathe feeling hypocritical.

But then I realized that there is a huge difference between blaming someone for being mugged while flashing something expensive versus blaming someone for being raped or a crime of that nature.

Before I go any further, I will say that I am not saying this guy deserved to be mugged. While I can certainly see why his display of google merchandise incited people, I don’t think he deserved the experience nor did he deserve to be violated.

I am writing this post to say though that this type of victim-mocking and blaming, even if wrong, is not nearly as detrimental as blaming a woman for a sexual assault. When someone is attacked for an expensive item, they are not being attacked because of their vulnerabilities or oppression but rather because of their privilege and/or access to resources. Buying expensive items and carrying them in public how you will is a choice and if people ridicule you for it, their criticism isn’t necessarily okay. But in contrast, if a woman is assaulted and people say, “well she shouldn’t have done this or that,” she is being blamed for things that aren’t in her control. She is being blamed because she has a lesser position in society than a man. So blaming her for a crime committed against her is far more dangerous than blaming someone who has privilege and was targeted for that reason. Male privilege protects men from many forms of violence and if harm does befall them, they’ll likely have more resources to recover. Whereas women experience gender-based oppression, that is always harmful and disenfranchises them to have fewer options and resources for recovery.

I read this guy’s account of being lunged at as the assailant took his Google Glass and that he felt shocked at the violation of his personal space. Personal space violation is an awful feeling. But I realized that this was likely the first time he’d been attacked in such a way. Does he know that most, if not all, women have had their personal space violated multiple times in their lives? As I write this, I can think of three different times off the top of my head when my personal and private space was physically violated by a man. And I have so many female friends, families and colleagues for whom this is also true. I also wondered does this guy realize that women, people of color, transgender people etc feel violated often and not because of some luxury but because of oppression that they have no choice over and little control over?

So even though it is bad he was made to feel this way, reading his words made me realize you can’t compare instances of culpability when the context of the crime, while still wrong, is totally different.

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