Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Buddha, Eve, Victim Blaming

The Boy has voiced his own comparison brought on by my shaved head, and I'm downright tickled by it. He thinks my state of hairlessness (or at least, near-hairlessness) resembles the Buddha! He added, "But the one you see... on the internet... do you know what I mean?"
Not really, but maybe he was talking about the body art forms logo:

Hmm. The labret, the plugs, the squinting grin, the thick brows... I can actually totally see this one.

So this post has some meat, let me mention a discussion I had about a different religious icon this past week. After reading excerpts from Paradise Lost, my literature class split up into two teams for a mock trial. It wasn't the devil being tried, it was Eve, and to my surprise, the vast majority of the class was on the team condemning her.

So, I hesitate to explain or label my religious inclinations, but I'd say I'm more Christian than your average liberal arts college bear. But this Eve being responsible for the fall thing? I think it's bullshit. We were going by Milton, not the Bible, of course, in which case, this Eve being responsible for the fall thing is even BIGGER bullshit.
She is so clearly deceived into biting the stupid fruit (the devil as a serpent tells her: you need to do this, I did it and I'm fine, I'm better than fine I'm great, it will really be OK with God, heck, he'll probably be proud of you, and so on), and then Milton makes it so clear that Adam is making his choice freely, with full knowledge of the consequences. Basically, Adam was capable of informed consent and Eve was not.

Can you already imagine how the "trial" went?

Instead of arguing that, say, Eve should have followed the commandment of God above the advice of a snake (a shaky argument, but the only valid one in my mind), these are legitimately the kind of questions I got on the stand:
-Why did you want to go out by yourself?
-Didn't Adam warn you not to go out by yourself?
-Didn't you know that there was an enemy in your midst?
-Weren't you suspicious of a talking snake?
-Didn't you know you would be tempted?
So, they sort of acknowledged Eve was deceived, but it was her fault for getting into the situation because she was reckless. Sound familiar?

Yes, this fake trial of Eve was a cornucopia of victim-blaming language. After a few minutes of this all going unquestioned, I asked to speak out of turn to say "If you knew theres a robber in the neighborhood, it's still not your fault you got robbed."

This is not misogyny in the Bible, or in Paradise Lost. This is misogyny straight out of the mouths of my college peers, who think these kinds of approaches are valid legal maneuvers. I'm sure they didn't make the connection to rape trials, but the logic is appallingly similar.
In seventh grade or so, we spent a whole day learning about and discussing consent. I still remember most of it - we were given a lot of scenarios, some sexual and some not, and asked if the victim or the perpetrator was to blame for the crime. The number of people who, totally or partially, blamed the victim steadily decreased throughout the day.

At the time I thought that, like learning about puberty or drugs, this was the standard.

1 comment:

Ian said...

I have no recollection of saying, "But the one you see... on the internet... do you know what I mean?"

Doesn't mean I didn't say it, just that I might be crazy.

As for blaming the victim: You really shouldn't be surprised that so many people hold this (unfortunate) view. Think about, for instance, the startlingly large number of people who blame unions for corporate greed, or welfare and other social programs for our national debt, or black people for gang violence.

Blaming the victim isn't just a common practice in this country. Sadly, it's a social norm.