Catherine Marcus is a writer.
Another day, another woman gets bashed for stating the obvious, in this case, Irma Kurtz, who has worked as Cosmopolitan’s agony aunt since 1973.
Her crime? To express the opinion that women should be careful when drinking with men, because those who ‘get drunk with the boys’ become incapable of defending themselves because ‘drunkenness tears that away. It really is carelessness to lose your self-defence’.
It is interesting to see how many older women have fallen into this trap – Joanna Lumley, Emily Yoffe (a.k.a Slate’s Dear Prudence) and Heather Keating, the head of Hastings police department – taken to task by Laurie Penny, for making the mistake of expressing what was once a basic truism, only to have the internet jump down their throats and angry columns written in vituperation, as though these women (hardly misogynists by any stretch of the imagination) were doing women a disservice?
Well, here’s my angry column.
With respect, ladies, I suggest that it is you who put women in danger by suggesting that the world is a safe, wonderful place where everyone can run around doing whatever they like, at any time they like, in any state they like, because to say otherwise is to victim-blame, slut-shame or whatever term du jour that is being bandied about.
Until civilisation as we know it is overthrown and replaced with a totalitarian state that can guarantee our collective safety (by brutally repressing our freedoms, one imagines), then the murder, rape, and violence we see reported in the papers each day will continue to exist. And so, by virtue of this, we are condemned to exercising a degree of caution in our everyday activities and relationships.
At this point, a certain type of feminist might accuse me of engaging in a conspiracy to silence women, to keep them quiet and nervous, fearful of the world and its attendant dangers. Hell, no! I wish that on no one and laugh at anyone who misguidedly expected it of me or others. I love to go out, stay up late and drink – the question is whether a woman who gets totally drunk so she can’t take care of herself isn’t at a greater risk than one who avoids this level of inebriation.
It is our privilege to have been born in at this time and place, ready to enjoy the fruits of the hard-won freedoms previous generations of feminists fought for and won for us: the right to stay out as late as we like, to take complete responsibility for our sex lives and our professional lives, to step off the pedestal erected for us by a society that thought we were too gentle and delicate to experience life and all its attendant risks.
But with every explosion of rage at anyone who suggests that women have a part to play in their own safety; with every suggestion that women are incapable of clearly enunciating the word ‘no’ and being in complete control of their sexual relationships, I feel that women, as a whole, being pushed closer and closer to that pedestal – the one that suggested that we aren’t capable of handling the push and pull of seduction, the one that suggest we aren’t robust enough to enter an unfamiliar situation, judge it and express what we want or don’t want (and not via the medium of cutesy undies).
It astonishes me that a police officer, on the business end of a fair few sexual assault cases during her career, might be attacked for suggesting that women should be careful of their alcohol intake, because hey, guess what, being blind drunk will put you at greater risk of dangerous situations. That’s not ‘victim-blaming’ or ‘slut-shaming’ – that’s excellent advice. It shows a lot more concern for the welfare of women than suggesting there are no dangers to be wary of and mitigate.
Somehow, the argument has been twisted so that if anyone states this fundamental truth, they are then accused of ‘giving cover to rapists’. How exactly? I condemn the revolting little toad who takes advantage of a drunk girl and wish the full weight of the law on him. I simply hope that the girl in question sees him coming and is careful to limit the risk of anything bad happening to her.
What is astonishing is to see anyone condemned for expressing that simple concern.