When news like this comes out, I lose the little hope I had for humanity (womanity in particular). The results of a British Home Office survey of people’s attitudes towards violence against women are disturbing. The survey was conducted in England and Wales.
Between ten and 20 percent of respondents think it is acceptable, in at least some circumstances, for a man to use violence against his wife or girlfriend in response to “nagging,” flirting with other men, wearing sexy or revealing clothes in public, and not “treating him with respect” (whatever the hell that means). The full report can be found here; it includes some handy dandy charts.
What’s surprising is that a higher percentage of people think it’s acceptable to use violence against a woman if her clothing is revealing than if she’s cheated. According to the poll, respondents consider wearing sexy clothes in public the biggest transgression of them all. The poll found that those aged 25-39 were most likely to think there are circumstances in which it’s acceptable for a man to use violence against his female partner. I often hear people claim that chauvinism will decline as people in the older generation die out. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be an sound prediction.
Attitudes towards sexual assault are even more depressing. The survey asked people whether women should be held fully responsible, partially responsible, or not responsible at all in several sexual violence scenarios. It’s unsurprising – though appalling – that 17 percent hold prostitutes responsible if they are raped. 49 percent believe women who have not clearly said “no” are at least partially responsible if they are raped. In other words, they consider sexual availability and willingness women’s default. People over age 65 and those in lower social class groups are most likely to hold women at least partly responsible for being raped or sexually assaulted.
I just don’t know what to do. Legislation and stricter law enforcement are important, but people’s attitudes have to change in order for social progress to occur. And people – men and women both – are victim-blamers: Violence against women is sometimes warranted – and we’re not talking self-defense here. Sexual assault and rape are just the natural consequences of walking alone at night and flirting heavily; she brought it on herself.
Feminism is still necessary. But are we even making any headway?