Last night I watched Brian Williams on the NBC Nightly News, where many Americans turned to get information about the massacre in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theatre.
At one point, Williams asked another journalist, “I don’t want to judge…but a lot of parents woke up today…asking ‘What were young kids doing at that movie, at that hour, in that theatre?'” The answer was innocuous, but the question stuck with me. It sounded vaguely familiar.
Ah, yes. When a man rapes a woman, often someone will ask, “What was she wearing?” The implication is that a woman could be wearing clothes that provoke a man to sexually assault her. He simply can’t be expected to control himself in such a case. And so the victim is to blame, not the perpetrator.
I like Brian Williams, and I watch his network news show to get coverage of current events that really does attempt to be “fair and balanced,” as a complement to watching various cable news commentary, all of which is opinion and analysis, not news coverage. I’m pointing out this instance of victim-blaming to draw attention to the resistance we all have to confronting deeply disturbing truths about our American society.
It’s easier to imagine that a woman can protect herself from a man raping her by taking care to dress in ways that are not “provocative” (whatever that might be), than to admit that in an average year perpetrators commit 207,754 acts of rape and other sexual assaults. Common estimates are that 99 percent of the perpetrators are men, and 91 percent of the victims are women, but let’s be generous here and say men constitute only 95 percent of sexual assault perpetrators. Still, in America that leaves us with 197,366 men who have committed at least one rape or other sexual assault against 186,978 women per year.
If only women would learn how to dress properly!
What I’m saying here is that it’s easier to blame the victim than to hold the perpetrators accountable for their behavior, or to confront society’s nonchalant acceptance of many thousands of men raping many thousands of women all the time (once every 2 minutes, in the US, same citation as above).
In the case of the Aurora massacre, it’s easier to imagine prohibiting midnight premieres of popular films—something, by the way, that has become a cultural phenomenon in recent years and represents a rare community experience people want to participate in—and to chastise (but not judge!) parents for taking young children to the movies at late hours, than it is to address weak gun laws that are not enforced.
[Not that this is relevant, but do many young parents have enough money to afford both movie tickets and babysitters these days? If they were able to do that, don’t you think they would?]
So the question is not “What were young kids doing at that movie at that hour in that theatre?” but “What were assault weapons and 6000 rounds of ammo doing in the hands of a deranged young white man, again?” Sadly, we are also on the brink of becoming nonchalant about annual massacres by young white men.
Kids, and anyone, should be able to go to the movies at any time without getting shot. You think?