Dear Mary Pat,
Last weekend, I went to a winery with a girlfriend to pick up some things. We are both pretty reserved and kept to ourselves, so when we walked past a group of women from a bachelorette party and one of them looked over, glared at us and called us sluts, neither of us knew how to react and just kept walking. For the record, and not that this matters because no woman should ever have to deal with that, we were wearing pants and long-sleeved shirts, nothing revealing at all. She may have been buzzed from wine tasting but I’m not sure if something like this warrants a response or if that feeds the perpetrator. Just reminds me of when my dad helped my younger sister move into college. It was 90 degrees outside, my sister was wearing a tank top, and some girl walked past her and yelled, “Someone wants to get raped,” in front of my dad. That was the first introduction my sister had to the college environment.
Let’s Lift Each Other Up
Dear Let’s Lift Each Other Up,
I find both stories disturbing.
With the women in the winery, I would suspect alcohol was the issue. This is never an acceptable excuse nor does it justify it. I’m sure nowadays, “slut” seems tame compared to some words that are used, but it’s really offensive and shouldn’t be used by anyone. Who knows what caused that woman to shout this out? I think you were wise to just keep walking. Even if you stayed calm and tried to enlighten her, she was drinking and she wasn’t going to really hear what you said.
The woman outside your sister’s college is actually more frightening. In the first place, alcohol wasn’t a factor. (Again, not that it excuses any behavior.) More importantly, tank tops aren’t the cause of rape, rapists are. It is extremely important that neither women nor men buy into the myth that clothing has anything to do with being attacked. This is a very sensitive and complicated issue and can’t all be addressed in this column, however, I hope anyone reading this stops and thinks about how powerful words can be. Sometimes what we say can do real damage. And of course if someone is actually attacked, the damage is very great indeed. A couple of months ago, my book club read Missoula: Rape and The Justice System in a College Town. It was really hard to read and even more difficult to accept the permissive attitude of violence by way too many people. I recommend this book for everyone, but especially for young women who will be heading off to college.
I hope that your sister had other, more positive introductions to college life after meeting this uninformed woman.
We celebrate mothers this weekend for Mother’s Day, which is wonderful. Our moms are everything to us and they really deserve a day (a month) of being pampered. Let’s also celebrate each other during the rest of the year and as our reader suggests lift each other up.