Essay: “Are women strong enough to take care of themselves, or are they not strong enough to take care of themselves?”

Social media has seethed with anger over Stacey Dash’s comment on Fox’s Outnumbered that female rape victims on college campuses are simply “naughty women” who should have just stayed at home and out of trouble. But not a lot (if anything) has been said about Andrea Tantaros’ comments following Dash, which I find to be a much more problematic elaboration of the same idea. A clip of Tantaro’s position is below:

Note the emphasis that Tantaros places on women’s responsibility. As if the first thing on our minds – when we get invited to that party or when we have a little too much to drink – is that we will become the victim of sexual assault. As if we can ever even fathom that the person we were talking to a minute ago, the one who was so nice and sweet, would wait for us to be lit enough to direct us to a room and take liberty with our bodies. “No… I’m not going to have any, I’m good.” I want to be fully sober when I force myself onto you.

There is a book by Luce Irigaray that anyone who is interested in patriarchy – whether to refute its existence or to acknowledge its problems – should read. In This Sex Which is Not One Irigaray discusses the phallic society in which we live and compares it to the erogenous zones of the female body. She argues that women cannot gain sexual freedom in our world economy, because the very way in which “seeing” is structured is by phallic desire. Scopic in nature, this pleasure is aroused when bodies dance before our eyes, and when the nakedness arouses that arousal is male. Irigaray concludes a chapter by the same name of the book by stating that the only liberation for women would be to flee from patriarchal society and form their own tribes. Even if they succeed, however, we might still speculate whether they have truly been liberated, as the long history of patriarchy may have so informed their perspectives on pleasure that they cannot possibly unlearn what has been learnt.

Back to Tantaros’ comments on women being “babies” if they cannot “handle their liquor” and take care of ourselves. Where, exactly, is our “place” in the economy of our society? If we exist in the scopic “seeing” of the dominant simply for the purpose of their phallic pleasure, is this not something that must be learnt? Sometimes, this “learning” happens through the violence of experience – rape, that is.

T. M. G.