This is our truth, tell us yours
Content note for mention of rape and victim blaming
Chrissie Hynde is in the news after saying some pretty terrible things about victims of rape. It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to see how she goes from blaming herself (a pretty common reaction) to blaming all rape victims. It is a tempting path to go down, if only I hadn’t been drunk, or stoned, or out late, or in the wrong neighbourhood, I wouldn’t have been raped. It allows people to cling to the belief that there was something they could have done, in many ways it’s a defence mechanism.
When I wrote this piece, as a cowardly way of letting 2 people who I care about know I had been raped, I was still in shock. Over the next couple of months one of my major problems was accepting I did the right thing in not fighting. Whilst rationally I knew I had done the right thing, emotionally I berated myself with a million what ifs and why didn’t I’s.
So, I can have some sympathy for Hynde blaming herself. What I have no sympathy for is her blaming of other victims, her insistence that there is somehow a magic formula that means you will not get raped, rather than asking, no demanding, that men not rape. And it is an appeal to magic, because short of not being born a woman, you risk rape simply by existing. Whatever you wear, do, say, drink, eat, you run the risk of being raped, sometimes simply because of something your brother has done.
“If I’m walking around and I’m very modestly dressed and I’m keeping to myself and someone attacks me, then I’d say that’s his fault. But if I’m being very lairy and putting it about and being provocative, then you are enticing someone who’s already unhinged – don’t do that. Come on! That’s just common sense. You know, if you don’t want to entice a rapist, don’t wear high heels so you can’t run from him
Rather like Caitlin Moran, another woman who blames heels for rape, not rapists, Hynde seems to think clothes are some kind of invulnerable armour. The fact neither of them dress modestly according to many cultures doesn’t seem to occur to them. There is no rape prevention outfit, because, amazingly clothes are not responsible for rape, rapists are.
However there is an element of surprise at people’s surprise here. Chrissie Hynde is 63, instead of rock star has problematic old-fashioned opinions would we be surprised if the headlines read “My nana says stuff we all wish she didn’t and it’s really annoying”. The baby boomers have ensured their youthful idols are. for some unknown reason, rarely to do with musical ability, still famous. Age does not of course mean someone is inherently bigoted or not worth listening too, but nor does it confer wisdom. Hynde is, as we all are, a product of her era. She is only in the news because a while ago she made some decent music. So did Beethoven, but I am not about to organise a séance to ask him his views on rape.
We need to treat old dinosaurs like hynde the way we would my nan, ignore their more offensive remarks, apologise if she causes actual offence, and generally close our ears. Simply because someone says something doesn’t mean we have to listen.