Monday, April 13, 2009

You keep using that word...

I want to talk about responsibility. I want to talk about who gets held "responsible" and who does not.

Its a word that one hears a lot. I tend to hear it in discussions about abortion, rape, transphobia, homophobia, violence against women, racism, poverty and any intersection of the preceding list.

Do any of these arguments sound familiar?

"Well, I'm against abortion because it lets slutty women get away with not taking responsibility for getting themselves pregnant!" (Because women bud, like yeast, and get pregnant all by themselves without any help from anyone or anything!)

"It sucks for hir that zie got raped, but its irresponsible to wear short skirts/drink alcohol around people/go outside at night/smile at men/be so pretty/have tits/exist! What did zie expect?" (Again, like the example above, rape survivors totes rape themselves for funsies!!)

"Well, murder is bad, but when you lie about what you really are, and then someone attacks you for it, you share some responsibility." (Because a rational response to discovering that someone you are with is trans* is bashing their head in with a fire extinguisher.)

"Maybe you queers wouldn't be so threatened if you didn't hit on straight people/hold hands in public/exist. There are consequences when you decide to be/act gay, why is it our responsibility to treat you special?" (Because making someone uncomfortable with questioning their sexual desire simply by existing means you are trying to be "special" if you want access to full rights.)

"What did she do to make him hit her/rape her/kill her/their kids/random innocent bystanders?" (Because, once again, potentially fatal violence is a totally acceptable response to being annoyed, insulted or having your masculinity threatened, provided you have a penis and you only use it to fuck cis-women and provided that the source of your annoyance/insult is a woman and/or a member of any oppressed group.)

"Why do you have to blame the white man for all your problems? Isn't slavery over?" (Didn't you hear? We are post-racial now! Trufax!)

"If being poor is so horrible, why can't they just get a job? Why do I have to pay for them to have food/somewhere to live if they won't?" (The recent corollary being "Yeah, there were predatory lending practices, and the system was set up in such a way as to profit now and not worry about later, but those stupid poor people still are responsible for taking out loans they can't afford!")

See anything in common in any of those examples?

Why is it that the people with the least social value and power are expected to be the scapegoats for the behavior of those who the system is set up to serve?

We are not responsible for your actions. It is not up to us to prevent you from hurting us, restricting our choices, killing us, and generally treating us like less than human beings.

It is YOUR responsibility to not rape, abuse, restrict and murder us. Start exercising that responsibility before your rights to it are taken away.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks Dori. Found you from Shakesville. Good post. It seems like the word, "responsibility" doesn't mean anything anymore - unless it's used as an excuse.

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  2. Best Blog Post I've read today.

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  3. Thanks for the feedback guys!

    Yeah, every time my mother-in-law uses the word "responsibility" I cringe just a little. She really doesn't see the double standard and false parity she is creating.

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  4. Hi, Dori.

    I also found this post via Shakesville, and think it is excellent.

    This in particular:

    Why is it that the people with the least social value and power are expected to be the scapegoats for the behavior of those who the system is set up to serve?

    Wonderful. So far-reaching, yet so easy to understand.

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  5. This is a fantastic post, and a great riposte to headsplittingly annoying conversations.

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  6. WICKEDSAUCE.

    Awesomely written. <3

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  7. Love this post, Dori.

    I just recently had the most infuriating conversation with co-workers at the bar where I work. A few weeks ago, another colleague of ours had left work very drunk, passed out in the taxi & woke up with the cab driver climbing on top of her. The idiot bartenders who were telling me the story went on and on about how she was "partly responsible" & couldn't understand why I was so horrified by their viewpoints. After an hour of seemingly yelling into the abyss, they still didn't get it, and I was so angry I just started sputtering, "That's egregiously offensive!" over and over again like a broken record player.

    The worst part was that they kept behaving as if, by refusing to blame victims of violence and prejudice for their circumstances, I were being naive about what a dangerous world it is out there." Well, fucking duh. That doesn't make this:

    We are not responsible for your actions. It is not up to us to prevent you from hurting us, restricting our choices, killing us, and generally treating us like [less than] human beings.any less true.

    If only I'd had this post folded up in my pocket for emergencies like that. Next time I won't be caught so unprepared. Thanks for summing it up so forcefully & clearly.

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  8. Jottie, I have had that same argument with most of the people in my life. Saying it this way doesn't actually convince people who are dead set on blaming anyone but the person who made the conscious decision to treat someone like shit, but it does serve as a good shock to those who never thought to think about it (and redundant statement is superfluous. :D)

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