Sunday, April 4, 2010

Learn From This Fail

Last night I came across a new (to me) website, Learn From My Fail. It's similar to fmylife, in that people can submit less-than-perfect moments from their life to be read on the internet. Going through some of the posts on LFMF, I found this by a user by the name of "feeling violated":

This is upsetting because it tells of an experience of violation that no person should have to deal with, and illustrates the troubling fact that there are still many people in this world who do not view women as anything more than public property.

What's worse is the tone of victim blaming.

The website is called Learn From MY Fail, which indicates that because this woman posted her experience, she is blaming herself for the uninvited actions of the "frat boys" at the party she attended. This is classic victim blaming: If only she hadn't worn that shirt, those boys wouldn't have been provoked into touching her in a way that she clearly wasn't comfortable with. It just makes me sad that she has bought into the idea that their behavior was somehow a failure on her part.


Miles Grimes said...

After reading this post, I do agree with the sadness of the situation and the frustration with a society in which these acts are commonplace, even encouraged.

However, I disagree that this is classic victim blaming. While I'm sure there is some of that mentality there (because really, who at some point has not undergone or committed victim blaming?), I feel that this is more of a warning-- hence the post on a website like "Learn From This Fail". What this reminds me of is less a rape (or other crime) victim blaming themselves for enticing their attacker, than a victim of a mugging warning others "Do not walk down the alley of [whatever road] at night. The gangs there see a single victim, and they pounce all at once."
I don't know. This type of behavior by males, though, is widespread and unacceptable. It is continued and celebrated in popular culture-- the man who doesn't take no for an answer, who is the definition of persistence, the worldbeater. This attitude is extended to the social realms, especially dating and intimacy, and a woman's "No" loses some of it's power, becoming --as in this case-- a challenge to be overcome, not an insurmountable barrier. In his book "The Gift of Fear", Gavin de Becker specifically mentions this phenomenon as one of the worst problems facing women, especially in America. By the way, if the Female Impersonators have a recommended reading list, I would highly advise that book is added. Anyway, I look forward to further comments and discussion, thanks!

Amelia said...


First of all, I would say that no, the instance described in this particular post on that website is not equatable to rape. That is another topic all together.

Second, I think you misunderstand the concept of victim blaming. This is classic victim blaming due to the fact that the responsibility for incuring the inappropriate/unwelcome touching as well as preventing it is placed on the victim (by hirself).

The idea of "warning others" does apply here, but even then framing this situation in that manner is still victim blaming.

Warning others to not act/dress/present themselves a certain way to avoid being attacked/harassed is putting that responsibility on the shoulders of the potential victim, and not where it belongs (on potential attackers who should know better than to violate people's right to bodily integrity).

This point is reinforced by this passage's appearance on a site called Learn From My Fail. "Feeling violated" is not responsible for the actions of those who inappropriately touched hir. That responsibilty belongs to the perpetrators - it is not the victim's responsibility to modify their behavior when it is others people who are doing wrong.

Miles Grimes said...

Point taken. But I would say, rather than " is not the victim's responsibility to modify their behavior when it is others who are doing wrong.", it is a case of " should not be the victim's responsibility to modify their behavior when it is others who are doing wrong."

This is not intended to waive blame for the offending party, by any means. No one SHOULD have to modify their behavior... in a perfect world. But this world doesn't work like that. It's imperfect, amoral, and unfair. So until we can fix the problems that plague us, those that cannot adequately defend themselves (one of which "feeling violated" seems to be, although I could be getting the wrong impression) have a responsibility to themselves to do what they can to avoid harm. If this includes behavior modification, then that is the price for safety and assurance of mind.

Obviously, this is not universally applicable, and it should be avoided when possible, but there are many situations in which it is just a better idea not to place yourself in harm's way.

Amelia said...


I understand where you are coming from because I see this attitude so often I feel like I should be inviting it over for tea and cookies so we can have a face-to-face chat.

Anyway, you said: No one SHOULD have to modify their behavior... in a perfect world. But this world doesn't work like that. It's imperfect, amoral, and unfair. So until we can fix the problems that plague us...

I give you the fact that the world we live in is not perfect. Of course it's not! But I also beg you to consider how we can possibly fix some threats that plague humankind (sexual assault, sexual harassment, etc.) if we focus on those who are suffering.

Victims (and their actions) are not the ones fostering the kind of mentality that promotes these kinds of problems.

Perpetrators of these crimes learn to think of them as acceptable long before they see a person wearing a "U Can't Touch This" shirt. So relying on potential victims to change their behavior will not solve any of the underlying problems we see here.

Yes, modifying behavior can help individuals in specific instances, but it will not change anything in the long run. That change, the one that may help produce a more perfect world, needs to focus on those who are potential perpetrators, their attitudes, and their actions (and where these all come from).

That is the difference between victim blaming and real activism - acknowledging that distinction. Merely recognizing that the world isn't perfect and saying that potential victims should modify their behavior blames victims because it does nothing to acknowledge where the real problem lies (and a hint: it's not with victims).