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Victim Shaming 101

'Be a sport': too many Maltese still consider sexual harassment to be a normal part of everyday life. Photo: Shutterstock

'Be a sport': too many Maltese still consider sexual harassment to be a normal part of everyday life. Photo: Shutterstock

The Salott on Facebook – it has a lot to answer for. Free speech is all very well and good, but it does prompt all the ugly lice to crawl out of the woodwork.  One particular post managed to combine a heavy dose of misogyny, prejudice and cyber-bulling all in one unpalatable sandwich.

Some woman unwisely decided to publicly air her grievances at the way men figure that it’s fine to harass her verbally while waiting for the bus.

The post that generated all the ire. Photo: FacebookThe post that generated all the ire. Photo: Facebook

We’ve all been there: it starts out with a genuine pretext that many of us are naive enough to fall for and then develops into something nasty. Most of us don’t bother making a song and dance about it, because...well, because it’s pretty useless and it’s also embarrassing. Though why I should feel embarrassment on behalf of some random man’s rudeness remains a mystery to me.

This woman, however clearly was annoyed enough to throw a post on The Salott. Very unwise, of course. The interwebz never forgives. In under half an hour, her post was inundated with crap comments along the lines of:

"Sorry to say but if you wear the type of clothes that you are wearing in your profile pic and other pics you have in fb and the positions you are portraying do you actually blame the guys for trying to get on with you? What's the matter with you, maybe if you had a good look at yourself the way you portray yourself you will know what I mean! After all men are made of flesh and blood like everyone else so of course they are gonna try and chat you up!"

A score of other comments went along the same lines. Which basically means that most people’s first reaction at a complaint of sexual harassment is to go and check out the victim’s profile. Creepy, or what?

Even creepier is the clear belief of the majority of those commenting that that if you dare wear skimpy clothes you are asking for it. Because, you know, “men are made of flesh and blood”, so we can’t really expect them to keep it in their pants when faced with blatant sex appeal.

Well, I’m sorry. I’m made of flesh and blood too and when I’m faced with a case of The Stupids I instantly get the urge to slap the person attached to it. This happens to me at least a dozen times a day. Yet, the amount of slaps I’ve handed out so far are, precisely, zilch.

Why? Possibly because I like to abide by the rules of ‘civilisation’.

The creep factor increases exponentially upon realising that most of those doing the bullying are actually women. That’s right. A girl is being slut-shamed by a posse of women who clearly allowed the entire feminist movement to pass them by and who prefer to make excuses for potential rapists and molesters. Nice one, sisters, you’re an awesome addition to our gender.

Then, of course, there are the men coming up with gems such as: “Billi tkompli magħhom mhux ser taqa’ d-dinja sinjorina.” Which roughly translates to: “it won’t kill you to be a sport and take it”.

Which roughly translates to: “Well, you’re a woman, it’s your job to suck it up for men’s amusement and what the hell are you complaining about, anyway?”

Sir, I only have one thing to say to you. How. Effing. Dare. You. 

Why don’t you take a hike back to the cave you clearly escaped from and learn some manners before attempting to pick up some hapless female?

It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that this post has a tone that’s a tad…angrier… than usual. This post on The Salott comes right after I overheard a woman in Valletta, this morning, proclaiming to passers-by that getting a humiliating dressing-down from her partner in public was fine, because his “bark was worse than his bite” – or something to that effect.

And yet, we continue to wonder at the number of domestic abuse cases, and murdered women, that plague such a small island. Given that many members of both genders seem to be okay with the idea that women are chattel, is it really surprising that some men figure out it’s ok to act on that idea?

Victim-shaming needs to stop. A woman should have the right to walk out of her home wearing nothing but her birthday suit while risking nothing worse than the law catching up with her. It’s no-one’s business how we choose to dress, how much flesh to show, how many poses to strike.

The sooner everyone accepts that, the easier it will be to co-exist.

PS – I can’t finish off without pointing out that the reference to the molesters being foreign was totally uncalled for. I’ve encountered a gazillion pigs who were Maltese born and bred in my lifetime and who didn’t necessarily stop at verbal harassment. 

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