• TGLM

RESPECTABILITY POLITICS


Somali Nomad Woman of the 1920's

I don't pander to respectability politics of any kind because they excuse the oppressor.  


I especially don’t care for those directed towards sexual assault victims as they consider the accidental, and minimize the purposefulness of the perpetrator.


They say "perhaps if she hadn't been wearing that" or "if she was more like that other woman who does so and so, this tragedy could have been avoided”.


The offender is humanized in a way that is unfair to the oppressed; in a way that ultimately blames the oppressed.


Because the truth is that it didn't matter what she was wearing, or that she got drunk- the truth is power- the oppressor was in a position of power and decided not to pass up the opportunity to use said power.


The truth is that a woman who dresses "scandalously" doesn't lack self respect- I mean who are you to even dictate what someone else's SELF respect is?


The truth is that one gender is socialized to believe that their desires matter- that regardless of consent, they can take whatever it is they want. 


And the most awful truth of all is that you enable this.


You-yes, you, enable it when you tell her that she should be more "modest" so that society will respect her.


When you create consequences over her desire to take complete ownership of her body.


When you insist that she be conservative, lest risk disrespect- when what you really mean is punishment-, you enable it.


You enable it when you ask questions about her dressing and somehow create parallels between it-her dressing- and her character.


You enable it when you suggest that if only she had been more careful, if only she didn't "put herself in that position", someone wouldn't have taken advantage of her.


You are foolish.

You are foolish to have ever assumed that it was any of these things.

You are foolish for "warning" her, and not reprimanding him.

You are foolish for empathizing with him; for digging up a humanity that is useless.

You are foolish for ever assuming that he cared- that the reason why he ignored her wishes was because of what she wore, or where she was.

You are foolish for not realizing that he did what he did simply because he could.

Simply because you make excuses for him- you tell him that it was her fault that she was punished; and that she was deserving of punishment.


You tell him that she should have somehow known that he was a predator.

It's almost funny- you dehumanize him this way by telling her to assume that he, and all of his kind are evil.


Yet in your desperation to defend his actions (your actions- past/present, or desires/capabilities) you attempt to humanize him in asking her to take "some" of the blame.


You silence her when she speaks about her experiences- it causes you discomfort.


You tell him that he was her consequence.

You create "what ifs", and ignore "what is".

What if she had been more careful?

What if she didn't go to his place?


Well, what if you told him that she wasn't for his taking?


What if you told him that the moment she withdrew her consent, he was at fault?

What if you castigated him and questioned him as much as you do her?


You wouldn't do that.


And no, not just because you're foolish but because you're afraid.


What if one day she realizes that her body is hers and hers alone?

What if one day, she realized that she didn't owe you her likeness, and or modesty?

What if she dared to actually think of herself first?

What if she stopped being an object, and actually had agency?

What if the ridiculous standards you've put in place to suppress her are shattered?

Worst of all, what if she, in all her being, realizes that she's human?


..Fuck Yo' Politics.


Words by Temitope Ogunniran

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