My faux husband and children. Aren’t they adorbs?
In Ghana, I was married. My star-shaped wedding ring was purchased on La Rambla in Barcelona for two euro. In my wallet, I carried a photo of my husband reading our girls a book.
For those who know me, this may perplex you. I don’t, in fact, have a husband or kids.
But in Ghana, I felt that I needed to lie to get by. The reasons for this seem practical : to deflect attention from unwanted suitors, I wore a ring to deter persistent suitors. The fake ring trick is a old standby in travelers circles, but it always made me feel dishonest.
Travellers are often presented with these safe traveling tips. But a recent list in the Toronto Star makes an interesting addendum to the list:
Tight fitting clothes are always an invitation—any woman in form fitting clothes will attract attention both good and bad. Especially if you are traveling solo it is the negative that you should be guarding against. It’s not worth gambling with your safety for the sake of a wolf-whistle.
Suggesting that harassment will stop if you change your clothes shows a poor understanding of underlying problems of sexism.
I was constantly sexually harassed in my day-to-day life in Tamale. I was subject to come-ons, awkward comments and unconsensual touching. I was grabbed in the street by midday. I was harrassed for wearing a knee-length skirt; my assailants complaining of my “ugly legs”.
The street harassment didn’t vary according to my outfit or my demeanor; it was constant. And to suggest that men will only harass women because of their clothing, is frankly stupid. A misogynist is a misogynist regardless and is only looking for any target.
Unlike the assertions of the writer, my clothing should never be considered “an invitation”. I am a person and not an open offer.
Frustrated by the Toronto Star’s advice, I consulted a real authority: the Canadian department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade/
From their “Her Own Way” pamphlet:
Preventing Sexual Assault
There’s potential for sexual assault anywhere in the world. Taking precautions is your best defence against becoming a victim.
According to the bureaucrats of DFAIT, the onus is on women to prevent sexual assault. Like the advice from the Star, this shows a misunderstanding of core problem. If someone is determined to sexually assault a woman, they will find a way. No amount of precautions will help her.
Using this language in widely distributed government pamphlets is harmful to female survivors of sexual violence. Why would anyone come forward after an assault if governing bodies make it clear: “you need to precautions to protect yourself, if not, too bad for you”.
As we saw with the SlutWalk movement, advising women to dress a certain way or to take precautions doesn’t stop sexualized violence. Toronto Star and DFAIT you should know better; stop with the victim-blaming “advice”.