Guilt is a Multi-Layered Thing
This post was triggered by twitter and a comment made by @CratesNRibbons that male celebrities that abuse women are forgiven but female celebrities that have addictions or that put on weight are hated I replied with ‘Yes, but you've missed out that the women that are abused are pitied then hated again because it was their fault really. :/’ We agreed that this was classic victim blaming. But why does victim blaming take place and why do women seem to accept and apply the label of ‘victim’ so readily? Is it that the vulnerability of a victim is actually attractive to that type of male that sees himself as the Knight in shining white armour, or is it attractive to the control freak and/or abuser? What motive is there to victim blame and what motive to drown women in a sea of guilt.
Guilt and victim blaming are unequivocally entwined but which came first? What came first I believe is that ‘guilt’ has been firmly placed at the door of the ‘female’ of our species. This guilt is aimed at the thing essential to the very existence of human beings and that is our biology i.e. motherhood and that is seen by some to be the main basis of our innate so-called femininity. Women are generally seen as potential or actual mothers and this apparently encompasses all the qualities that patriarchy have declared as weaknesses for example loving, caring, nurturing etc. Please understand I believe that these are qualities that ALL humans share and they are strengths not weaknesses. However it is our strengths portrayed as weaknesses that are used to initiate guilt.
Hollyoaks is a popular trashy teen soap there is a single Mum called Sinead, her story line is the perfect example of how guilt and victim blaming occurs. To summarise Sinead is very desperate not to claim benefits as a single mother and appear like a scrounger (her words), so this is one layer of guilt firmly in place and accepted by the character. She instead of claiming benefits turns to posing as a prostitute to rob men, because obviously this is better than claiming income support because at least she is hard working, eventually she sells sex to the one client that she fails to rob, the viewers are clearly shown how guilty she feels about this, she can’t sink much lower is the message being sent (how many layers is that now?). Of course as this is a Soap Opera, during this encounter her baby who she has left with her teenager brother becomes ill and ends up in hospital. Inevitably Sinead turns up just in time to get in the ambulance to be berated for leaving her baby alone (the baby sitter was old enough imo but is a boy). To sum up, her baby had meningitis (she survives btw) and somehow this is her fault for not being with her baby 24/7, apparently this is why her child caught meningitis! (Mothers act as physical barriers to all bacteria and viruses batting them away with their Motherhood certificates). Please note the 100% absent father is not blamed in anyway (and yeah I know he’s dead, but he wouldn’t be blamed if he were alive either). But not only is the mother criticised for not being with her baby 24/7 she is criticised for not providing for her financially as well. This might be a Soap Opera but this view of single parenthood exists and this programme reinforces this view point to everyone who watches it. No matter what Sinead does or for that fact any other mother forced to choose or just wanting to make a balanced choice between work and motherhood is to layer more guilt upon women. We are informed constantly that anything we do is either not good enough or if it is good horrible consequences will occur somewhere else in our lives and it WILL BE OUR FAULT.
You might think what has this to do with the original tweet but it is how women are prepared, and programmed for want of a better word to let men off the hook and to shoulder the blame themselves. Girls/Women have to be perfect but boys/men will be boys/men is the message sent in schools in TV and films and in every media form you can imagine. Yes before you argue with me I know that men too can be victim blamed but look at the form it takes. In Hollyoaks for example it is generally the gay men that are chosen to be victims (apparently gay is still equated with feminine therefore weakness), when the heterosexual men are involved in violence it is either towards the helpless female victims or some sort of masculine stag fight where they become best buds afterwards. This does not reflect the real world but is the lie that is sold to us Every day.
Celebrity men are let off the hook every day for violence and for abuse against themselves as well as to others because it’s just what men do! Men are naturally violent and aggressive, naturally sexual predators, naturally dominant, naturally emotionally and physically strong and women as their opposites or as their complimentary companions as some would suggest are left with, weak, submissive and sexually impotent. But of course this doesn’t reflect the real world. Women are a mixture of all these traits just like men are but what victim blaming does is, is to put us in our place. ‘You think you can wear what you want? You think you can go out unaccompanied? You think you have the right to say no to a man?’ But not just that, if you are over-weight you are not making yourself attractive to men so that is wrong also! As well as this If you take drugs or do anything as a woman that does not directly relate to being attractive to a man or being a good/potential mother more layers of guilt are attached to your portfolio entitled ‘Damned if you do...’
The horrible truth is that we have all been guilty at some point in our lives to victim blaming, slut shaming and letting abusers off the hook especially men, because let’s be honest victims full of guilt and remorse are easier to manipulate and control. Guilty people often try harder to please others. Victims of crime and mothers who embrace the role of carer in a huge variety of ways remove the burden of caring from others. Generations of women who unwittingly accept the burden of guilt have made life easier for generations of men. Essentially however, whether female or male we are all the losers when it comes to victim blaming and the burden of guilt.