Trigger warning: this post quotes some pretty strong rape apologism
Once upon a time, we could pretend that despite the fact she’s rubbish on literally everything else, Caitlin Moran was at least on the side of (some) women. Can you hear the record scratch coming? Well, it turns out that she isn’t. In an interview with a blogger, Moran made some utterly terrible comments about rape. In an interview, she said:
Yes. It’s on that basis that I don’t wear high heels – other than I can’t walk in them – because when I’m lying in bed at night with my husband, I know there’s a woman coming who I could rape and murder, because I can hear her coming up the street in high heels, clack-clack -clack. And I can hear she’s on her own, I can hear what speed she’s coming at, I could plan where to stand to grab her or an ambush. And every time I hear her I think, “Fuck, you’re just alerting every fucking nutter to where you are now. And [that it’s a concern] that’s not right.
Society should be different. But while we’re waiting for society to change, there’s just certain things you have to do. But again the thing is, so many things you could do instead are predicated on having money. She could come out of a nightclub and get into a taxi, that would be the right thing to do.
No billionaire heiresses are ever abducted and raped and murdered, because they are just being put into a taxi or have their driver waiting around a corner for them. Again, it’s not just a feminist thing, it’s a class thing. It’s a money thing. It’s a problem of capitalist society. That’s why I think often feminism links to Marxism and socialism, I don’t just want to help one bunch of people, I want to help everyone.
Far from being the sort of comment from someone whose general feminism-lite attitude can at least be viewed as some sort of primer to feminism for the privileged, these remarks are a simple rehashing of that tired old rape myth: that what a woman wears can get her rape.
According to Moran, high heels function as some sort of rapist cowbell, advertising that there is a lone woman wandering abroad, ripe for the picking. I’ve never lain awake listening to the sound of heels and thinking about how easily I could rape that person, and I’m pretty sure vast swathes of the population share this nocturnal activity because we don’t believe the problem is what a woman wears.
Perhaps Caitlin Moran has been listening to some of the criticism levelled at her, though, by her attempt at a dimly intersectional analysis, over which the wail of a sad trombone sounds. Rape culture, unfortunately, will not be solved by Moran’s clever manifesto of All Women Shall Have Taxis. What if the taxi driver is a rapist? It’s not unheard of: recall, for example, the Black Cab Rapist who earned his moniker after raping women who had got into his taxi.
Moran’s comments ultimately do not resemble a feminist talking about rape at all. It’s the same old tired societal tripe, blaming the victim of rape. All Caitlin Moran has done is reheat it and feign concern for these women without offering any solutions other than “so be careful out there, or you’ll get yourselves raped.” This is not what needs to happen, and it is not what the young women new to feminism–Moran’s apparent target demographic–need to hear.
The problem is, of course, that society isn’t doing anything to change these beliefs which allow rape to happen. Rather than attack this, Moran contributes to it, repeating these beliefs and adding an air of legitimacy to them through the means of her status as a feminist role model. This is a dangerous path, and one which will ultimately prove to be an obstacle in the journey towards genuine social change.
I cannot believe that, as the year 2012 draws to a close, we are still having to fight on this front. I would have thought–almost certainly wishfully–that perhaps we would have won this by now, and that we would have laid down our floggers and interred the corpse of the “short skirt” horse. Perhaps it’s due to a desire to feel in control: it’s not nice to believe that there’s nothing we can do that will stop us getting raped, so the pervasive belief in wearing sensible shoes and getting a taxi home functions as a placebo button. Perhaps it’s so intrinsically linked with other rape apologistic beliefs that we cannot just throw that one on the fire by itself. In either case, this is no excuse for the repetition of these myths.
They’re just that. Myths. Stories. Everywhere we see the myths and lies about rape, we must attack them if we are to have any hope of success.
In her own way, perhaps Caitlin Moran is doing her bit for improving the state of feminism by being so consistently crap. It makes us think, it teaches us where we need to build and where we need to improve our thinking by the nigh-on perpetual onslaught of thought that’s ostensibly from our side but wrong, wrong, wrong.