Susan Brownmiller wrote the 1975 book Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape which set the stage for much of today’s feminism. She is not, however, a huge fan of everything espoused by today’s feminists, including slut walks and rape culture activism.
I was wondering if you have been following the discussions of rape activism on college campuses.
Yes, very closely. In the 1970s we had an extraordinary movement against sexual assault in this country and changed the laws. They [the campus activists] don’t seem to know that. They think they are the first people to discover rape, and the problem of consent, and they are not.
They have been tremendously influenced by the idea that “You can drink as much as you want because you are the equal of a guy,” and it is not true. They don’t accept the fact there are predators out there, and that all women have to take special precautions. They think they can drink as much as men, which is crazy because they can’t drink as much as men. I find the position “Don’t blame us, we’re survivors” to be appalling.
Also, they [college women] are not the chief targets of rapists. Young women and all women in housing projects and ghettos are still in far greater danger than college girls.
Is there a reason why you think the conversation has reemerged on college campuses?
I don’t know. The women’s movement in the ’70s was not a campus movement at all. I like to see activism wherever it rears its head, but this is a very limited movement that doesn’t accept reality. Culture may tell you, “You can drink as much as men,” but you can’t. People think they can have it all ways. The slut marches bothered me, too, when they said you can wear whatever you want. Well sure, but you look like a hooker. They say, “That doesn’t matter,” but it matters to the man who wants to rape. It’s unrealistic. I don’t know what happened to the understanding people had in the 1970s.
Not everyone is happy with Brownmiller’s stance on the issues.
In fact, Amanda Marcotte of Slate seems downright furious:
Former Feminist Hero Somehow Thinks That Victim-Blaming Can Stop Rape
Today’s case study in the importance of not having heroes: Susan Brownmiller. She was instrumental in making rape a political issue with her landmark 1975 book Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, but now she’s let a “kids these days” urge overtake her feminist sensibilities. In an interview with The Cut’s Katie Van Syckle, Brownmiller gets downright victim-blame-y, sneering at girls today with their booze and their clothes and their asking-for-it. Here’s a sampler:
Culture may tell you, “You can drink as much as men,” but you can’t. People think they can have it all ways. The slut marches bothered me, too, when they said you can wear whatever you want. Well sure, but you look like a hooker. They say, “That doesn’t matter,” but it matters to the man who wants to rape.
Brownmiller also boasts about taking “a hard line with victims of domestic violence, too”—I mean, finally, am I right? Someone had to put those victims of domestic violence in their place!—by blaming them for not being strong or wealthy enough to walk away.
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