WHY I BOTHER

Part 1
1.7.2011
Words by Hildur Lilliendahl
For the past year or so, my inner feminist has been developing at a pace I can hardly keep up with. This is something that happens to a lot of people during their late teens or early twenties—and it actually happened to me at the time too—but now I'm closing in on thirty and since this time last year people and the media have been fuelling my feminism to the point where I think I may explode.

I see perfectly outrageous examples of chauvinism and misogyny in the media all the fucking time. The reality is that when I try to right the wrongs of other people, any of these oh-so-very-obvious wrongs, someone will be there ready, willing and able to call me bitter or boring or a feminazi or an extremist. I even have the privilege of dealing with people who pretend to sort of agree with my feminist principles but still feel the need to point out how I'm way off track this time, how it's perfectly normal for a news reporter to say that Dominique Strauss-Kahn's alleged assault of a maid in a NY hotel is "not the first time he gets into trouble with his communications with women".

So I'm here to tell you about some of the things that have been infuriating me. Tell you a little bit about why I bother being a militant feminist all day, every day.

Last summer, the head of the sex crime division of the Reykjavík police department, Björgvin Björgvinsson, said in an exclusive interview with feminist reporter at newspaper/tabloid DV, Ingibjörg Dögg Kjartansdóttir, that a part of the problem with sexual violence was that people didn’t search within themselves, they were blind to the fact that drinking and using drugs exposed them to certain dangers. He said: “Most of the time these incidents have to do with heavy alcohol consumption and it’s nobody’s responsibility but one’s own, to put oneself in a position where one can get into all kinds of trouble”. For real. He then went on to describe how common it is for people to point to others when problems arise and try to make them responsible. He told us how people should try to look within themselves and take responsibility for their own actions. Björgvin never claimed to have been misquoted, nor has he tried to deny that he was indeed referring to rape victims.

If you’re not sure what the man meant, please let me explain: When drunk people are raped or otherwise sexually assaulted, they have nobody to blame but themselves. Seriously. It’s nobody’s responsibility but theirs. They shouldn’t try to make other people responsible. And in case you’re wondering why this bothers me, here it is: If I get drunk, I’m responsible for getting drunk. If I get drunk and raped, I’m still only responsible for getting drunk. Not. Ever. For. Being. Raped. I’d like to live in a world where we could just all agree on that.

Two months after the aforementioned comments, Iceland’s district attorney (yes, we only have one) was interviewed by the same reporter. And, while discussing sexual violence, explained to readers how it’s absolutely essential if a man is to be sentenced for rape that it’s considered proven that during the rape, he was fully aware that he was raping. That he in fact intended to rape. Here are a few quotes from the interview:

1. “A woman who’s being raped does not ask for a condom”.

2. “People have to realise what it means to press charges against another person. These days, people press charges for everything”.

3. “Should a man just assume that a woman is against [having intercourse]? How is he supposed to know that? Should we necessarily go by how active she is in the bed? Whether or not she participates?”.

Again, in case you’re not sure why this is offensive for me (i.e. a woman or a feminist or a victim of many sorts of sexual misconduct), here’s what’s wrong with this:

1. If a woman asks for a condom and is penetrated without one, why on Earth should that not be called rape? If a woman has made it clear that she is willing to have intercourse AS LONG AS certain standards are met, that does not give a man the right to penetrate her without first meeting those standards.

2. Pressing charges when you feel like you’ve been sexually assaulted should be encouraged, not discouraged. The district attorney should know this, agree with this, practise this.

3. A man should not have to assume that a woman does not want to have sex with him, but he should always have to be absolutely sure before he assumes that she wants to. Really, demanding that a person does not have intercourse with another person unless they’re a 100% sure it’s welcome, is that too much to ask?

I’ll continue this. Guys. Seriously.

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