When I was a little girl, I was implicitly taught that my actions weren’t the only actions I was responsible for.
In preschool, I said something mean to a boy in my class. He started throwing chairs around the room, and we were both sent to time-out because I, allegedly, caused it. If I upset my male classmates or even family members, I was held (at least, partially) responsible for their response, even if it was an overreaction.
As I grew up and became acquainted with feminism, I noticed that I wasn’t alone. Many of my friends who aren’t cis men have experienced similar situations: we were taught that we’re responsible for men’s actions. Unfortunately, this attitude means society tends towards blaming women for men’s actions.
Recently, Kanye West caused waves when he showed support for Donald Trump.
He tweeted a picture of himself in a ‘Make America Great Again’ cap and made some shocking statements about slavery, saying 400 years of slavery ‘sounds like a choice’. Kanye’s support for the Trump, despite Trump’s bigoted and oppressive views, has understandably angered many of his fans – especially since it’s not the first time he’s said something harmful.
While many people are calling him out indirectly, some people have said that Kanye’s wife, Kim Kardashian, influenced his actions.
In unrelated recent news, the Golden State Killer – a notorious serial killer who was active in the 70s and 80s – might have been captured. Joseph DeAngelo, a former police officer, is now the prime suspect. While the case is being investigated, many are looking for the reason for his actions. Some believe that when his former girlfriend left him, she broke his heart, thus causing him to go on a killing spree.
Although these two situations are vastly different, they have one thing in common: men are committing transgressions of varying degrees, and we’re blaming women for it.
Kanye West is responsible for saying what he said. The Golden State Killer is responsible for doing what he did.
We don’t have any reason to believe either of those men was manipulated or tricked into doing what they did, yet we still blame women for their behavior.
These two cases aren’t isolated: the same dynamic plays out in a number of different ways throughout society. We see the same dynamic when incels blame their misogyny on women for choosing not to sleep with them. We see the same dynamic when schoolchildren are told to befriend potentially volatile male classmates to prevent school shootings. We see the same dynamic where women are blamed for being assaulted by men.
When we blame women for men’s actions, we aren’t only letting men escape accountability for their actions: we’re also putting an unfair burden on women. Women are taught not only to be responsible for themselves, but also for the actions of those around them. It’s exhausting knowing that we can trigger any action from a man and be blamed for it. It’s even more exhausting when women and non-binary people are brushed off as over-emotional and irrational when men are allegedly aren’t even capable of regulating their own actions.
To varying degrees, women and non-binary people are taught to tiptoe around men to avoid violent outbursts. We’re taught that our biggest accomplishment is marrying a man and pouring emotional labor into him. Even in platonic friendships with men, we’re taught not to ‘friendzone’ men, lest we cause them to become angry and violent.
Flippantly blaming Kim Kardashian for Kanye West’s tweets, or speculating about the Golden State Killer’s ex-girlfriend, might not seem harmful.
When you look at the bigger picture, though, it’s easy to see how this common thread runs through society. If we want to create a society free from misogyny and oppression, it’s important that we stop blaming women for men’s actions and hold men accountable for once.