During the 2017 watershed moment of women finally, FINALLY, refusing to be silenced about their experiences of sexual harassment and abuse, party conversation frequently turns to what some refer to as the "Weinstein" movement (because disgraced Miramax bigwig Harvey Weinstein was one of the first men to be outed as a reported serial sexual predator). I've had dozens of conversations with men and women, and unfortunately have witnessed a disturbing trend that seems to be playing out on social media as well. The victim blame game. And it's beyond offensive. When Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas apologized for her victim-blaming tweet in the wake of teammate Aly Raisman's sexual abuse claims, here is what I thought. Nope.
Olympic medalist Raisman spoke out during an interview with 60 Minutes last Sunday about her experiences with sexual abuse at the hands of Dr. Larry Nassar, a doctor who was involved with the U.S. Women's Gymnastics team for several years. .Nassar has been accused by more than 100 women and is now in jail awaiting trial for 22 counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct. Raisman and fellow Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney were just two of the voices speaking out against Nassar, but Raisman went one further; she called out the whole system that allows predators access to women, and then blames those women for dressing provocatively. She shared a post on Facebook defending a woman's right to dress however she pleases free from fear that she will be abused.
Douglas responded to Raisman's post about victim shaming by.... well, by victim shaming. She wrote in a since-deleted tweet:
however it is our responsibility as women to dress modestly and be classy. Dressing in a provocative/sexual way entices the wrong crowd.
Just a little fyi here; classy and sexy aren't mutually exclusive. Moving on.
When social media followers attempted to call Douglas out by reminding her that the way a woman dresses in no way permits sexual abuse, she seemed to double down.
Douglas is by no means the first or only woman to stand by this antiquated idea that women are somehow asking for it by dressing provocatively. DKNY fashion designer Donna Karan, upon hearing about her friend Harvey Weinstein's sexual abuse allegations, told a reporter, according to The Daily Mail:
To see it here in our own country is very difficult, but I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality? And what are we throwing out to our children today about how to dance and how to perform and what to wear? How much should they show?
Karan apologized for her comments after facing overwhelming backlash (and a serious dip in her business revenue) but let's face it; they're out there now. No apology can take them back.
The sad reality is that many sexual predators were able to defend their actions because of these ideas, for centuries. That they themselves could not be held accountable if a woman dresses a certain way.
Happily, the tides seem to be turning. Fellow Olympic gymnast Simone Biles came to Raisman's defense against Douglas, tweeting that she "wasn't surprised" by her response.
Douglas issued an apology on social media for her various victim shaming tweets on Friday night... but honestly, the apology felt lukewarm.
While apologizing was the right thing to do, in both Karan and Douglas' cases the apology only came after insurmountable outside pressure, which smacks of falseness. This sort of response to sexual abuse simply cannot happen any longer. Women have to present a united front. We have to believe each other, raise each other up, support each other. There can no longer be finger pointing and victim shaming, whispers at parties about Can you believe what she's wearing? and so on. This has not helped us in the past, and most certainly will not help us, or the women who will come after us, in the future.
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