Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Asking for It- A Little Respect, that is

It's amusing that a Slovakian cyclist decided to celebrate his second place in the Tour of Flandrs in Belgium by pinching the backside of a 'podium girl' over the weekend, but it's a lot less amusing when you consider the implications of his 'joke.' While this has caused laughs, speculation, criticism and debate, it has also brought up another interesting point, much more galling, as cited from the Yahoo story: "More than a few people have pointed out that the woman in question was planting a wet one on the cheek of winner Fabian Cancellara, as if that meant she were somehow asking for it."

'Asking for it'- this is probably one of the more problematic things that could be said. Let's consider this: 'asking for it' is commonly used in what some of us consider the outdated vocabulary of 'blaming the victim' which used to be quite popular in early sexual assault and rape cases. Most of us in the Western world consider this expression to be extremely offensive, most of us, being, you know, women.

'Asking for it' implies that women dress provocatively and make themselves attractive for the sole purpose of being grabbed and assaulted, that they can't and don't say no, and that flaunting of certain physical traits is an open invitation. This assumes the absolute worse in women and fans the flames of misogyny previously trumpeted by moralists, men, conservatives and those women who judge all other women by their own terrible examples.

It may be time for us, as a civilized society with half a brain, to let go of this term. Sexual freedom and the right to dress the way we want are hallmarks of women's rights, not running around with signs that say men are bad. It is generally accepted that if a woman dresses in a sexy manner, it's actually the responsibility of the men around her to show some restraint, decency and civility by not assaulting her- not the other way around. It is not the responsibility of a woman to dress conservatively to properly demonstrate that she does not want to be sexually assaulted. These are the basics. It's a shame that not everyone gets this.

So while this situation is amusing, awkward, silly, probably misunderstood, it's a good reminder that maybe we should re-evaluate old traditions and expressions. Podium girls are probably not a necessary part of the sport of cycling, much in the same way that cheerleaders generally don't add anything to the sporting events they attend. It's also funny in the reporting of this event that there is no name for the podium girl- she's just a backside, as far as the stories are concerned. It's what they hired her for, right? Maybe that's bad job criteria.

As summer rolls around, with temptation abounding from all sides, let's put out this reminder of look, but don't touch. A woman with a beautiful body is a beautiful sight, but she is not 'asking for it' by wearing short shorts. What we are asking for is a little respect and a little space. When we dress to show off our bodies or let our legs breathe in the summertime, it means we're comfortable with ourselves and we trust in the freedom and protection of our civil rights which entitles us to feel that way. Can't the rest of the world show us that they feel the same way?

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