Blaming Women for What They're Wearing is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong
Sexual harassment is wrong. Victim blaming is wrong. Blaming someone for being harassed is wrong.
But it’s not just wrong - it’s wrong, wrong, wrong.
It’s logically wrong. It’s morally wrong. It’s factually wrong.
Heck, it may be more types of wrong than what I’ve written here.
It is Logically Wrong
First off, it is logically inconsistent to argue that women get harassed due to dressing inappropriately. In other words, the argument is a fallacy.
For instance, take the logical fallacy known as appeal to probability, which, according to the linked Wikipedia article, is an argument stating that is something is true “because it would probably be the case (or might possibly be the case)”.
Another way to name this fallacy is appeal to possibility - the argument that something is true if there is even a remote chance of it being true.
The Wikipedia article provides the following example:
- If I do not bring my umbrella (premise)
- Then it will rain. (invalid conclusion)
We can express the argument in question similarly:
- If women dress inappropriately (premise)
- Then they will be harassed. (invalid conclusion)
We can also see that this argument is logically inconsistent by analyzing its contraposition.
An argument’s contraposition “nots” the premise and conclusion, and switches the “notted” conclusion and premise.
In other words, if the following is the original argument:
- P → Q
The following is the contraposition:
- ¬Q → ¬P
(¬ means “not”)
To show this with an intuitive argument, let’s consider the following argument:
- If it is raining outside (premise)
- Then the ground is wet. (conclusion)
The contraposition would be:
- If it is not wet outside (premise)
- Then it is not raining. (conclusion)
A property of contraposition is that if the original argument is true, then the contraposition is true as well. It’s a bit of circular reasoning, but we also know that if an argument is false, so is its contraposition. In other words, the truth of an argument is equal to the truth of its contraposition.
Let’s look at the contraposition of the harassment argument:
- If women were not harassed (premise)
- The they were not dressed inappropriately (invalid conclusion)
We can remove the double negative in the invalid conclusion:
- If women were not harassed (premise)
- The they were dressed appropriately (invalid conclusion)
However, there have been known cases of women getting harassed despite being “dressed appropriately.”
Furthermore, when someone is a victim of a crime, wrongdoing, or another type of transgression, arguing what the victim should have done differently to avoid being a victim is, inherently, the wrong argument. It is an irrelevant conclusion.
What should be argued is what should the transgressor have done differently to have not committed the transgression.
It is Morally Wrong
For some, morality is subjective. Certainly, certain aspects of morality are subjective - why are some words taboo, why do you have to drive on the right side of the road?
But other aspects of morality are objective. They don’t change over place or time. For instance, killing indiscriminately is wrong. Slavery is wrong. And harassment is wrong - including sexual harassment.
Since sexual harassment is objectively wrong, any instance of it happening must be identified and rectified as soon as possible.
I understand those who suggest women are partly at fault for being harassed due to their clothing are “just trying to help” or are “just being honest.” While I have every reason to believe that those who say so truly believe what they are saying is both helpful and truthful, the fact is that the victim-blaming is neither helpful nor truthful.
Indeed it is harmful - women become reluctant to come forward over fear (or guilt) of accusations that they are partly to blame.
Saying things that are not truthful is immoral. So is saying harmful things.
Since saying that victims are partly responsible for being harmed is both harmful and not truthful, it is immoral.
It is Factually Wrong
I cannot say that a woman has never been targetted for harassment due to what she was wearing.
I can say, however, that in the vast majority of cases, what she was wearing was not a consideration of her harasser.
A study by Avigail Moor shows a near-zero correlation between “a revealing form of dress and any type of sexual victimization.”
Since it’s wrong to blame a woman - anyone - for being harassed, don’t do it.
Not just because it’s logically wrong. Not just because it’s morally wrong. Not just because it’s factually wrong.
Because there are better, more productive ways to prevent sexual harassment when you see it.
Take action. Ensure your place of employment - or where you volunteer - has anti-sexual harassment training. Ensure people are educated as to what to do and not to do. Call out harassment when you see it. Listen when you see someone accused - or are accused - of harassment.