Why I’d Choose Conservative Christianity Over Amanda Marcotte’s Feminism

Photograph of Amanda Marcotte

Source: Wikipedia Commons

[Content Note: Rape, Victim Blaming, Unjust Arrest]

This Monday, popular feminist writer Amanda Marcotte wrote a decent piece for Salon, describing victim blaming in conservative Christianity. In it, she pointed out that in many conservative Christian circles…

…[m]en’s choices, especially men’s sexual choices, are the responsibility of women. So if a man chooses to rape you, it’s understood not as him asserting dominance over you, but as the man taking the liberties you must have extended to him.”

She’s right, of course. As I’ve discussed at length in my “You Are Not Your Own” series, women in conservative Christianity are often seen as at least partly, if not mostly or wholly responsible for the choices that men make. So, when a woman is raped, conservative Christians will often ask about what she was wearing, what she was drinking, who she was hanging out with that she shouldn’t have been, how “far” she went before she asked the rapist to stop, etc.

If you press conservative Christians about this issue, calling it sexist, many of them will claim, “We are not the real sexists! You feminists are! We just hold higher standards for women. Our position empowers women to stop rape.”

Most of us recognize quickly that this is ridiculous. We would not call this conservative Christian mindset “feminist.” We could call it what it is: patriarchal, victim-blaming, violence.

So when Amanda Marcotte does the same thing these conservative Christians do, what should we call it? 

Only one day after her piece about victim-blaming in conservative Christianity was published at Salon, Amanda Marcotte published another piece at Slate entitled “Prosecutors Arrest Alleged Rape Victim to Make Her Cooperate in Their Case. They Made the Right Call.”

No, you didn’t read that wrong. And no, it’s not one of those deceiving headlines that draws you in with some off-the-wall controversy only to flip things around in the post (see: “I’m Dating Someone Even Thought I’m Married”). Marcotte actually argues in this piece that arresting a rape victim who won’t do what the prosecutors want her to do is the right call. 

Why?

Hypocritically, Marcotte supports this decision for the same reason she criticized conservative Christianity only hours before. She makes victims in this case responsible for the actions of rapists:

The sad, unavoidable truth is that we have to decide what’s more important to us: putting abusive men in jail or letting their victims opt out of cooperating with the prosecution as they see fit. Always erring on the side of victim sensitivity means putting some very bad men back out on the streets, where they will likely attack someone else.

Instead of addressing the circumstances inherent in a rape culture that make victims/survivors hesitant to cooperate in the prosecution of their abusers, Marcotte decries the fact that “victims have minds of their own” (how dare they?). According to Marcotte, it’s these pesky victims that think for themselves and make their own decisions that are to blame for the “very bad men” out there in the world.

What is this, if not (in this case where the rapist was a man and the victim was a woman) making “[m]en’s choices…the responsibility of women”?

How is this different from conservative Christianity?

In Marcotte’s feminism, the victim, (who in this case is a woman) is the problem because she does not listen to the prosecutors, the state. In conservative Christianity, women are the problem because when they do not listen to their parents, their husbands, their pastors, or God.

I’ll tell you how it’s different.

In all my years growing up in conservative Christianity, no one ever threatened me with arrest. 

They victim-blamed me. They told me not to think for myself. They called me selfish when made decisions that valued my own health and safety. They told me that “bad” women are the reason some men commit rape and violence. I don’t have many positive things to say about the conservative Christian circles I grew up in, but they never threatened to arrest me.

I’ll take conservative Christianity over Marcotte’s feminism any day.

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  • steph

    Wait, they arrested her because she wouldn’t show up for any of the pre-trial stuff. It wasn’t because they were; bored, trying to intimidate her or are just plan evil. She HAS to show up, something she has a pattern of not doing.

    • Kristen Rosser

      But the article states that the reason victims do this, in most cases, is because of their relationship with the abuser. That is, they are still under his thumb in some way, they don’t feel safe testifying against him, they have been guilted by him into backing away from testifying, or something similar.

      How about, instead of arresting the victim, doing more to help her feel safe testifying and to sever emotional ties with her abuser?

      • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

        That and police and prosecutors can often be rather hostile to the victims.

      • UWIR

        Sometimes, that doesn’t work. Which was the entire point of the article. It’s rather frustrating when someone writes an article explaining “Sometimes X doesn’t work, so we need Y”, and someone comes back with “Yeah, but why don’t they do X?”

        ::Facepalm::

        • Kristen Rosser

          Excuse me, but I don’t think we read the same article. “We can’t always get victims to do what prosecutors want, despite these certain interventions [which the article doesn't say were actually tried], so then we can feel justified in taking the easy way out and forcing them” is not the same thing as “we communicated carefully with this particular individual woman about her needs, and did everything we could in this particular case to help this woman feel safe, understanding that a prosecutor is not all-wise and doesn’t always fully understand the dynamics of the situation or the extent to which the woman might feel she’s risking her life with little reason to trust the prosecutor to get a conviction.”

          • UWIR

            So unless they’ve completely exhausted all other options, this option isn’t legitimate?

          • sarahoverthemoon

            This option is NEVER legitimate. Using threats of arrest to force VICTIMS to do the hard work of jailing rapists is an abuse of state power. It is an act of violence in many ways similar to rape itself.

  • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

    I do not find the comparison between prosecutors who are trying to gets rapists off the street and conservative Christians who say “women are the reason some men commit rape and violence” particularly compelling. One of those groups is trying to protect women from sexual predation, the other is laying blame for predation on women.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Ah, but you forget that conservative Christians are also trying to protect women from sexual predation, but advising them to cover up, not tempt men, etc.

      • sarahoverthemoon

        YES

      • Joseph M

        As some one who has had to go through personnel security briefings of the “how not to get kidnapped/attacked/blackmailed” variety regularly I’ve observed it can be really hard to pass on certain kinds of safety information without implicitly criticizing the person in the case study, who is generally an example because at some point they did some thing that made them more vulnerable.
        Discussions of Modesty tend to get muddled in dealing with the multiple overlapping vulnerabilities they are trying to address (physical, social, spiritual, dresser and observer). To often they all get smashed together. It’s also easier to deal with the motivation issues of kidnapping, armed attacks and blackmail as they are all fairly easy to identify as ‘Wrong’ and not some thing one wishes to encourage. But social display is all about targeting the right market demographic and avoiding the ones you don’t want.

        Its a much more complicated solution space.

        • Nell Webbish

          Rapists do not select women based on their clothes as a general rule. They select them based on opportunity and vulnerability.

          Given that opportunity and vulnerability are sometimes simply doing normal activities like sleeping in your own bed or being a patient in a hospital or being in your place of work, the idea that women who get raped were doing something foolish is more often than not just incorrect.

          • UWIR

            “Given that it is possible for X to be false, X is more often than not to be incorrect.” That makes no sense. That’s besides the equivocation between “Could have reduced risks” and “Did something foolish”, as well as the fact that even a minority of cases is still relevant.

          • Joseph M

            That’s exactly my point. We often confuse advice for avoiding rape and assault, which is all about awareness of your environment and situation and listening to the voice of the spirit that says “don’t go there”, or “don’t trust that person” (a fairly common occurrence according to a friend of my Mom who worked with rape victims), with advice about social display, which is about self-image, self-worth and, as Polonius said, determining what kind of person we want to “proclame” to be. These are separate, if related, topics but they often get treated as one thing.

            No one should ever be assaulted, evil actions are not the fault of the victim. But we can still do things, individually and as communities, that reduce risk.

      • Nell Webbish

        To believe that it is what a woman is wearing that makes her a possible rape victim means having to somehow remain oblivious to the reality that women in their 60s, 70s, and 80s are raped. Women wearing burqas are raped. Girls wearing little girl clothes are raped. Women wearing camo are raped. Women wearing religious habits are raped. Comatose women in hospital gowns are raped. Unconscious women covered in their own vomit are raped.

        So … are conservative Christians that pathetically ignorant and delusionally disconnected from reality that they are only aware of sexy-dressed women who get rapped? Or do you think maybe the reason they blame rape victims for tempting their rapist is not actually motivated out of a desire to protect women?

        • UWIR

          Observing that X sometimes happens in the absence of Y does nothing to disprove the hypothesis that Y increases the chances of X. You really aren’t displaying a firm grasp of logic.

    • Msironen

      You obviously forgot the principle that rape is a crime unlike any other and objectively worse than genocide. Asking victims of crime “insert anything here except rape” to bring the criminals to justice is perfectly fine. Asking the same when the crime is rape is victim blaming rape culture patriarchy. It all makes sense when… okay I’m drawing a blank here but if you press this matter further, you’re a victim-blaming patriarchalist rape apologist.

      • sarahoverthemoon

        I would not advocate for arresting the victim of *any* crime. Take your strawfeminist arguments elsewhere.

    • Hannah_Thomas

      We have to look at the details of the cases before making that call.

      From what I have read in what little they described in the article? The individual that attacked her had done it before, and she is also homeless.

      You have a whole different type of dynamic here, and she won’t do so well in court if you push. Remember these types of cases are VERY hard to prosecute under the best of circumstances, and she is in a extremely vulnerable place no matter what they do.

      Is arresting her going to help or hurt their case against him? WELL, lets see…in her eyes she can trust none of them. Is that going to make the case harder to win then? It could very well blow up in their faces.

      I think most can understand the frustration, because everyone wants him off the street. That’s a given. Yet, there are no good options here.

  • Kelsey

    Umm..I think when your argument loses its validity and effectiveness when you categorize all conservative christians that way…

    • Angela

      There is a difference between criticizing a culture and claiming that every person within that culture is the same. American culture is actually pretty steeped in rape culture and victim blaming as well. Sometimes you’ll hear declarations such as “We blame rape victims” or “We often disbelieve them”. Obviously these statements should not be interpreted as a universal indictment against every single American but as a statement about the culture we live in. Similarly, not every conservative Christian contributes to rape culture. Conservative Christian culture does.

  • Y. A. Warren

    I agree with arresting those who accuse, but don’t want to follow up on their accusations. Many men, once accused, have their lives forever ruined. Our current culture makes it too easy to ruin a man’s reputation (in some cases, meaning his life) and simply walk away. There are many women who put themselves in harm’s way and “suffer” from “buyer’s remorse” after the act. This is NOT rape, no matter how angry daddy/boyfriend/husband may be when he finds out.

    • sarahoverthemoon
      • Y. A. Warren

        is it a myth when it happened to those I know personally?

        • Angela

          I’m a little curious as to how you would know that a rape accusation is false unless you were present. The usual response when a woman is raped is for people to disbelieve her because her rapist “seems like such a nice guy.” Also, IF a woman did falsely accuse someone (It’s rare but not impossible) why on earth would you want to threaten her with jail unless she continues to press charges? Wouldn’t her lack of cooperation with the prosecution then be a good thing?

          • Y. A. Warren

            I was consulted by a woman asked to falsely accuse a man of rape, in solidarity with the accuser, what she should do. Does this count as personal experience?

          • Angela

            Only if she went through with it and actually did file charges (not just was asked to). Most women would never go through with it if for no other reason than pure self-interest. It also happens that women are sometimes in denial about being raped (“I was drunk and went home with him so it couldn’t have been rape”) or they know they were raped but they are intimidated or just want the ordeal to stop so they recant. I’m not denying that false accusations never happen, but they are very, very rare.

            But assuming that the woman in question DID falsely accuse someone it still doesn’t answer the question as to why it would be a good idea to put her in jail to force her to testify against him.

          • Y. A. Warren

            I have been the person who intervened in many abuse cases only to have the tables turned on me by the accuser. If a woman claims she has been raped, she should be willing to go through with the prosecution; otherwise, she makes a mockery of the legal system. This leads to law enforcement refusing to intervene when future victims call for help.

          • Angela

            I’ve seen this situation too, many times in fact. When I worked as an ER nurse it was pretty commonplace to see women come in who claim to have been beaten/raped by their partners. We would do a rape kit and help her file a police report. But according to the officer we worked with the women often dropped the charges by the next day, claiming to have made up or exaggerated the incident. They hadn’t lied. I saw their injuries myself, injuries that could not have come from anything other than a rape or beating. it’s because after the initial anger wore off they were scared. Their abuser might beg their forgiveness and they’re scared to live without him. Or he might threaten to harm her or take custody of her children. Or maybe she’s being harassed by his friends and family. I’ve even known rape victims to get kicked out of school or lose their jobs for coming forward. Whatever the reason, throwing these women in jail is not the answer.

          • Y. A. Warren

            Those who don’t stand behind their accusations make it so much more difficult for those who are willing to follow through. So many of the women with abusers know the men are abusive before they marry them and/or have children with them. They simply delude themselves into believing that the abuse will never be directed toward them or their children. They actually admire the “strength” of the abusers.

            I have been attacked more times than I care to remember by those from whom I’ve “saved” those who asked me to intervene. Women can’t have it both ways, where they live by the rules of wild animals and want to be treated as princesses needing protection.

          • Angela

            So before you claimed that victims who don’t want to go to trial are liars. Now they just got what was coming to them. If a woman’s afraid to leave her abuser she’s a “wild animal” but wanting to not be raped or beaten is “princess” treatment.

            I’m not sure in what capacity you are “helping” these women but it takes on average 7 times of leaving an abusive partner before they work up the courage to leave for good. So, yes, if you intervene on a victim’s behalf then more likely than not she’ll still go back. Sometimes you’ll get stuck in the middle of it all and may even get tossed under the bus because once she’s back under his thumb she’ll do whatever she needs to survive. If you don’t want to deal with it then stop offering to help. But the only thing that throwing victims in jail the first time they attempt to leave will do is ensure that they never try to leave again.

          • sarahoverthemoon

            Wow. This is really gross. So I’m a “princess” because it took me a year to leave my abuser but I still don’t believe I should have a criminal record because it took me a long time to leave him? I don’t think so. Get out of here. You are banned from commenting.

          • Angela

            Thank you. And thank you for deleting that last comment. I felt like I needed a shower after reading that slime.

        • BlackBloc

          Hi. You are friend with rapists. Sorry you had to learn this way. Hopefully you can move on.

          • Y. A. Warren

            I am not a friend of rapists. I am, however, a friend of justice for both men and women.

      • UWIR

        What exactly are you asserting is a rape myth, and what evidence do you claim shows it to be a myth?

  • http://andytehnerd.blogspot.com/ Andy The Nerd

    Wow, no, false choice alert! I frequently disagree with Amanda Marcotte, much as I find myself agreeing with her a lot of the time. But that does NOT mean my other option is conservative Christianity! In a situation where one party is offering confinement within a system of oppression, and the other party is offering confinement within a system of oppression, I will not consider myself fortunate that one option hangs decorative curtains over the windows.

  • ortcutt

    Sorry, but unless someone is legally privileged from doing so (attorney-client, etc…), everyone is required to testify as a witness when subpoenaed. That’s the law and a basic civic responsibility.

  • UWIR

    “So when Amanda Marcotte does the same thing these conservative Christians do, what should we call it?”

    What, exactly, do conservatives Christians do, that Marcotte also did?

    “According to Marcotte, it’s these pesky victims that think for themselves and make their own decisions that are to blame for the “very bad men” out there in the world.”

    It’s rather dishonest to characterize Marcotte as “decrying” the fact that victims have minds of their own, and she isn’t “blaming” them for the bad men, she’s simply observing that their decisions have consequences. What if a prosecutor decided not to prosecute a rapist, and as a result the rapist was able to rape again? If Marcotte were to say that the prosecutor made the wrong call, would you (assuming the prosecutor is female) characterize Marcotte of “making men’s choices…the responsibility of women”?

    You are creating a false equivalence. You are simply picking out attributes of this case, and what conservatives do, and noting that those attributes are the same, and then pretending that that makes them the same. Marcotte isn’t saying that victims bring rape on themselves.

    “In all my years growing up in conservative Christianity, no one everthreatened me with arrest.”

    And Marcotte isn’t threatening you with arrest, either. It’s hardly true that conservative Christians don’t threaten people with arrest. They passed laws against same-sex intercourse, fornication, prostitution, birth control, and sex toys. And Marcotte supports laws against … not testifying. You really prefer conservative Christians?

  • UWIR

    So, are you opposed to jailing people for refusing to testify in general, or just in cases where the witness is determined to be a “victim”? All the witness has to is testify. Yeah, in some cases that’s hard, but the government is doing a lot of hard work, too.


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