Not for the first time, Paul Williams of Blogging Theology has put forward the notion that men and women need to be ‘partitioned‘ in order to improve society. The pretext for this argument (this time around) concerns cases of assault upon women at festivals. One in three women have reported being sexually harassed at these events, a shocking statistic (well, sadly, not shocking). I think we can all agree this behaviour needs to come to an end, but the question is how – where does the blame lie?
The answer to that question should be obvious. Men do not have a right to invade a woman’s space, least of all in terms of touching. The old adage ‘boys will be boys’ is exactly that – old. It needs to come to an end. Men need to be held accountable for their actions, not excused from them simply because a woman happened to be in their vicinity. The argument being made by Paul is one that tacitly seeks to shift the blame upon women, for merely existing in the same locations as men (such as festivals, but also workplaces, public transport etc). One of Paul’s arguments (on a page I have archived, in order to ensure my comments don’t suddenly disappear) is that gender segregation has worked in Islamic countries for 1,400 years… but has it? Does this mean extra-marital affairs don’t happen in these countries? Does it mean sexual harassment doesn’t happen? What about rape?
The first problem is that countries like Iran don’t tend to have comprehensive records, or if they do, they do not make them public knowledge. Despite the general practice of partitioning in many respects, and despite the use of traditional dress codes like the hijab, women are still harassed and assaulted in these countries. The input of religion in these cases merely offers up an excuse of ‘blame the meek and weak women’ for male behaviour.
All this is really about one thing, as it has always been. It is about men controlling women, forcing them to conform to male expectations about sexual availability.
At the end of it all, following what I felt was a civil exchange, Paul could not help but revert to accusations of trolling, merely because I was asking questions – it is doubtful he will read this and if he does, he will not heed it, but it is pretty obvious who decided to basically ‘tap out’.