Thursday, January 10, 2013

Victim-blaming on Thai public transit

Via Buzzfeed

The conversation about "victim blaming" in the way North American society treats sexual assault has been heating up the past couple of years. This has resulted in a more critical look at the way sexual assault prevention campaigns are done. 

Some cause marketers, like Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton, have taken this to heart by creating campaigns that put the blame for sexual assault squarely on the perpetrators. Others (in this case through an anti-binge-drinking campaign) still blame victims.

This Thai bus poster, shared by Copyranter, is definitely the latter type of ad. As many others have pointed out, this approach is offensive to both men and women. To men, it communicates the idea that we are all potential rapists constantly tempted by women's bodies. To women who have been victims, it says you could have prevented it.

There are certainly ways to educate women about personal safety without implying that sexual assault is something they are somehow responsible for preventing.


  1. i thought i saw this poster in Singapore actually. right at the bus stop outside my house~ i suppose Thai posters will be written in Thai rather than English for the general public?

  2. I don't personally believe it's victim blaming. It doesn't say it's the woman's fault in this ad, and it actually seems to me like it's encouraging women not to submit to being a victim. The part where they give a phone number and say "don't be a silent victim" especially enforces that. A lot of people don't report public harassment due to shame or they don't think the police can do about it (which is what the harassers want.) I believe that this is something to educate women about personal safety without victim blaming. These posters do not say "If you were wearing x it's your fault" or "if you walk in shady areas that makes it okay" like a lot of other campaigns can imply. It is telling women resources for getting help from law enforcement if they are harassed, and telling them to stay away from dangerous areas. It's like if you have a sign near a high cliff that says "do not stand near ledge". This sign is not saying "if you fall off it's your own fault and we can't help you", It's warning against a dangerous area. As a woman who has been street harassed since a young age often, I strongly disbelieve this is victim blaming and is actually very helpful to women.

    1. I also found it funny that at the end you included the following sentence:

      "There are certainly ways to educate women about personal safety without implying that sexual assault is something they are somehow responsible for preventing."

      But what would you change about this poster? What would you put instead? This is probably the least offensive, most informative way to inform women about personal safety via poster.

  3. I really, REALLY despise campaigns such as this. "Avoid walking through secluded areas alone" this is a common piece of advice for women particularly of my age and it's infuriating but "have someone escort you home when it's late" ... are you kidding me??

    To the commenter above who likened this kind of advice to any other advice for people's personal safety: this argument comes up a lot, people will say: "why is it controversial to tell women to dress conservatively and to walk in safe areas but not to tell people not to flash their wallets or walk in areas known for mugging?" the answer is that in the latter case, EVERYONE is being treated equally, we are all as human beings subject to potential risk and we all have to bear a certain burden if we want to lessen that risk. However in the former case, it is ONLY WOMEN who are bearing a burden. Advising that women cannot walk outside at certain times, in certain places on their own is infringing upon their (/our) freedom and marginalising them (/us) as a group. And we are not even a minority!! It is the same in the case of showing less skin to avoid sexual assault vs not flashing cash to avoid mugging. Firstly, our bodies are not our property, they are our person, the two cannot be likened. It is extremely offensive to treat our bodies in the same way as coveted property as treated. Secondly, again, not flashing cash applies to everyone, but not showing skin is advice reserved for women. This amounts to discrimination against women as a group in society. All of this leads to the continued oppression of women.

    I have no problem with anyone taking precautions to keep themselves safe, or offering advice to others for their safety in an immediate sense and in a non-official capacity - it is not worth risking your safety in order to uphold a political belief. However, in the long-term this is not a satisfactory approach and when advocated by official bodies it creates a culture where women are expected to give up certain freedoms and become (even more of) a marginalised group (despite not being a minority.)

    The information of course should be available should certain women want to use it for their safety, but it is NOT a solution and should NOT be the focus of a campaign such as this.

  4. unless this is the only policy being taken to combat crimes against women, i don't see the problem.

    i do not believe that, simply because a gov't is trying to encourage women to be proactive in terms of thinking about their personal safety that they are "creating a culture where women are expected to give up certain freedoms" and become marginalised. that's a pretty long bow. They might be doing that--sure--but i doubt very much that the poster campaign is having any tangible influence on the matter one way or another.

    there is the ideal--stopping all violence against women--and the reality. the reality is that it has to be dealt with using as many approaches as possible. stigmatising and prosecuting offenders is certainly one. educating people to look after their own personal security is another.

    1. Urgh "educating people to look after their own personal security" dude, it's not educating people, it's only educating WOMEN and therefore it's discrimination. We don't tell black people to cover up their blackness and walk with escorts to avoid racial abuse, why the hell do we do the same to women????

    2. Different anon here:
      Ummm it's because women are the biggest victims of street/subway harassment and sexual assault. It literally /GIVES THEM WAYS TO GET HELP FROM THE POLICE/.
      But if you want to look at it so nitpicky and say it's only educating women, excuse me but no it's not. Giving a number for an emergency line, encouraging people not to go into secluded areas like alleyways, or not to walk alone at night can apply to EVERY gender.

    3. This ad campaign is specifically targeting the crime of street sexual harassment which is 90% male on female. It is not discriminative because it chose not to address male victims of street crimes, it is discriminative because in its response to crimes that are inherently gendered it advocates a culture where victims have to take responsibility for being victimised. This is highly problematic when the victims of said crimes represent a group in society (and their being a member of such group is a directly linked to crimes being committed against them). It's problematic (and I would argue discriminatory) because it allows for a group to become marginalised, to have their freedoms and rights infringed upon, and to have their independence threatened. Though I agree that information such as emergency numbers and safe-guarding advice should most certainly be available, it should NOT be advocated as part of the the solution to the problem by an official body. To compare to racial abuse - It would be insanity to tell minorities not to walk home alone at night or not to walk in certain areas, right? Because it means their race (or rather, others' racism) is now infringing upon their freedoms. How ridiculously unfair that only white men have the privilege to walk around at night, campaigns such as this edge closer to this type of culture, to a society that runs this way. We should not be satisfied with this as a solution and we should not expect vulnerable groups to give up their freedom and independence on account of being a member of that group.