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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Blaming culture erases personal accountability

    Walking from the Student Union Memorial Center to the library should be, and usually is, uneventful. However, about a month ago, something strange happened to me. I was cold so I had my jacket pulled around me tightly, and a man approached me.

    “Hey,” he said. “Are you cold? I can hold you and warm you up.”

    He edged close to me, held his arms out and grinned. I gagged.

    I quickly walked away, but I couldn’t escape feeling violated. I had in no way indicated that I wanted him to approach me. Why did he think doing so was somehow encouraged or even acceptable?

    I immediately began to think about what might have been going through his mind. Perhaps our culture, filled with images of objectified women, influenced him. Maybe the media, with its tendency to blame rap music and video games, altered his perceptions of what is appropriate and inappropriate.

    Actually, the more likely answer is simple: The man himself is at fault. He made the choice to behave inappropriately, and he should be the one to take the blame. Chalking gross acts up to cultural conventions excuses bad behavior, and prevents us from dealing directly with the perpetrators.

    What happened to me was not assault; however, it was a violation of my personal space. It is the endemic tendency of certain men to disrespect and harm women, but we blame culture.

    In an article for Time, Caroline Kitchens wrote that we’ve become too quick to condemn culture as a whole when it comes to rape. Instead, we should target the specific rapists themselves.

    According to Kitchens, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network — which advocates for victims of sexual abuse — concurs with this point. The organization recently spoke out against the emphasis on culture in the dialogue about sexual violence.

    “Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime,” RAINN said in a letter to a White House task force on reducing sexual assault on college campuses.

    Blaming a culture is tempting, because a culture is an intangible entity incapable of retaliating. It’s easy to blame video games, movie posters, negligent parents, incompetent teachers or bumbling congressmen. Looking at someone’s character is much harder, and actually changing someone is even more difficult.

    Altering specific people’s mindsets is more difficult than making blanket statements about society as a whole. We can rebuke society from here to eternity, but such self-righteous indignation is pointless when it means brushing actual perpetrators to the side.

    The media still matters, and it’s still influential. But we do have control over how it influences us, and we shouldn’t forget that.

    There may be no clear way to change individuals. The realization that some people simply act immorally is more eerie than the thought of a flawed society, but it is also more likely. While the guy who approached me outside the SUMC may play “Grand Theft Auto,” he also might just be a bad person.

    I may not know how to change him, or the vast number of people who do similarly rude, or more harmful, things every day. However, by focusing more on individual accountability than societal flaws, we can start to place blame where it’s deserved: On wrongdoers’ shoulders.

    — Brittany Rudolph is a sophomore studying English and art history. Follow her @DailyWildcat

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