4. I Am Not Your Wife, Sister or Daughter. I Am A Person.

by Belle

the bell jar

So I wondered, who else out there is discussing questions and framing things in a way that I might agree with, or even just in a way that I will ‘get’? I came across The Belle Jar. You might know her. I didn’t; for me the words evoke Sylvia Plath… in any case I found this: I Am Not Your Wife, Sister or Daughter. I Am A Person

This is the part that rang true for me:

“What I do want to tell you is that you need to stop using the “wives, sisters, daughters” argument when you are talking to people defending the Steubenville rapists. Or any rapists. Or anyone who commits any kind of crime, violent or otherwise, against a woman.

In case you’re unfamiliar with this line of rhetoric, it’s the one that goes like this:

You should stop defending the rapists and start caring about the victim. Imagine if she was your sister, or your daughter, or your wife. Imagine how badly you would feel if this happened to a woman that you cared about.

Framing the issue this way for rape apologists can seem useful. I totally get that. It feels like you’re humanizing the victim and making the event more relatable, more sympathetic to the person you’re arguing with.”

And this is the part which hit home the importance of the distinction:

“The “wives, sisters, daughters” line of argument comes up all the fucking time. President Obama even used it in his State of the Union address this year, saying,

“We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence.”

This device, which Obama has used on more than one occasion, is reductive as hell. It defines women by their relationships to other people, rather than as people themselves. It says that women are only important when they are married to, have given birth to, or have been fathered by other people. It says that women are only important because of who they belong to.”

Now of course I want to go and look at the context within which Obama used these words.