Comedian Tracey Ullman’s sketch show on BBC recently produced a skit that has been widely circulated for its take-down of victim-blaming “logic.” Called “What Were You Wearing?” the sketch depicts a man reporting his mugging to two female detectives.
The detectives are extremely patronizing and ask the question: “Were you wearing what you’re wearing now?” When the man responds with the logical reaction of incredulity, the detective tells him that he looks “provocatively wealthy,” so he really has to “accept some of the responsibility” for what happened to him.
When was the last time you thought someone deserved to be mugged just because they dressed a certain way? Do nice clothes and jewelry mean that you’re “asking for it?” If you were too scared to fight your mugger, does that mean you secretly wanted to be mugged?
When put like this, it seems so obvious that clothes have nothing to do with wanting to be attacked. But when the type of attack is sexual assault, many people fail to see the situation in this way.
Why should women be punished and ridiculed for their clothing choices, when most rapists get a slap on the wrist for committing a crime and physically attacking another person? If clothes aren’t to blame when the crime is mugging, then clothes shouldn’t be to blame when the crime is sexual assault. In fact, victim-blaming and the idea of “boys will be boys” is what perpetuates rape culture and raises young boys to think that they can act in this way.