In Response to “Dear Drunk Girl.” ~ Hannah Harris

Via on Mar 13, 2014

hands

I hate the things that are true in this article.

Like the truth that there exists a harmful inequality in which males—generally—get to do certain things without fear or consequence that women don’t. And the truth that women and girls are assaulted on a regular basis, especially when drinking.

Lady on the Porch Across the Street’s letter addresses these truths, and her language is well-meaning and protective, and I have no doubt that it comes from a place of love and a desire to effect change.

Her language is also very common.

So common, in fact, that it has a name: slut-shaming. In this practice, responsibility is taken off the shoulders of the offender and placed on the shoulders of the victim. Often, the offender is ignored altogether.

What I’m concerned with here isn’t drunkenness or exactly how wasted one should or shouldn’t get. I’m not even using this space to address the inequality of the situation.

No, the issue that I’m so anxious to make heard is this:

Is it really productive or healing to add one more voice to the ocean of slut-shamers?

Or is it perhaps time to start a letter with the title “Dear Drunk Guy with Intentions to Harm” or “Dear Sexual Predator”?

Lady on the Porch Across the Street, you tell us you that love us, that you believe in us. Thank you. I believe you when you say that. From that place of love, can you give us what we actually need?

We need someone who will speak to the true root of the problem, to send an arrow directly into its black center so the poison can begin to drain out. We need someone who’s not afraid to call the offenders out and address them directly.

The message in your letter? We know. We live it. It’s been said before, and it isn’t changing anything.

Lady on the Porch Across the Street, you have a strong voice and a front-row seat to the issue. And we young women are strong and brave and resilient, but we’re also hungry—crying out—for someone to speak with us, not at us. We are desperate for you to be on our side; really, truly on our side.

Will you join us?

 

Relephant Reads:

5 Reasons I’m Proud to be a Slut 

Feminism is Not a Dirty Word 

Healing Towards Myself 

 

Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Editor: Cat Beekmans

Photo: elephant archives

About Hannah Harris

Hannah Harris grew up in the pure mountain air of Lake Tahoe, NV. She is now a yoga teacher and writer in San Francisco. She believes the the single best thing any of us can do for the rest of creation is find the time to truly know and then madly love ourselves. Find her on Instagram and Facebook or read more thoughts at Wayfaring Gypsy or on Rebelle Society.

16,270 views

19 Responses to “In Response to “Dear Drunk Girl.” ~ Hannah Harris”

  1. Alex says:

    Although I fully agree that the victim is never at fault in a sexual assault, I do not understand why discussing the very real link between alcohol and assault risk is politically incorrect, or labeled slut shaming. Data from the NIH National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that approximately half of sexual assaults involve alcohol. Coming from someone who lives (sober) on a college campus, I am always baffled at why it's okay to say that drunkenness increases the risk of car wrecks or falling from a fraternity balcony, but that it becomes anti-Feminist or slut shaming to say that drunkenness increases the likelihood of sexual assault.The evidence stands. I understand that we live in an alcohol friendly culture, one that wants to say that alcohol is never the problem (gun parallels anyone?). Yes, in a perfect world, a woman would have the right(?) to become hopelessly inebriated without fearing for her safety. Yet you yourself admit this is not true. Therefore, if the the words of 'Dear Drunk Girl' can influence even one young woman's behavior to help shield her from the horror of sexual assault, then it was a noble and commendable cause, regardless of any tone which it may have projected.

  2. dharmagoddess says:

    I believe that slut-shaming is a waste of energy and downright mean. However, I read the article from the Lady on the Porch and didn't see it as mean. Sure, there were some rough – albeit realistic – visualizations there, but they weren't mean. I agree that the wounds some of these young women are disguising can be deep and poisonous, because I once was that age and did some pretty risky, stupid things. Yeah, lots of internal pain…but nobody could have offered anything to me that would have fixed that pain. I had to fix it – decades later. I just got really good at masking it, as many do, until it demanded my attention. No conversation of loving kindness to be better to myself would have done it. Nice idea, but entirely unrealistic.

    I'm a professor and I see these things constantly. What I can offer from the advisor/mentor side is limited to the caring conversations you mentioned, with unconditional support to the extent that I don't cross that line and try to save someone from themselves. Nobody can save another from themselves if they are not ready to take it up on their own behalf. I know, I've been there. Smart, beautiful, with my whole life ahead of me, the only thing I could feel sometimes was the emptiness accompanied by reckless choices now and then, which never offered peace of any kind.

    I sincerely hope the Drunk Girls find their own tipping points for the better. Some do, some don't. It's not that I don't care, it's that I now realize one has to take responsibility for themselves in order for such transformational change to occur.

    Thank you for the dialogue and the thought-provoking article.

    Dharma

  3. Joan Haskins says:

    Last year I wrote a piece about teaching our sons not to rape. I got a lot of flack from mothers of sons. My point was that as mothers of daughters, we are weary of saying things like, "don't drink too much," don't wear your skirts too short," don't walk alone at night." I wrote that perhaps it was time to talk to our sons about no matter how drunk, how short the skirt, or how late it is when the girl is walking on campus alone, it is not an invitation to sexually assault her.
    The woman who wrote the original article, "Dear Drunk Girl," agreed with my piece 100% although she has a son.
    I think you have misjudged what she is saying in her piece, especially by saying she is "slut shaming!" Nothing could be further from the truth. Ann Nichols writes from a place of love and compassion, and this rebuttal makes me sad that she would be so terribly misunderstood.

  4. Jackie says:

    I am really shocked at your language, and your total and wholehearted misunderstanding of the article that you are commenting on.
    The Lady on the Porch's' article is not 'slut-shaming', she is trying to speak out desperately to the young women in our world, to warn them about the pitfalls of drinking.. I have an 18 year old daughter, and I say the same things to her each time she goes out…. 'please be careful, do not drink to excess, don't let strangers but your drinks, stay with your friends', etc… All of these things I say are because I want her to stay safe… I don't want her to be easy prey….
    Should anything happen, however, it would not be her fault, in any way or form….
    And that is what the article is saying….. We do need to teach responsibility to our children, but that is VERY very different from them being the CAUSE of what happens to them in the case of assault or rape.
    This advice is exactly the same as advising our children to wear seatbelts,, helmets, and condoms…., we need to teach them how to be safe,
    Unfortunately, there are some bad people out there, and they will prey on the VULNERABLE, our job as carers and parents, and to teach our children not to be in these positions of vulnerability….to stay safe…
    That is not in any way 'slut-shaming' – that is good parenting and loving kindness.

    It is a shame that you misread the other article in such a big way…. It is a dialogue that I will continue to have with my beautiful daughter and her friends, in order that I may keep them safe always….

  5. Judi says:

    I respectfully disagree. Vociferously. Slut-shaming exists and is horrible, and this isn't it. The original article is about protecting yourself and no where does it disrespect or put down (or shame) someone when they fail to do that. The Lady on the Porch simply points out that when you drink too much, you lose some ability to protect yourself.

    I wish we lived in a world where it wouldn't be necessary to be so vigilant. I do see there are similar articles aimed at educating young boys about No Means No and so on, but this was looking at the problem from the other direction. Protection and prevention – both are valid tacks to reducing or eliminating rape and assault.

    Helmet and similar laws are similar protection tacks. Certainly it is not your fault if your car is T-boned in an intersection, but you do have some ability to effect the outcome.

  6. Karen katz says:

    as I posted in response to the original article-I am in my late 50's now….when I was young, drinking heavily and not being fully in control of myself led to my being raped a couple of time-this did not make ME a bad person, just an unwise and raped person…..thank you for writing this article and if it keeps one girl from drinking too much and getting raped or sexually missed, you have done a great service.

  7. Kristi says:

    Hannah,

    I completely agree with you, as well as with the Lady on the Porch. It is the men's fault for looking at us the way they do, and for mistreating and abusing us the way that we are. I think both articles are important for both men and women to read. The biggest problem, I believe, is that drunk girls tend to trust so much more willingly and freely than they may sober. Because of this, man take advantage of the state that were in. Its unfortunately that men feel as though they are allowed to take advantage when girls are in that state. That is what needs to be acknowledged and discussed. Like you said, the rapist and sexual predator needs to be addressed, as well as women who need to learn to be safe and smart in every situation. Thank you for your words!

  8. Having read both articles, I offer my thanks to the authors for opening the door on a conversation about choice and consequence. It is an important topic and I can appreciate both POVs.

    I see Harriet speaking up for those people who are harmed by another and then vilified for the attack because they caused it in some way. The CHOICE TO HARM always belongs solely to the Predator/Perpetrator who chooses to seize upon a vulnerable person. Sober or not, we might find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and have any number of violent acts committed upon us. It is totally 100% the Perpetrator's choice, with legal consequences attached to their decision to harm. I don’t see any attempt to say otherwise in the ‘Dear Drunk Girl’ post.

    I believe The Lady on the Porch is speaking to young women who may become prey due to a decision to render themselves vulnerable in a dangerous world. When we drink, our level of awareness is impaired. Our senses are not sharp. Our social game may be off. Drinking affects coordination and our ability to fight or run. We may inadvertently place ourselves in harms way by blacking out and leaving ourselves open to the cray-cray who is looking for prey. When we make a choice to drink indiscriminately, horrific consequences can ensue – drunk driving, stepping in front of a moving car, falling off a balcony, diving into a shallow pool. When we voluntarily set aside our good judgment – that is on us. It seems to me that The Lady is saying, ‘Please be aware of unintended consequences. Stay sharp. You are vulnerable to dangerous things when you are stumbling around like an injured wildebeest. Keep your wits about you. Have fun without obliterating your mind’. (She could have addressed her ‘letter’ to boys as well, but I can see why, as a woman, she wrote to younger women.)

    For my daughter and my son, I tell them not to place themselves in harm's way by getting wasted and losing all sensibility. To watch out for one another and take care of each other. Band together with friends you know and trust. Monitor your intake. Know when enough is enough. Have a plan when you decide to party. I agree with The Lady on the Porch in saying to my kids, “Listen to what I am saying. Don’t give away your future with the choices you make while you are young and inexperienced”.

    The Porch Perspective is one of a parent who loves her kids and a person who cares about those that she sees from her porch. There’s no shame in that.

  9. Oops! so sorry Hannah – I don't know where 'Harriet' came from… channeling my mother maybe.

  10. Patrick says:

    I don't want to single out any particular individual for reply, but I think it's problematic how many universal statements of "men abuse" and "men take advantage…" are made in the comments.

    The CDC did a student of college men; 4% reported that in their lifetime they had been "forced to submit to sexual intercourse against your will." This of course is small compared to the 1 in 5 statistic for women, and I'm sure there isn't parity, but keep in mind 1) they are reporting as of 18-22, not lifetime; 2) underreporting is likely even higher among men; 3) this does not take into account same-sex abuse. I don't know of reliable numbers on that, but it would be interesting to know, for both men and women.

    I have never been sexually abused, though when I was 8, an older woman I had never seen before attempted to abduct me. I have no idea what her intentions were. My mom didn't blame me, but she did teach me how to be more safe, and even though now I'm 6'2" and probably couldn't be forced into a car by any unarmed person, I still have a habit of keeping on eye on parked cars with a suspicious person inside.

    Finally, I hadn't read the original article until after reading this response, and it's hard to see how this is a response to anything in the original article, though I think the civil tone in which it is written is commendable.

  11. Jacqui says:

    Such a miserable world where healthy young men take a vulnerable girl because they can! If this is all we can offer our young girls, cover up and don't drink too much because men can't be trusted, we have truly failed! We have been saying it a long time and it Does not work! I see many more post with this message to young girls, than those that are addressed at perpetrators. Why is that? Ask yourself, honestly, why is that, why are we reaching out to the girls to change? Don't we think the men can? If we don't think they can change, is that not part of the problem? It's not that everyone should not drink less, more responsibly, more safely. It's just that the messages we give are important, they should be given sparingly for greatest impact! The message that is most needed, that should be shouted from the roof tops is hardly spoken: Men respect women all all times!! Never have sex with anyone who cannot fully consent! This is the message that the women on the porch needs to shout! Or be quiet!!!!!!

    • Ashley says:

      The lady in the porch is simply stating facts. Is it fair that girls have to be more careful? Absolute not. Is it sad that we must teach our girls there are far more dangers than for our boys? Absolutely. I’m sure it would make some feel better to directly address the predators in these stories as well but unfortunately since they don’t see a problem with hurting innocent people, I have a hard time believing they’ll listen up when a concerned mom or friend writes to them. These stories are directed at you ladies simply because you are the only ones in these cases who are good. We can not change the evil that has manifested in some. We can only do our best to educate our children, fair or not.

  12. Deb says:

    I ,like GabbyAbby, think there are two separate but linked issues here – sexual assault and the abuse of alcohol. I do not agree any way, shape or form in slut-shaming. I know of an instance, for example, where a young girl (presumably drinking alcohol) slept with several young men at a party. The girl's name was thrown around with some labels. Did the guys names get spoken about (other than to give them a slap on the back – well done mate?). Somehow, it is ok to sleep with a girl that has just slept with other guys or will but it is not ok to BE THAT GIRL. With regard to the alcohol, my 18yo son has just had a BIG wake-up call on the choice to get yourself so wasted that you put yourself in precarious and dangerous situtations – our addressing his choice did not absolve the people (police) that caused injury to him. The same goes for girls – we do not absolve the perpertrator of any crime but if you continually place yourself in harms way…….

  13. Paul says:

    The woman on the porch is not slut shaming. All she is saying is protect yourself. Yes, we should be teaching men to respect women. True, women should not have to feel they are being preyed upon. Should, should, should, would, would, would, could, could, could.
    Until such time as the world is a perfect place, protect yourself. From criminals, from rapists, from car thieves, from drunk drivers, from mean people, from wild animals, from all the danger out there. As much as possible, you are responsible for protecting yourself!

  14. Angela says:

    Women are taught from the day they are born to protect themselves. What's not being taught is the concept and importance of 'consent' to men and boys. Lady on the porch, you disappoint me. I posted that to her original article and my feelings haven't changed.

  15. Monkey says:

    Oh far out, seriously?

    If suggesting to a woman that getting shitfaced drunk, wearing scanty clothing and probably acting incredibly flirty is not the best behaviour to keep safe… if this slut shaming??

    Then is telling a guy who gets shitfaced drunk, picks fights with other guys and hits on everything moving that his behaviour is inappropriate… is this bro shaming???

    The existence of a term and mentality towards something like slut-shaming, does not give free reign to do whatever the hell you want and when criticised brush it off as slut-shaming.

    The truth is getting really really drunk is inappropriate for anyone, man or woman. It's a toxic poison that causes untold damage to the body, makes one behave usually at their lowest, and can have potentially serious repercussions. It can make men hyper-aggressive, it can make women more willing than they would be otherwise. What happens when you put them together?

    If someone is going to drink to the point of blacking out, and something bad happens to them then be prepared to deal with those consequences. I'm not saying that they deserved it, I'm not condoning predators in any way whatsoever. What I am saying is take responsibility for your actions. If you drink to that point something bad may happen. It may be from a predator, or it may be just something stupid like slipping and falling badly on your arm (I had a friend break his arm like this).

    Do you blame the woman for being so drunk she can't properly consent? Or the man for being so drunk that he actually doesn't really consent either because he is following an alcohol fuelled regression to more primal instincts.
    Don't blame the man or the woman… look to the greater society that holds a view that drinking copious amounts of alcohol is ok and normal behaviour for young people.

    Man and woman have co-created this society, we are equally responsible for any further changes. Inherent in some of these anti-slut shaming cries is a very subtle man-shaming emphasis. Blaming men isn't the answer either.
    This is not a man vs woman issue. It's just not, it never has been and chasing it in that way is not going to solve anything.
    We need to look deeper at the pervasive world-views held by our collective society that gives rise to these problems we are seeing. See where they are all connected… where the destruction of the environment, meets the discrimination against women, meets financial inequality throughout the world, meets the growing rise in depression and suicide, meets the acceptance of drunkeness as a valid source of entertainment, etc.

  16. nevernotbroken says:

    Thank you for this.

  17. niranjen says:

    I actually found the Porch Perspective to be an understanding and generous account, that was sensitive to our feminist issues and perspective while still communicating mundane, rational truths. I think it's unfortunate that you've written such a reactive and reductive response. Her advice was solid and kind. Why, in women's-issue dialogues, must we always tear each other down and "catch" each other instead of accepting that our philosophical ideals are sometimes at odds with the practicalities of current society?

  18. Savanna Rachel says:

    I have SUCH an issue with this. There are so many instances where I believe a woman could have avoided her rape or assault by being smarter. I don’t think its slut shaming at all to warn a woman not to get so inebriated that you could put yourself at the mercy of other people, some of whom could have bad intentions. No matter what, a victim is still a victim. But there is no reason whatsoever for you to point fingers at the abuser and say,” this wouldn’t have happened if someone would have taught him better.” Its an amazing idea to think raising boys to respect women will lead to them not becoming rapists. But anyone can rape. Instead of saying it is that boys fault for raping you, why not stay out of those situations? I’m not talking about the women who are raped and assaulted in spite of their precautions, I’m talking about the ones who didn’t take any. The drunk girls who lose their phones and wind up walking home at 3am. The girls who choose to stay behind with their new bar friends after their group goes home, because she’s “having too much fun”. The girl who shares a cab with a stranger who is going the same place as her. Take responsibility for your safety is the point I’m trying to make. Dont leave it up to people to prevent boys from becoming potential rapists. Because those people may fail, and you could be the victim. Taking responsibility for yourself and your safety could cut down on the chance that someone can hurt you. I think back on all the times I let myself enter situations where I wasn’t in control of myself, and was at the mercy of people who may not have had good intentions, and realize how lucky I was that nothing bad happened to me. How fortunate I was to realize I should leave, or that I had friends that didn’t leave me alone. I got lucky, and safety shouldn’t be a matter of chance.

Leave a Reply