This past weekend, while I was calmly doing nothing of importance, I stumbled upon a very troubling tweet. This tweet was obtusely posted by Gabby Douglas, soon to be 22 year old Olympic gymnast. Now before I get into this specific tweet, let’s address the back story.
Earlier this month, Douglas’s teammate Aly Raisman took to 60 Minutes to address her tragic experience with sexual assault, at the hands of former US gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar. Nassar was said to have used his power to violate not only Aly, but her teammate McKayla Maroney and at least 125 other young women. This trauma began for Raisman at the age of 13, which she spoke about in detail during a second TV appearance on Good Morning America
Aly then created this Twitter post to speak out against victim shaming, sparking a very important dialogue on sexual assault and how women are often demonized because of it:
We are all in this together. If we are going to create change I need all your help. pic.twitter.com/q9d12z0KHn
— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) November 17, 2017
To which her teammate Gabby Douglas replied:
*record scratch* What, sis?
But that’s not all… teammate Simone Biles THEN responded with:
shocks me that I’m seeing this but it doesn’t surprise me… honestly seeing this brings me to tears bc as your teammate I expected more from you & to support her. I support you Aly 💕 & all the other women out there!
STAY STRONG pic.twitter.com/CccTzhyPcb
— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) November 17, 2017
So now back to my instant confusion and anger, as stated in the introductory paragraph…. Gabby, What are you doing???
Sexual assault is unfortunately a trauma many woman experience in their lifetime, either directly or indirectly. If we ourselves haven’t been violated in some way, we know of another woman who has. Women have always lived in fear of being taken advantage of, as patriarchy has worked hard to deem the bodies of women disposable. So disposable that even when we are assaulted against our will, we are then blamed for said assault because of our clothes or level of sobriety.
When addressing sexual assault ratification what is often brought up first?
In order to prevent assault please do not travel alone after certain hours, do not wear revealing or enticing clothes, do not become overly intoxicated, etc…
These are all rules women are expected to follow. WE as targets of the crime are taught to find ways to lessen our chances of being assaulted, rather than release targeted education dethroning toxic masculinity. I have to avoid wearing a short skirt, but we aren’t teaching men to dismantle sexist ideologies which normalize assault and rape? Yeah… that makes sense.
So with all of this in mind, viewing Gabby Douglas’s tweet was hurtful. Not only was it disrespectful of her teammate Aly Raisman and the experiences of many gymnasts at the hands of doctor Nassar, but it was disrespectful to women everywhere who constantly carry the burden of their own fear of being violated. It is not about what we wear, it is about the chronic nature of predators to prey. A rapist will always rape, my dress does not dictate that. My sexy outfit shouldn’t be considered a bat signal for assault, but teaching these ideas allows the fault to remain on the victim and not the predator, or the predatory societal rules men are allowed to live by.
Since tweeting her initial statement, Gabby has since released an apology:
i didn’t correctly word my reply & i am deeply sorry for coming off like i don’t stand alongside my teammates. regardless of what you wear, abuse under any circumstance is never acceptable. i am WITH you. #metoo
— Gabby Douglas (@gabrielledoug) November 18, 2017
However many aren’t here for it, and I can’t say that I am either. Many have taken to ‘cancelling’ her, but I’m not 100% for that option. What I do hope is that she makes the right steps to educate herself on this ever pressing issue in the world. Because this is not just an issue Aly faced, or women in the United States face. All across the world women are assaulted and even killed, yet are still expected to accept blame for the crimes against us.
As women it is important that we do what we can to protect each other. The world is literally crafted to keep women in a subordinate position, even more so if you are a woman of color. How can we help each other if we keep finding ways to bring each other down?