“As women we have to cheat to win”

#Liberaltips2avoidrape trended as a hashtag on Twitter this week. Wrapped up in this disgraceful social media disaster, I also followed commentary on the Tips to Avoid Rape posted by Colorado State University. We have a lot of unpacking to do here, so let’s get started.

First off, the gross hashtag epidemic came out of gun law debates over the right to have access to weapons for self-defense in the event of an attempted rape on a college campus. It’s obscene to use the experience of rape as a tongue-in-cheek attempt to joke about someone’s political stance. It’s not about who’s conservative, who’s liberal, or who stands for what issue. Rape is #notajoke, and joking about it in any form—on stage, on the couch, or online—is wrong.

Second, when we introduce self-defense strategies as the be-all and end-all solutions to stopping rape, we’re missing the bigger picture. Most of the time, rape is committed by someone you know and trust. It’s unusual that someone jumps out from behind the bushes while a young, pretty woman walks alone in a dark alley. Rape more often happens in someone’s living room, at a party, or somewhere that you feel safe. More often than not, the person committing rape is someone who you would normally want to avoid shooting with a gun. It can be a friend, a partner, a colleague, a teacher, or a family member.

Is it possible that gauging a person’s eyes, urinating on them, or getting on the phone will stop a rapist? Maybe… That’s probably why Colorado’s self-defense instructor is talking about these strategies as tactics. She emphasizes that “as women, we have to cheat to win” in a recent news report. I’m suggesting that #winning is not accomplished by cheating, or even by changing the rules. To really win at preventing rape, we’ve got to change the game.

Just a thought, but one way to change this game is to change the way we talk about women. One of the #liberaltips2avoidrape was “go for the democratic politician look. You definitely won’t be raped…” which was posted along with an image of several women congressional leaders and the words “Old, bitter, ugly-a$$ women—The backbone of the Democratic party.”

Another liberal suggestion: #StopRaping.