Regis Giles recently appeared at a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to discuss her idea for a new mass movement of girls possessing firearms to protect themselves from potential rapists and her website “Girls Just Wanna Have Guns”. Regis stated that she was “sick and tired of seeing defenseless girls being abducted in broad daylight by some fruity freak who gets aroused by raping and abducting them.” While some may view Giles’ statements as an example of “take charge feminism” where rapists get what they deserve, the logic that carrying a weapon is the best way for women to protect themselves from sexual assault or rape blatantly ignores the fact that 73% of rape victims know their assailants.
Giles epitomizes the always frustrating combination of ill-informed but contagiously enthusiastic and stereotypically attractive. She acts as the perfect mouthpiece to espouse conservative values and “promote” female empowerment. Both she and Sarah Palin seem to adhere to an idea of feminism that allows women to be “strong” (re: their obsession with hunting and guns) as long as they continue to promote sexist, patriarchal notions of a woman’s place as below men and adhere to strict notions of traditional beauty expected for women. Essentially they can be “strong” as long as they aren’t too opinionated but still stereotypically attractive.
What is most frustrating about Giles’ plan to combat sexual assault is that it does nothing to address the societal conditions that promote and condone assault and violence against women. Arming women with guns does not erase the accepted social norm that women’s voices matter less than men’s do. It does not address the blatant sexualization of women in the media which turns women into objects to be used for men’s sexual pleasure. It does not reconstruct stringent gender roles that say men must be violent and controlling and that real men don’t feel empathy for others. As feminist theorist bell hooks states “teaching women how to defend themselves against male rapists is not the same as working to change a society so that men will not rape… nor does it change the culture that promotes and condones their brutality.”
We as a society must take steps to rethink our notions of masculinity and femininity to ensure equality between genders, if we truly want to end interpersonal violence. Programs like UNC’s One Act serve as a teaching tool for sexual assault and interpersonal violence prevention. At FVPC we work with middle and high schoolers to begin discussions of healthy relationships and to deconstruct traditional gender roles so that both all people feel comfortable speaking out when they are stalked/bullied/harassed/assaulted. Attempting to solve interpersonal violence with violence can only lead to more dangerous situations. If you or someone you know is in a scary, uncomfortable or dangerous relationship, please call our 24-hour hotline. Violence is not okay and is never the answer.