Cosmopolitan‘s veteran Irma Kurtz has caused outrage following her latest advice.
Speaking to BBC presenter Jane Garvey on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour in the UK, Ms. Kurtz claimed that women should not get drunk around men, as it puts them at risk of being raped. She went on to suggest that the responsibility lies solely on women to protect themselves against attack.
She said those who “get drunk with the boys” become incapable of defending themselves because “drunkenness tears that away. It really is carelessness to lose your self-defense.” She added that rape is “an assault with a weapon,” and “you really have to be a little bit defensive when you’re around people who are stupid and armed.”
The comments have brought a huge backlash from anti-rape campaigners and on social media, with one commenter on Twitter saying:
“Get drunk with boys and you’re open to rape – Irma Kurtz @CosmoplitanUK So rape is inevitable and we should avoid it.”
Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape, said:
“Her comments are totally irresponsible. It is time commentators stopped blaming victims and put the responsibility on those who do the crime — rapists.”
Miss Kurtz was asked by presenter Jane Garvey about views she expressed some years ago, when she said women’s sexual freedom came with an obligation to protect themselves. Garvey quoted Kurtz’s words:
“Please remember that your new freedom to go out and play with the boys requires you to employ an even greater freedom new to women, the greatest freedom … the freedom to take responsibility for ourselves.”
When asked if she meant that rape was the fault of the victim, Kurtz replied, “Rape is a vicious and wicked crime. It’s an assault with a weapon. It’s not the fault of the victim. However, it’s a very good idea to keep away, to protect yourself.” Going on, she stated: “What I’m saying actually is not that it is her fault. But please protect yourself, now that you’re allowed to, by not getting drunk with the boys.”
But doesn’t Kurtz have a valid point?
Not that any intoxicated woman deserves to be attacked, but if a woman is intoxicated, she is less likely to be able to defend herself should a man attack her. What if Kurtz had told us to be careful when walking around late at night on our own? Or to make sure we ordered cabs from registered cab companies rather than flagging down cars in the street — would this advice be jumped upon, too? By stating that women should protect themselves, she makes a valid point. She isn’t suggesting that the victim is to blame, nor that the rapist is innocent if a woman has ingested alcohol; she is merely encouraging woman to look out for themselves — to be aware, to be safety conscious — and isn’t that an empowering thing?
I can see how her comments have been interpreted in a way that suggests if the victim is drunk they’re to blame, but do we really think a woman who has been an agony aunt since 1973, who has heard every problem under the sun, and who has championed and supported women throughout these 4 decades, would now turn on them and lay blame of attack at their feet?
Cosmopolitan has quickly issued a statement which includes a quote from Kurtz:
“Rape is never ever the victim’s fault and I have never in my 40 year career as an agony aunt said that a victim of this horrific crime is in any way responsible and I’m devastated that anyone would suggest otherwise. The only person to blame for rape is the rapist. My only wish is for women to stay safe. Excessive alcohol can make people vulnerable to many dangers and crimes. How many mothers advise their daughters before a night out not to drink too much? It’s not because they’re being judgemental; it’s because they care and want them home safely. Why do girls always look after each other when a friend’s had too much to drink? Because they don’t want anything to happen to her.”
There is never a woman who “asks for it” or who deserves to be attacked for what she drank, ate, wore, how she danced, flirted or kissed. Irma Kurtz doesn’t want women not to drink or to not have fun, she just wants women to be safe. Don’t we all?
Kurtz is releasing her memoirs, My Life In Agony, next month.
Photo Credit: Amazon