by Jessie Horness
Girl Woman: On Victim Blaming, Rape Culture, and Kino MacGregor’s Shorts
If you’d like to spend some time truly hating pretty much everything, scour cyberspace for degrading sexual comments directed at Kino MacGregor. I promise it will work like a charm.
Not long ago, a short piece about Kino, a popular and generally well-respected Ashtanga yoga teacher, sparked conversation in a Facebook group I belong to. Right off the bat, someone voiced disappointment over the sexual comments that humanity’s finest spew onto Kino’s extensive social media presence. “How much responsibility does Kino herself have for censoring these comments?” they asked the cyber-verse, “How much responsibility does she have for trying to be less sexy?”
Before I go any further, I want to preface this by saying I don’t have a strong like/dislike opinion of Kino MacGregor. I think she has an inspirational practice, and I’ve found some of her resources helpful as both a practitioner and a teacher. I have mixed feelings about the ways she chooses to share yoga through social media–but we have to remember that Kino was one of the first in the yoga community to really utilize the amazing tool that is the Internet. It is our duty as a community to learn from her experiments, evaluating which are successful and which are not as we decide how we want to use social media to evolve.
I assume Kino’s intentions are good. I can’t say. I don’t know her. I saw her and her husband once, on the last day of my most recent trip to Mysore. She bought a mango from a fruit seller outside my house. So all I can really say is she likes mangoes, and that’s not enough to form an opinion. I do, however, have an opinion on victim blaming. And these concerned questions about how much responsibility she has for “censoring these comments” or “trying to be less sexy” ring way too loudly of it.
These kinds of queries place the blame not on those who have chosen to say degrading things to this woman, but on the woman herself. That doesn’t show a lot of empathy for the person who ends up reading obscene comments about herself every day. I’m guessing it’s not an enjoyable experience.
As a rule, I don’t read the comments, so I wasn’t sure just how bad the situation was. So, using highly scientific methods (I scrolled Instagram, Facebook and YouTube and copy pasted vulgar comments until the darkness was unbearable) I went on a little investigation.
While none of it’s pretty, YouTube is by far the worst. The first comment I found rated her video a “generous 9-10 fapping material.” There was a lot of similar talk about masturbation habits, how much fun this strong woman would be in bed, and much worse, graphic enough that I won’t even dignify it with inclusion out of respect for those who may find them triggering. And in response to this, what do the concerned ask? How much Kino is responsible for making sure it doesn’t happen. In the end, all they wish is that “being a smart, strong, capable and confident woman were enough.” After all, it is to them.
Now, I don’t know Kino (outside of our mango moment), but I have a suspicion being a smart, strong, capable and confident woman is enough for her, too.
But I can hazard a guess why someone might think differently.
It’s her shorts, isn’t it?
And her bandeaus.
Basically, we’re worried all of this is the result of Kino’s fairly revealing yoga wear. And it might be. The shorts are probably a huge part of the inspiration for this misogyny. But it’s not the short’s fault. Nor is it the fault of the woman inside them. It’s the fault of the men commenting.
The minute we allow ourselves to think differently, we fall into a dangerous trap.
If we blame Kino’s choice of clothing for the degrading, graphic comments directed at her, basically saying that her choices have made her deserving of such treatment, we can also say that I, or any woman, deserve to have our asses commented on when we wear our yoga pants from class to run errands. Or that we’re asking for it when someone gropes for what’s inside them. We imply that if a man decides to use force to manipulate our bodies because he’s decided he’s entitled to what’s beneath those same pants, we are possibly responsible because our choice of clothing enticed him to it.
None of that is okay. All of it perpetuates rape culture. All of it furthers victim blaming. No one deserves to be degraded, disrespected, or misused in this kind of way. Regardless of what they may be wearing.
Perhaps it’s time to ask some different questions when it comes to this issue. Maybe instead of asking whether Kino should try to be less sexy, we need to ask how we as a community are going to respond to the attempt of these men to take power over a woman whose strength they may find threatening. Maybe instead of asking whether Kino, or any woman, has a responsibility for discouraging this behavior, we need to ask what we’re doing to support them against it. Why didn’t I see any strong, smart, capable women (or decent, conscious men) using the same anonymity that these harassers have taken advantage of to make it known that this kind of commentary is not okay? Why are we placing the weight of the responsibility for this abuse on the victim, and not on ourselves as an entire community? If someone came up to a woman on the street and graphically, publicly declared a sex act he wanted to perform on her, wouldn’t we speak up? I hope the answer is yes. So why won’t we do it for Kino? Or for that matter, any of the other women on the internet?
It’s time to take a look at ourselves and the subtle ways rape culture, the culture that has told us that this kind of sexual abuse (which is, in a way, verbal rape) has weaved its way into all of our minds. Even when it is well meaning. It’s in all of us. We are not to blame for its infiltration, but we are responsible for noticing it and weeding it out. It’s in the way we teach our daughters how to dress and how to watch their own backs. It’s in the way we teach girls how to prevent rape but we don’t teach boys not to perpetrate it.
And it’s in our reaction to Kino MacGregor’s shorts.
Jessie Horness is an Ashtanga practitioner and yoga instructor (though she is happiest as a student) proud to live in beautiful Northern Michigan. Off the mat, she loves playing with words, whether that means writing them or reading them, and exploring the world on as many adventures as possible. The path to her heart is paved with witty conversation, quality music, and vegan milkshakes.
image via kinoyoga.tumblr.com