I'm going for political suicide here but I’m willing to stand up with anybody else in this country who happens to agree with Sheik Hilali’s sentiments… Unfortunately, how a woman dresses does affect her level of likeliness to be chosen (for rape).
This is not a useful way to put things. The sheik's lecture did much more than just warn women to dress modestly to avoid sexual assault. It portrayed women as the fount of moral corruption and Christians as the most evil of God's creation. So it's unfortunate that Suzanne Bassett should talk about agreeing with the sheik.
However, in a later comment Suzanne Bassette wrote something quite insightful:
I have to apologise for my poor choice of words. Of course assaults occur everywhere and are hideous deeds. But I'm a grown up woman with a daughter and I tell her it's common sense to not be out on your own if you can catch a cab or wear outfits with your breasts hanging out of them outside of a safe group environment.
Really, would we go to work in a bathing suit? No, that's because like it or not there are some boundaries of common sense that apply and having an attitude that I can do ANYTHING I like and it's all your fault if you do something does carry a stupid factor. After all, being grown up isn't about doing whatever you like, but learning how to not do things you know inside are outside the zone.
This is a braver comment than Suzanne Bassette realises. The liberal political tradition is based exactly on the idea of individuals doing whatever they like, so it's a well-aimed dagger in the heart for her to describe this view as being unsuitable for grown-ups.
Young women in particular have it drummed into them that it is their "right" to act however they like. So much so, that some young women have lost a necessary sense of self-protective worldliness: accepting drugs and lifts from groups of strange men, passing out drunk in public, tottering home alone drunk.
I don't think I'm alone in cringing when I observe young women behaving this way. It's natural for us to feel concerned, as when Gabrielle Carey wrote in last Saturday's Age:
The biggest risk I ever took was hitch-hiking with Kathy Lette to Adelaide to see Spike Milligan when we were 16. How mad is that? I would die if my daughter did that today. [28/10/06]
Suzanne Bassette has been sacked from her role as national secretary of the Democrats because of her comments. Although I don't like the fact that leftists like her are rushing to defend al-Hilaly (presumably because they believe he is the oppressed "other"), I commend her for making (in her second comment anyway) some useful observations on this issue.