Category Archives: Feminism

Sexual Assault and Misogynistic Comments

Capture of misogynistic comments

 

You may think I’m being ridiculous, but I moderate the comments on my blog, and I don’t want anyone to waste their time responding to this man because he’s pretty clearly a victim blamer and has no understanding of what “socialization” is.

I will say this, however, because of one of things he says, “How do you know men dont take no for an answer if you dont say no.”

I have said no. Many times. It’s not effective. Why don’t women threaten to beat the shit out of men who ignore our “no”s? Well, terroristic threats (which that could easily be considered) are illegal, and it’s a lot harder for anyone to say that type of stuff out loud than it is to think or write it sitting safely alone on one’s computer, especially when one is smaller or physically weaker than the person one is threatening.

Until you know the tremendous feeling of powerlessness that comes with any form of sexual assault, regardless of whether you responded or not, I don’t think you have a right to say any of what Chris says without censure. Thus I’m not approving the comments. I’ve been sexually assaulted, albeit in a way that most would consider “mildly”, and I know that what I felt must have been a tiny fraction of what people in worse situations feel, but even so have a little tour: guilt, constant thoughts of, “I should have done this, I should have said that,” etc., moments, even today (9 yrs later) when I think what I could have done differently. Victims blame themselves, too. Here’s the thing, though: the only person to blame for sexually assaulting someone is the person committing the sexual assault.

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Oberlin: How Can People Be Threatened By Words? Easy.

People amaze me, sometimes in the worst of ways. Again it’s the comments. Always the comments.

Oberlin is having some issues with racism, homophobia, anti-semitism and possibly other things. The popular conclusion seems to be that it’s a very small group of people spreading hate. It probably is a small group; a small group of people can be scary. A small group of people can do a lot of damage psychologically and physically. Take a moment to consider what a group of 5 people* can accomplish in a community of around 3000.

One commenter on this article took it upon himself to talk about how not scary words are.

ronnie lane comment ronnie lane comment 2

Ronnie Lane if you do not understand how words can frighten and hurt people, then I can only presume you are entirely insensitive to what people who are noticeably different from those around them often go through.

You quote Novack as saying he doesn’t believe there is any word that needs to be suppressed. That, I believe, is true. However, there are words that need to be used constructively, not destructively. There are words of which, as a society, we need to work to eliminate the destructive usage. I don’t mean laws, I mean societal values.

When someone calls a black person the “n” word in a derogatory manner – that is something we as a society need to suppress by making it clear that that attitude or belief is unacceptable. As a society, as a culture we need to develop values that ostracize – yes, ostracize – those members of our society that can’t learn to get along. I’d like to eliminate racism even in the privacy of the home, but I’d be okay with eliminating the (now-)acceptable public/semi-public demonstration of it. That means I’d be okay if children of all colors and creeds could be friends¬† with one another, no questions asked. I’d like if our socio-economic classes were impossible to judge by our skin – that is I’d like statistical equality, so being white or Asian or black or Hispanic could never be a predictor of socio-economic class. Wouldn’t it be great if our chances at a job or a spot in a school could not be predicted by anything other than our merit, if everyone truly had an equal potential to get to a point in life where applying for a career track job or university was a possibility?

When someone calls a woman a bitch derogatorily, when a person treats a Hispanic person as if they are automatically stupid, when someone calls an Asian an “Oriental” as an insult – these are the things that society should react to. We should react, not with government censorship, but with societal censure. To the racist, the sexist, the homophobic, the anti-Semites we should react with harsh criticism. Harsh societal criticism. The local newspapers should refuse to publish letters to the editor that are openly or overtly hostile to a race or religion or sex or sexual orientation or gender or what have you. Friends should confront, family should confront, strangers should confront. It’s not that I think we need hostility in these situations, but we need, “How can you think that way? what could make you think that way?”

At the same time that we need more tough questions, we need more open discussion. We need less accusations of racism when people are simply struggling for words. I certainly find it difficult, coming from a position of relative privilege, to try to discuss race without sounding racist. (Homophobia, religious bigotry, and sexism I have a much easier time discussing.) We need to establish ways to have tough discussions, and we need to come together. There are the straw-men – those that aren’t racist or bigoted or anti-Semite – and there are the real ones. How we identify these mystifies me, but we need to work harder to do so. We need to find a way to talk about our societal problems without attacking each other, without condemning one another so quickly. We need to mingle more in society, rather than segregating ourselves by political party, religion, lack of religion, race, sex, gender identity, etc.

We need a lot of things. I’m sure most of what I’ve written sounds lofty and idealistic. I know it’s a slow process, but doesn’t anyone else feel like we’ve lost the key parts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech? What is wrong with our society that on a college campus, arguably one of the most liberal places you can find on the planet, people are running around like it’s the 1950s trying to intimidate and scare people based on some arbitrary status? And can we please have a discussion about race where all the races involved are actually present and represented?

How can people be threatened by words? Easy. People act on words. They may only write the words down, but they may also write racial slurs and follow up with an attack. What can 5 people do? To one, they could kidnap, beat, potentially rape, murder, steal from, cause PTSD. 5 kids can hurt one lonely child easily. 5 adults or teens have been known to do horrible things. Even one single adult can single-handedly wreak havoc on a community with words and actions.

Words are powerful. They can be scary, in much more than just a figurative way. There’s a reason yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre is illegal. There’s a reason there is a charge called “making terroristic threats” and a reason you can be charged for that without threatening en masse. Words terrorize. Symbols terrorize. Marking a community with the wrong words in the wrong way shuts people off from one another, it segments our population, it makes us suspicious and hateful of one another. Encouraging free speech is not the same as allowing racist remarks to go unchecked or un-censured.

*5 is an arbitrary number

**Truth: I really wanted to rant about the commenter above appearing to be white and male, but he may be of a low class, he could be gay, he could be a she – “Ronnie” is ambiguous – or trans, he could be very oddly strong-minded, he could even be delusional. I made assumptions about him at first (white and male, how much more privileged could you get in the US?), but I guess it’s better not to rant about something when I don’t know the facts.

 

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No, and why women don’t say it more.

A friend of mine posted a blog post a week or so ago entitled, “Why women can’t say NO, even to Creepy Guys.” The post is in the form of a conversation between Ellen and an unidentified feminist male, and it’s an interest read in its own right. It also got me thinking about saying “no” to men.

Ellen suggests – rightly, I would say – that women are both trained not to say “no,” that we’re always considering the worst possibility when a man approaches us, and that (and this is her personal thought, not one necessarily applicable to all women) she doesn’t like to say no because she doesn’t like to hurt feelings.

It got me thinking, “Why don’t I just say, ‘No,’ to unwanted male attention, to men that approach me?”

“Because they don’t listen,” my brain screamed back.

When I was 17 I went to Chicago with my mother and sister. We went to Dick’s Last Resort – a very amusing restaurant with very snarky waitstaff. It was fun until a college student decided he needed to talk to me.

Not a problem in itself, right? And my sister and mother were right there, right?

Well, said college student (whose name I have long since forgotten – probably intentionally) was at least 6’3″ and muscular. Tall, blonde, muscular and Swedish. Much bigger than I was even in my three inch heels (they were comfortable boots, just for the record) that made me about 6’0″. I obliged him and probably my mom by conversing, although I wasn’t feeling particularly talkative. I wasn’t particularly interested – he was kind of odd, didn’t talk about anything I cared about and had really gross hair*.

My mom and sister were drinking. They didn’t pick up on how uncomfortable this man was making me, so when he asked to dance and I said, “no,” they heckled me to say yes. In fact, no matter how many times I said no he ignored me and physically pulled me to the dance floor. I could not get my wrist free from the vice grip of his hand. To resist any more than I did would have required behaving like a rag doll, and, as I didn’t perceive any immediate danger, I chose to wait for a better opportunity.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I said no. At least 3 when sitting down, at least 2 on the way to the dance floor. And not quiet, passive nos. Strong, forceful nos. “No, I don’t want to dance.” “No, I said I don’t want to dance.”

He pulled me all the way to the dance floor – a considerable distance given the layout of the room and tables. I was literally forced to dance against my will. Literally powerless – short of biting or kicking where I knew it would hurt him.

Thankfully the kind of dancing he tried to do was more of a swing dance – not pulling me even more uncomfortably close. It turns out when someone spins you it’s really easy to break their grip and walk very quickly away. And as I pulled my hand away I remember saying, “I told you I didn’t want to dance.” I can walk pretty fast when I want to (or when I forget that normal people don’t walk at 5mph+ per hour).

I’m not sure I can convey to anyone how disturbing this experience was. Suffice it to say that I daydreamed for at least a year of being some sort of martial arts master that could’ve flipped that man on his back before he could drag me a foot away from my chair. If you’ve never had your personal autonomy so completely disrupted, I don’t know that I can make you understand.

This certainly wasn’t the first or last time my “no” was ignored by a man. It is, however, the most forceful memory I have of such an occurrence and one of few memories where something actually occurred with physical force.

My reason for telling this story is to illustrate how men react to “no” from women in many situations related to romantic or sexual overtures.

“No” doesn’t work. Telling men, “I have a boyfriend,” or “I have plans” even when you are lying works infinitely better. Usually these answers (or the follow-up answers like “I won’t cheat on my boyfriend”) work. There’s not a lot you can say to that kind of answer.

“No” is responded to with needling or heckling and sometimes outright ignorance. They pretend like you’re trying to play with them or ignore your wishes completely. It’s maddening to have one’s personal autonomy so messed with. Even more maddening because I know I’m so treated because of my gender.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not advocating for using excuses when men make passes at you. It certainly works better than just plain old, honest, “no,” but I wish I could just be honest. I like honesty. Love it, actually.

If only:
“Let’s go out sometime”
“No”

Wasn’t followed by:
“Why not?”
“Because I don’t want to.”
“Oh come on…” etc. etc. etc.

Seriously, why do I need to say more than no? Why more than “because I don’t want to”? Why can’t men accept that?

I’m not going to advocate for women to start being more honest. I want to advocate for men and anyone in the position of instigator to start listening and accepting answers. When a woman says, “No,” leave her the hell alone. I don’t care how hot you think she is. Back the fuck off. Same, of course, goes to any women who suck at accepting rejection.

Now you can but-not-all-men-are-like-that until the cows come home, but you should probably know this: a lot more men are like that than you think. A lot more. PZ Myers once said at CONvergence that only a small portion of men are like this – disrespectful of women, lacking in basic manners, unable to accept a woman’s autonomy, misogynist, etc. – but that’s unfortunately not as true as I think we all imagine/hope it to be. I have been heckled, needled, treated differently, treated less than respectfully too many times to count by men, and by too many different men in too many places for it to be as rare as so many people seem to think. If my own experience isn’t enough, I’ve read too many accounts, heard too many accounts, witnessed too many accounts.

So next time you ask someone out do two things: make it clear what you want – I’ve rejected more than one man who honestly wanted to befriend me because I could’ve gauge the situation – and accept whatever answer is given. Unless it’s a friend of yours you don’t have any business grilling them on their answer.

No actually does mean, “No.” We’re not talking about serving food in certain countries.

*trivial, yes, but something I remember more vividly than many other things. It was emo hair for men, but plastered down with hair gel or something. And blonde.

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You want to date… your mother?

At lunch today I ended up sitting with all men. One of these men is upwards of 40, but I have no idea just how upwards – call him “Bob”. The other two are close to my age – 23. One, let’s call him “M” was the same year in school as me. The other graduated two years before me – call him “D.”

D has attended a lot of weddings this summer. He’s at that age when all your friends get married. Not infrequently when one of these weddings is mentioned someone will ask about D’s girlfriend. “Is she pushing you to propose?”* Usually D responds with some asinine comment along the lines of, “I put the kibosh on that.”**

Today, though, D said she doesn’t really talk about marriage. Bob and M responded with, “Oooh, where’d you find a woman like that?!” D then said, “She cooks and cleans, too. And does my laundry.” Bob and M were even more impressed.

“So, you all want to date your mother?” I wanted to ask. But it was work, so it didn’t seem appropriate.

What is with that, though? How many men honestly want to date a woman who does everything a housewife from the 50s does, but who doesn’t want to actually be a housewife? How many men realize that wanting a woman who will cook, clean, and launder for them is basically like wanting a younger version of their mother to whom they are unrelated because we all know that they want sex, too?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be taken care of, but who wants to make their loved one work that much?! Lazy.

I’m thankful I found a sane man that sees me as a real person, rather than solely as a woman. When I asked him about his thoughts he told me he likes that I like to cook because it means 1. one of us can cook and 2. it’s fun for him to cook with and learn from me.¬†Cooking is a hobby for me, I’d revolt if expected to do it on a daily basis for other people. He also likes that I have clean habits – not that I clean for him, which I don’t.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the world would be a lot better off if our romantic relationships were more equal partnerships rather than “man and wife.”****

Also, while I’m not sure why D’s girlfriend would want to marry him, who says she has to hint at it? Why not just propose?

*Okay, that’s a more sophisticated version of what they say, but you get the idea.

** This is, quite possibly, a regional expression. It might even be like duck, duck , grey duck.

*** Two things – first, this is very much about heterosexual, monogamous couples, mostly because I’m not sure how all of this works in any other situation. Second, that phrase always bugged me. He gets to stay a “man,” but now she’s defined as his wife – a word dependent on relationship to another. As if the fact that woman is just “man” plus a couple letters wasn’t bad enough.

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