practice violence against women but live with the threat of male violence. Every. Single. Day. All over the world.” ~ Soraya Chemaly, Twitter post
Thursday afternoon. Cloudy and much cooler, 65 degrees.
I know that I’m on a bit of a tear lately, but I make no apologies.
I read a post yesterday about a young woman who was being harassed in school because of the size of her breasts. When she confronted the group of boys, she was groped. When she lashed out verbally, the boys escalated in their behavior. Ultimately, the school officials told here that “boys will be boys” and that she should just not pay attention . . . School officials took no action against the boys, told the girl she was lucky she wasn’t being suspended, and made no report. Only once the student confided in a teacher who then went to security and didn’t back down was something done.
And this really made me pause. Why should females bear the brunt of not paying attention, of ignoring unwanted advances and/or catcalls? Why is the excuse “boys will be boys” such an ingrained part of our culture? I don’t know exactly when it entered my brain that I would not rise to any catcalls, that I would simply keep walking, but at some point it did, and that is how I have always reacted. It’s a socialized female response. But you know what? It pisses me off that this has to be our response. But the truly frightening part is how ignoring such unwanted verbal attention can now morph into acts of violence. I find this horrendous.
Want to know something else I find horrendous, the incredible male backlash regarding women speaking out. Here’s an example: “: I’d like to see more women walking around with cigarette burns on their faces.”
I didn’t just make that up.
This, right here, is exactly why we need to continue to have this discussion.
“Women are people and you can’t own ANY people. Also, she owes you nothing. And you are not bigger for demeaning her.” ~ Imram Siddiquee, Twitter post
The clipped image above from a Twitter feed is a prime example of everything that is wrong in this discussion. I made the mistake of tracking down this guy’s feed, mostly to try to determine if his assholiness is isolated to the #yesallwomen feed, but it’s not. His feed is just filled with deliberate baiting, like his pondering of whether or not rapeable has an e, or his discussions of all of the things he wants to do to someone’s *hole. He even jokes (using the term way too loosely) that you can send him rape stories so that he can jerk off, and declares that he’ll “rip through this like some vagina.”
Look, this guy would probably rely on that age-old fallback justification—that he’s just joking, just being irreverent, that women should loosen up and not take everything so seriously. But I would bet my house that if a woman he knew were ever raped, he would go ballistic. But that incense wouldn’t come from her pain; it would come from his sense of power being taken. What men like this don’t understand is that some subjects aren’t joke-worthy. All of his male posturing is just so much bullshit.
Consider this: When was the last time you heard of a man being told to text his friends to make sure he made it home without being raped and/or abducted? How many men do you know who carry pepper spray with them just in case some strange woman tries to drag them behind a dumpster? Do any of the men in your family walk with their keys between their fingers because they were told that keys could be used as weapons?
Will we ever reach a point at which men no longer feel that they can call out sexual advances to total strangers? Will we ever reach a point at which these men realize that unwanted catcalls are not flattering, and that ignoring them is not an excuse to escalate behavior? I doubt we’ll ever reach a point at which subhumans such as the poorexcuse guy will not find it hilarious to make fun of subjects that aren’t even remotely funny.
“Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women.” ~Maya Angelou
I don’t know that I will see the end of this behavior any time soon, not in my lifetime, and perhaps not in my children’s lifetimes, mostly because so much of this behavior is ingrained in our society—it’s in our faces 24/7, in movies, television, magazines, advertising, billboards, songs, even on our clothing. The female body is an object, and even though that object happens to belong to a person, that person is secondary to her sex.
Her breasts are there for people to ogle. Her derriere is there for people to rub against. God forbid she might be clad in something form-fitting, something short, something tight. Doesn’t she know that by doing so, she’s putting herself out there to be objectified. You know, like a pork chop? Doesn’t she know it’s her responsibility not to cause sexual arousal in total strangers?
Think about this: Maybe she lost 50 pounds and wants to show off her new form. Maybe spaghetti straps are cooler in the summer. Maybe yoga pants are easy to throw on for errands. Just because a woman is wearing a thong, and you can see that thong line, it doesn’t mean that she wants you to comment on her underwear. It doesn’t mean that she wants you to come up and rub her butt. ‘Tis no matter. It’s her responsibility to make sure the males out there don’t get any hard ons. It certainly not the responsibility of those red-blooded males. I mean, no one ever told them that their penises weren’t the end all and be all of their identity.
We have to do better. All of us. We need to educate our children and our grandchildren, and our nieces and our nephews: it’s not okay to place another person—male or female—in a context that reduces that person to their sex.
We all have to do better.
“Dear , you deserve zero praise for not being a rapist. Aim higher. The best thing you can do is listen and support ” ~ Jay Wood, Twitter post
Consider this story by Soroya Chemaly, which appeared in the Huffington Post last September:
A man in a car pulled up next to a 14-year old girl on a street in Florida and offered to pay her $200 to have sex with him. Some people would say that’s a compliment. It’s part of being out in society, learning to deal with people, navigating relationships between men and women. Or, at least that what many commenters on articles I write about street harassment think. That or maybe they’re thinking, ‘She must have looked like a prostitute,’ and well, you know.
The girl said no. So what does this guy do? He reaches out, drags her, by her hair, into his car, chokes her until she blacks out, tosses her out of the car and then, not done yet, he runs her over several times . . . What was the Deadly Weapon referred to in the charge I wonder? Given our normatively male understanding interpretation of what is threatening, does a man pulling up to a girl like this and talking to her in this way constitute imminent harm?
This was an incident of street harassment taken to extremes.
You’re thinking, “He’s crazy! You can’t possibly put what he did in the same category as street harassment!” Yes, I can.
He stopped and talked to a girl he did not know and he told her what he thought and what he wanted her to do. Clearly, he felt this was okay, or he wouldn’t have done it. This isn’t insanity, it’s entitlement. This is, in principle, the same as men who say, “Smile,” “Want a ride?” “Suck on this” and on and on and on. And, that’s all before the public groping that might ensue.
OK. No big deal I’ve been told. But, he went further, as is often the case. When she said no, he just took her. He crossed a red line that seriously needs to be moved. “Taking someone” should not be the “red line” for public incivility and safe access to public space.
When you ask why I’m angry . . .
We hear about cases like this with dulling regularity and, undoubtedly, we don’t hear about even more. Just a smattering of examples:
- In San Francisco last year, a man stabbed a woman in the face and arm after she didn’t respond positively to his sexually harassing her on the street.
- In Bradenton, Fla., a man shot a high school senior to death after she and her friends refused to perform oral sex at his request. I
- In Chicago, a scared 15-year-old was hit by a car and died after she tried escaping from harassers on a bus.
- Again, in Chicago, a man grabbed a 19-year-old walking on a public thoroughfare, pulled her onto a gangway and assaulted her.
- Last week, a runner in California — a woman — was stopped and asked, by a strange man in a car, if she wanted a ride. When she declined he ran her over twice.
I just started following a new tumblr called When Women Refuse, in which contributors share stories of women who have been murdered, raped, beaten, run over, and brutalized in countless other ways simply because they said no, because they said they didn’t want to get in the car, because they didn’t outwardly respond to some lewd comment, because they didn’t want to have sex, because they didn’t want to continue the relationship.
Each of these stories is mind-numbing individually, but collectively, they make a statement that is hard to turn away from: Women/girls who have the audacity to say no, are continually punished for doing so, and in many cases, their reactions/actions are dismissed by authorities.
Here are some of the stories that have been posted on When Women Refuse just in the past few days:
- A New Jersey man was convicted this week of strapping his child into a car seat and throwing her into the creek to get revenge on his ex-girlfriend. He kissed the girl and told her he loved her before flinging her to her death. Unable to resist one last dig at the little girls mother and family, Morgan winked and smiled broadly in the courtroom after he found he had been convicted of murder. http://latest.com/2014/04/sicko-dad-strapped-baby-into-car-seat-threw-her-in-creek-to-get-revenge
- March 23 2014: 3 teenage girls in Indianapolis were chased by a 28 year old man, and he shot the windows out of their car, because they did not return his attentions at a gas station. http://www.indystar.com/story/news/crime/2014/05/28/impd-man-shot-car-teen-girls-inside/9661217/
- They broke up. She had an order of protection. He was wanted for violating that order. He went to her job, shot her supervisor when he tried to protect her, killed her, then killed himself.http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/spurned-ex-lover-opens-fire-office-killing-girlfriend-article-1.348267
- She was leaving an abusive man, had a TRO. He found her through the babysitter and rammed her car when she tried to flee with her children. He dragged her onto the street and beat her with a rifle butt, until she was dead. A good samaritan tried to intervene, and was sent to the hospital.http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2008/Jan/23/ln/hawaii801230407.html
- She tried to end their relationship, so when she came to pick up her then 12 year old daughter from the school bus stop, he came out and shot her, her 20 year old daughter, and a family friend. http://m.wsfa.com/#!/newsDetail/11502126
- Adrian Bayley told psychologist Professor James Ogloff that he had tried to kiss Ms Meagher and touch her bottom outside a Brunswick laneway off Sydney Road at 1.38am on September 22 last year. Ms Meagher reacted by stepping back and slapping him across the face. Bayley told Dr Ogloff he lost it and became outraged that she had rejected his advances. http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/bayley-jailed-for-35-years-for-jill-meaghers-rape-murder-20130619-2ohrb.html#ixzz337f2WpSz
- A woman had almost all of her nose cut off when she refused to have sex with her boyfriend. In her affidavit, she reported that he said: “That’s what you deserve bitch!” http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/Man-Cut-Almost-All-of-Girlfriends-Nose-Off-Police-179355821.html
- On the morning of May 11, 2003, Sakia Gunn, 15, was stabbed to death when she and her girlfriends rebuffed the sexual overtures of two African-American men by disclosing to them that their disinterest was simply because they were all lesbians. http://www.bilerico.com/2013/05/media_coverage_of_murder_remembering_sakia_gunn.php
- Donald Ray Daves kidnapped his wife at gunpoint, and forced her to perform a sexual act on him before raping her three times in a hotel room in 2009. The defense claimed, “She could have asked for help, but she didn’t.”
- Federal officials say Prabhainjana Dwivedi, a Miami-Dade cop, routinely stopped women drivers for no reason so he could have “sexually suggestive conversations” — including asking to see the scars on one woman’s surgically enhanced breasts — and then let the women go without issuing any citations, reports The Miami Herald.
- David A. Kappheim, 60, who is “obsessed with Fox News and the Republican party” is in the slammer after he allegedly said that he felt he was going to have to kill his girlfriend because she was a “liberal,” reports The Palm Beach Post.
- Aaron Morris, of North Lauderdale, is accused of grabbing a woman’s butt while at a North Lauderdale Walmart, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office report, reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Aaron, 18, allegedly told the arresting deputy that he touched the woman’s rear end because “Her booty looked so good, I just couldn’t resist touching it.”
I think I have to stop now. I have a pit in the bottom of my stomach. Look, I have no answers, only suggestions. I only know that in a world in which so very many things are wrong, in which so very many things are heinous, that indifference to the very real problem of how women are treated is preventable in so many ways. No, we cannot cure rapists, but we can work on the essence of rape culture. No, we cannot eradicate misogyny, but we can do better in educating our sons and daughters.
We have to try, don’t we?
I mean, we just have to.
More later. Peace.
Music by Arctic Monkeys, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”
There is no difference between being raped
and being pushed down a flight of cement steps
except that the wounds also bleed inside.
There is no difference between being raped
and being run over by a truck
except that afterward men ask if you enjoyed it.
There is no difference between being raped
and being bit on the ankle by a rattlesnake
except that people ask if your skirt was short
and why you were out alone anyhow.
There is no difference between being raped
and going head first through a windshield
except that afterward you are afraid
not of cars
but half the human race.
The rapist is your boyfriend’s brother.
He sits beside you in the movies eating popcorn.
Rape fattens on the fantasies of the normal male
like a maggot in garbage.
Fear of rape is a cold wind blowing
all of the time on a woman’s hunched back.
Never to stroll alone on a sand road through pine woods,
never to climb a trail across a bald
without that aluminum in the mouth
when I see a man climbing toward me.
Never to open the door to a knock
without that razor just grazing the throat.
The fear of the dark side of hedges
the back seat of the car, the empty house
rattling keys like a snake’s warning.
The fear of the smiling man
in whose pocket is a knife.
The fear of the serious man
in whose fist is locked hatred.
All it takes to cast a rapist to be able to see your body
as jackhammer, as blowtorch, as adding-machine-gun.
All it takes is hating that body
your own, your self, your muscle that softens to flab.
All it takes is to push what you hate,
what you fear onto the soft alien flesh.
To bucket out invincible as a tank
armored with treads without senses
to possess and punish in one act,
to rip up pleasure, to murder those who dare
live in the leafy flesh open to love.
~ Marge Piercy
Two other related poems, both worthy of reading but long: “Rape Poem To End All Rape Poems” by the Rutgers University slam team, and “Rape Joke,” by Patricia Lockwood