17 November 2005

I Lied...

I lied to you. And I had told myself I wouldn't. I'm convinced that connectedness is one of the very few things in life that really matter. And honesty, complete honesty is the only way to get that type of connectedness. I grew up in a subculture (middle class) that avoided intimacy, but I thought that was behind me.

And then in spite of all that, I got embarrassed and I didn't want to expose myself, and so I avoided being honest.

I'm referring to a comment to an earlier post (and a reference to Janet Albrechtsen's article) in which I had written:
Yeah, it really pisses me off at work, feeling like I'm less respected for my abilities than my male counterparts. But what really gets to me is that in my culture, 33% of women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime…
I re-read that and it falls flat. It has no juice because it wasn't really true. Oh, sure, I can get worked up about issues at work, but worked up about some statistics? Too impersonal. I'm numb.

I only got aware of that the next day, when I was mulling it over, wondering why it felt wrong. You see, what I had original written, and what I freaked out about and erased was the part where I almost wrote: "what really pisses me off is that *I* was assaulted."

Fuck statistics. Fuck "33%". That was ME in those numbers. Ok?

Here are the facts: women are the victims of sexual violence in large numbers. Those parts of any culture that allows abuse are abhorrant. This includes Western culture. So Janet Albrechtsen can have her little rant about how boo-hoo middle-class in our concerns western feminists are for ignoring that women in Islamic countries are abused and that girls in indigenous communities are abused, and how all of us are pampered.

Well, eat shit, Janet. First, we're not as shallow as you'd imply. Second, don't use these women's pain to score yourself political points. If you're feeling so bad that people aren't helping, go get involved. What, are your legs broken? It isn't just "feminists" who are responsible for stopping oppression of women. In a similar vein, feminists have a wide range of concerns including protesting the war, paying their bills, getting healthy, stopping the Liberals from passing draconian new laws, raising kids, doing the shopping, stopping oppression of women, men, children, elders, etc.)

A lot of women don't know that other women (and other men) have been victims of (sexual) violence, and lot of men are really surprised that it's happened to people they know. Oh, they might know if their girlfriends have had violence in their past (we tend to tell our partners, since it always affect that way we relate intimately), but they probably don't know about their sisters or their mothers and aunts. We don't talk about it much. I am struck with admiration for those women who tell their stories, because that's where change happens. I'm full of admiration for women in Muslim countries who are speaking about their abuse and who are changing those Hudood laws which sanctify that abuse. I'm in awe of women all over Asia who, in their 60s and 70s, are speaking up for the first time about their terrible ordeals as Comfort Women during the Second World War. Boy, that's some courage.

When I was a 10 year old, a couple of 12 year old boys jumped me. And although I fought them off after a while, it was a pyrrhic victory. With a 10 year old's logic, I never told anyone, 'cause I would have been in a lot of trouble (I probably wouldn't have been allowed to babysit myself again until I reached majority). I dreamed for years of telling my daddy and having him make it all better (I'm so sorry, daddy).

A couple of weeks later, my best friend confronted me. Her mother, through some weird rigid veil of German Catholic anti-semitism, saw me "having fun with some neighbourhood boys".

Mrs. Messbauer, listen up: having fun at age 10 is bicycling down the hill faster than you've gone before, pigtails flying in the wind. Having fun was learning a new intricate "pattycake" game. Having fun was shrieking with my best friend, your daughter, with that mixture of horror and glee because the toads we just chased and caught pissed our hands. Being attacked - being pinched and poked and prodded and having to fight as hard as you can, and finally being glad that you and your sister beat the snot out of each other day after day, so you know how to fight off two older brutes until they finally get tired of not gaining an advantage and they get bored and leave .... Well, that isn't fun.

Looking back, I don't know how to separate sexism from whatever those boys used psychologically to justify their actions to themselves. I always assumed that they were perpetrators, rather than just simply acting within a cultural definition of men and women. Let me clarify: if someone is acting out of some pathology, I assume they need treatment and that it requires intervention of a personal, psychological (and perhaps legal) nature. When the pathology is inherent within an entire culture, it's time to change the culture through any means necessary.

In retrospect, I think it was cultural. That year (1970) I fought my 8 year old neighbour (and friend) because he kept insisting that as a boy, he was superior. I intuited that a person's worth was not only measured in terms of how strong they were, but I couldn't express it well enough to convince him. We ended the fight in a tie. He was pretty chuffed, and used as proof of his superiority that despite his being two years younger, he did not lose. 1970 was also a big year for "Women's Lib", and our 5th grade class held a debate on whether women were equal to men. Again, although all the girls were convinced that we were (being human beings, how could we doubt that our worth was the same as everyone else's?), we couldn't convince our peers and the debate ended in a "tie".

And as far as my story? That was one of them. I'm done for now. Go connect with the women in your lives.


Anonymous Myk said...

Everytime I hear a figure for that statistic, it seems like it's gotten higher. And yet, it still fails to surprise me.

I think substantially more than 50% of the women I know have been sexually assaulted. The statistic is nasty, but it's the effects that piss me off.

I'm only hit by second-order effects, and that's plenty for me to do all I can to change opinions.

1:43 am  
Blogger shane said...

Thank you for your honesty. I love you for that.

Discussing my comment with you later I came to think I did kinda drink the Kool-Aid on that one. I had noticed and vaguely worried about apparent Lefty silence on some ostensibly lefty issues, including the ones Albrechtson mentions. But you were right that we can support a cause without carrying the flag on all of them.

It occurs to me Albrechtson's complaint is that Western feminism is now about equality, not raw survival the way it used to be (and other peoples still is). So it's not worthwhile. Which is crap.

1:46 am  
Blogger elissa feit said...

Hi Myk,
I know exactly what you mean about second-order affects. There was a woman I used to work with in an organisation, and she'd been abused as a child. She used to piss me off royally 'cos she was this total control freak, but completely unaware that she was. And everyone would get in huge blowouts when anyone would try to make her aware of it. I didn't realise until later that she was stuck as a six-year old child. To her, she was always the victim, she was never in control, and she was simply trying to manage her world.... I really don't know how people can recover from repeated abuse like that. She worked on it, and probably still is, and probably hasn't shifted much....

10:45 am  

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