Just in case…I talk about rape in this post…so if you are sensitive to it…you may not want to read it.
I found a post over at Shapely Prose referring to another blog post about how women don’t fight back when rape happens to them. I read both blog posts and later read posts that others had made on their blogs about it and it got me to thinking about some things that happened in my own life.
If women are raised being told by parents, teachers, media, peers, and all surrounding social strata that:
- it is not okay to set solid and distinct boundaries and reinforce them immediately and dramatically when crossed (”mean bitch”)
- it is not okay to appear distraught or emotional (”crazy bitch”)
- it is not okay to make personal decisions that the adults or other peers in your life do not agree with, and it is not okay to refuse to explain those decisions to others (”stuck-up bitch”)
- it is not okay to refuse to agree with somebody, over and over and over again (”angry bitch”)
- it is not okay to have (or express) conflicted, fluid, or experimental feelings about yourself, your body, your sexuality, your desires, and your needs (”bitch got daddy issues”)
- it is not okay to use your physical strength (if you have it) to set physical boundaries (”dyke bitch”)
- it is not okay to raise your voice (”shrill bitch”)
- it is not okay to completely and utterly shut down somebody who obviously likes you (”mean dyke/frigid bitch”)
If we teach women that there are only certain ways they may acceptably behave, we should not be surprised when they behave in those ways.
The following is something that happened to me at a place I worked at for a while…it is a comment I left on one of the blogs (in case you have already read it and recognize it).
I wasn’t raped but my personal space was definitely invaded…and I did nothing for fear of coming across “wrong”.
I worked in an historic home years and years ago (we are talking mid to late 90s). I was the person that waited inside the door to take tickets into the Visitor’s Center. I also answered questions and directed people to where they wanted to go. I LOVED my job and wish I could get one just like it where I live now. There was a little storage type room right inside the door where we put the ticket stubs and our purses/jackets, etc. It was a big enough room that Security had actually put a little office in the back with cubical walls set up. It is where they typed up their reports.
One day a man came up to me to ask questions. I answered them politely but the more I did the more questions he asked…the more he asked the closer he got to me, I kept backing up to get my space and finally decided to just answer his questions curtly to give him the hint that I had to do my job. He would wait until other guests had passed by, asked their questions and left and start in again.
He eventually had me backed into our little room….he was blocking the doorway so I couldn’t get out. I remember feeling a little panicky because he was blocking my way and wondering what the hell I should do since I “couldn’t” be rude to him and ask him to move so I could do my job. I can’t remember what exactly happened after that…I am not sure if he got bored and moved on or what and it didn’t take longer than about 15 minutes maybe…but that experience really REALLY rattled me to where here I am, almost 10 years later, I remember it vividly.
Of course I had those thoughts…I couldn’t be assertive because I would be labeled any number of things not to mention possible put my job in jeopardy if he decided to complain. While I don’t think I would have gotten fired…my job was wonderful and I worked with a lot of women who would probably been on my side…he still could have complained and made a big stink about it.
Little did I know that I was reacting in a way that I was always taught to react…that I didn’t even realize I was taught to. Thinking about this still creeps me out. I still get the willies thinking of this guy getting closer to me and not being able to have my own space. I chalked it up to my own issues…not realizing that there were things before hand that made me that way. It was my fault I was feeling that way…and I was wrong to feel so.
So, I read some more blogs after I posted the above comment and came to another realization. This is also why I let all the sexual violence happen in my previous marriage. I was taught that it wasn’t right for me to “say no” to my husband and he “had a right” to do things he did. Now, my mind told me that was bull shit. And on more than one occasion I did tell my ex NO and STOP….but due to his “male privilege” he felt it was “his right” to do it anyway and laughed at me the whole time I screamed at him. Later I would tell myself that he was just a d*ck and a typical male and somehow convinced myself that all men where like that and there was nothing I could do. It was just a”fact of life”.
Pretty f*cked huh?
The sad thing is…I was born and raised in Tennessee…and I know that many other girls/women feel that way. I know of many girls/women that stay in shitty relationships because “it is just a fact of life” and “that is just the way men are” and if you leave and find another man they will be just the same so what is the point? I am lucky, I know that isn’t the truth…that not all men are d*cks and not all men are going to do those same things to me that happened before.
Now I am in therapy. I have serious issues that I am working out to make my now marriage better. I am now better able to see the past for what it is and the truth of what happened. Slowly, I am taking my power back…but sometimes it feels like an uphill battle. I still have those thoughts in my head. If I say something “wrong” I will be labled or attacked, even if only verbally. I will be belittled and made to feel like I am in the wrong…even if I am the only one right.
For anybody who has ever watched the gendered social interactions of women — watched a woman get browbeaten into accepting attention she doesn’t want, watched a woman get interrupted while speaking, watched a woman deny she is upset at being insulted in public, watched a woman get grabbed because of what she was wearing, watched a woman stop arguing — and said and done nothing, you never have the right to ever ask, “Why didn’t she fight back?”
She didn’t fight back because you told her not to. Ever. Ever. You told her that was okay, and necessary, and right.
With all that said, I have to say that men still act in a d*ckish way. They made jokes and comments about women and when we are offended we are labeled. After all, “it was just a joke”. Little do they realize that when they make the comments and the jokes all they are doing is reinforcing that it is ok to say shit like that…even though it isn’t. They rationalize that it was just a joke and we need to lighten up…just so they don’t have to feel bad or uncomfortable. Just like I always reinforced it was natural to be raped by my ex husband. Just like other rationalize rape and sex crimes as “well she didn’t fight back…so she must have wanted it” like it is ok for us women to feel bad and uncomfortable…and raped and abused.
People talk about privilege in terms of money or color…but rarely to people talk about male privilege over female…at least not without a lot of “joking”. Male privilege is being able to “make a joke” and then get mad at a woman for being offended at said “joke”. Male privilege is being able to rape a woman and say it was consensual because she “flirted with you”…and have others agree…even if she screamed NO and scratched and clawed at you the whole time.
And finally, for any of you men reading here is this:
If no woman in your life has ever talked to you about how she lives her life with an undercurrent of fear of men, consider the possibility that it may be because she sees you as one of those men she cannot really trust.