I don’t write about politics or social issues much on this here blog, but I want to write about one today. Because you see, I have a little son, and I’m beginning to navigate bringing him up to respect other people, including women. I know already I’m going to be in a perpetual tug-o-war with the media and culture surrounding us for most of his life. But rather than giving up, I’m choosing to fight harder, yell louder, and write more about these issues. Because I can shape his views and personality a little, but I can’t control every single thing he comes in contact with (nor would I want to, because ew). Which just means I’m going to have to do my best to help shape and change the culture too.
So this thing happened on Kickstarter, where some guy decided to crowd-fund a manual for “getting chicks” that is actually pretty much a manual for becoming a sexual predator. (You can read all about it here). This prompted the totally awesome Lela Gwenn to tweet some things, I responded, and here is our conversation, below. This is my first attempt at Storify, so I hope it works ok.
Anyway, the reason I’m sharing this is that I think 140 characters isn’t quite enough to say all I want to say about this subject. Because, while we didn’t really come up with any earth-shattering new realizations or brilliant fixes, this is important and we have to keep talking about it until men stop treating women like walking sources of sex and women don’t have to fear the possibility of what any given many might do to her. We have to keep talking about this until boys who are empathetic towards those different than them are no longer derided. We have to keep talking about this until women CAN stop looking at the men in their lives as Schrödinger’s Rapist. We have to keep talking about this until articles like this one regarding the recent E3 convention are outrageous oddities instead of so common-place as to be wearying. We have to keep talking about this.
By the way, there was a line from that Kotaku article which really stood out to me.
“It’s like walking into a shark tank and you don’t know which ones are the sharks.”
I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t want my son to be a shark. I want him to be a little boy, and then a man, who I can be proud of. I want him to not just treat women¹ of any variety with the respect due another human being, I want him to believe in the humanity of women right down to the marrow of his bones. Because this isn’t just about teaching boys how to get along peaceably with those picky li’l women, it’s about changing the very shape of the world.
But Lela is right. That’s a long game. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all, and the world changes excruciatingly slowly, one mind at a time. Meanwhile, women are threatened, degraded, belittled, abused, raped and killed every day. Not just a few women, but a LOT of women. And then those women are made to feel as if it’s all their fault. Women are shamed for their abuse, shamed for staying silent, shamed for speaking up, and shamed for existing in a female body in the first place. This has to stop. IT HAS TO STOP NOW.
More importantly, we have to find a way to protect ourselves and teach our daughters and our sisters to protect themselves without simultaneously contributing to the shame heaped on their heads. I don’t really know what the answer to that conundrum is. But maybe a good place to start is by learning to overcome the “Freeze” response which is so often ingrained in us from toddler-hood. After all, if we can overcome that response, we can raise our voices or our fists or both and stick them right in the faces of those who would treat us like garbage. The louder our voices, the better to shed a light on the problem, minimize the damage, and place the shame where it rightfully belongs: squarely on the shoulders of the two-legged sharks who prey on us.
And if a woman is like me, and can’t (or hasn’t yet) managed to overcome the paralysis, we can at least teach ourselves not to compound the damage by blaming ourselves. It’s not our fault. It’s ok to be afraid in the moment. It’s ok not to have spoken up that one time. The shame is not ours. We reject it.
¹By the way, just in case this needs to be mentioned, the term “woman” includes women of color, trans-women, queer women, or really any one who identifies themselves as female or a woman. It shouldn’t need to be said, but I know it does.