By Alex: 009
Most of the time I have the distinct feeling that people around me would like me to just shut up, stop creating problems, not make a scene, not make a fuss.
Its the way they look at me - sort of half-despairing, half-pitying - as if to say ‘oh dear, it’s so sad for you that you see the world this way….tralalalala …it’s so much more pleasant when you stfu, smile and do what everyone else does/wants you to do.’
I just want to shake them and say WAKE UP! WHY DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT THIS STUFF THAT IS ACTUALLY HAVING A MASSIVE EFFECT ON YOUR LIFE AND THE LIVES OF YOUR CHILDREN!
Having friends that consistently try to make you feel like a silly, hysterical, man-hating woman, is belittling and demoralising to say the least.
For the record I do not hate men. The idea that feminism equals man-hating is just so tiresome, and frankly obsolete, these days, that is makes me want to sit the accuser down in front of a computer and say ‘hey, the internet exists, educate yourself!’.
I have a husband that I love, a father that I love, a brother that I love. Men are awesome and we all need each other.
That being said...
At the weekend I was at a bar with some friends (though not with my husband, mistake number one, apparently) and a friend of a friend started touching and prodding at my arm, which happens to be tattooed. Of course after a few moments I asked ‘what are you doing?’, and his reply was a demanding: ‘hold your fucking arm up’….to which I almost-shouted, whilst looking straight into his eyes, ‘why don’t you fuck off?’
No surprise that what followed this was a barrage of insults, of varying superficial, cultural, and personal dints. Lovely. I wasn’t offended though. It was so very obvious that this was simply a guy not used to women/anyone saying no to him, and that I had hurt his delicate pride and his only availably response was a petulant, immature, tantrum.
I was, however, very offended by the reaction to the event of my friends.
One male friend later asked, when I reached the end of the short story, why I hadn’t just insulted him back….hmmmm this was not really the point I was making....I was just trying to show him, through a recent and first-hand experience, an example of a man being an immature arsehole to a woman when said woman didn’t do what they were told, thus proving my point that feminism still has a place in the world (as this was a feminist nay-sayer of a friend).
A general attitude of ‘oh you always cause trouble, why can’t you just be NICE to people (read: men), what did YOU do now?’ then pervaded the scene.
It is frustrating to be constantly surrounded by people who think you are always taking thing badly for no reason.
But, I don’t mind being the token feminist kill-joy. What I do mind however, is when that trope is taken to an extreme that belittles the point I am making and turns the actual issues into a joke, or just something to be dismissed as an overreaction on my part.
I know that these reactions from my friends and family are a symptom of the problem, part of the whole cycle of completely ingrained patriarchy and sexism. I know that it will take far more than me to convince them of this though.
My female friends are strong, independent and opinionated women, yet they all have that line that they do not cross, that they dare not cross. I can't tell the reasons for this, but if I had to put it down to anything, I would say it is for fear of being unattractive, uncouth, undesirable....unfeminine.
For me that line was made to be crossed, questioned and ultimately destroyed. I know that what defines me as a woman is not my willingness to behave in public, or how pretty I appear to men.
I find it so disheartening to see these women outwardly displaying those strong, 'girl-power' beliefs, only to seemingly willingly, or at least unknowingly, give away that power the moment they might use it in a meaningful way. They just sit down and toe the line, accepting the crap they are given because they think they have it so great now anyway that its ok.
Later, on that same night at the bar, I was waiting with a male friend for our car to be brought around, when out of nowhere a random man, a total stranger, walked up to me and kissed me on my shoulder before carrying on past me.
I was shocked and sickened then and now when I think of it I still feel sick to my stomach.
I feel violated.
That man thought that it was ok, that it was his RIGHT, to do what he wanted to me in that moment. I had never seen him before in my life, he said nothing to me, he just touched me without permission and carried on walking.
I am in no way comparing this scenario to more serious assault or even rape, but I do have to say that I feel the root cause is the same. It is all about power.
That man thought he had power over me, for no other reason than he is a man and I am a woman - so he did what he wanted and showed me that I was just an entity for the taking.
He could do as he pleased, no need to consult with me on it, he would just do what he wanted and I would have to take it.
He probably even thought he was paying me a compliment, and I imagine that some people I know would expect me to take it as such - oh lucky me, the chosen one, worthy of a kiss from a man, I MUST be beautiful and a valuable human being.
FUCK OFF WITH THAT.
This is why I speak up. This is why I call men (and women) out for the little things. This is why I can’t stand it when other women perpetuate the status quo of submission to men in the everyday, little things that they think are unimportant, and why I won't just 'let it go.'
Because these things ultimately add up to a level of repression so great that we don’t even realise that it is not ok, we don't even realise that it is a repression because it has been so normalised.
We have been convinced, and convinced ourselves, that we are free and equal. I always remember this quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: ‘None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.’
So I will keep questioning, I will keep being that weirdo, that irritant. I won’t accept being treated like meat to be prodded, judged, and patronised at every opportunity.
I will do something.
Even if most of the time, I just feel like I am hitting my head against a brick wall.