half a league, half a league

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on rape culture
crossposted from tumblr, where I wrote it in response to the following quote:

"Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault."

This is exactly what I mean when I think about the fact that, if you are a woman, and especially if you are young, you are especially powerless. You're indoctrinated by this rape culture to live in fear. How many of you can walk down a street without feeling self-conscious? Society teaches you that because you're a girl, you always live with this level of danger, and that means you can never relax. You become hyper-aware of danger and are ready to see it even where it doesn't exist, because you're better safe than sorry. And this creates a world where you can't live life to its fullest, you can't take the little risks that make the euphoria of connection to humanity bubble up in your chest, that make one day a worthy representation of why life is awe-inspiring.

And usually, my response to this is a conscious "fuck you," walking down the streets with head held high and a song hummed under my breath and a smile for the homeless guy in the corner.

But every now and then, something happens that makes it all feel hopeless, something that throws you right back into that culture of fear that you thought you'd escaped. I say this today because coincidentally, today something happened to me that I think was creepier than anything that ever happened to me before: a guy at a bus stop.

I was going to recall the entire conversation, but honestly I don't remember all the words in the right order so I'm just going to get to the point: He started random conversation, said he was a nice guy and wanted to be friends. (...) He asked if I was married. (No.) If I had a boyfriend. (No.) ... (I'm asexual.) What? (It means you've got no interest in that sort of thing.) Bullshit. (Look it up.) So you don't like guys? Even nice guys? (...no.) And you don't like girls? (No.) Wait, you are a girl, right? (\o/, but to a lesser degree than what usually happens when I confuse people, because jesus fucking christ this is scary. "Kinda.") Kinda? Damn, you're fucked in the head. (...I'm gonna keep silent I'm not gonna say anything shut up. Yeah.) Oh, you know, I lost my phone the other day. I know, you could call it! 976- (...oh, I get it. Clever. "I don't have signal.") You think I'm a creep, don't you? A weirdo? (...) Yeah, you do. You know, think whatever the fuck you want. Oh look, here's the bus. You know, you shouldn't be so heartless all your life.

So yeah, I meant to write this anyway, and tumblr coincidentally gave me a good reference point: look at the intersection of acephobia (lack of understanding or awareness of asexuality, typified by the "you're just mean, you have no heart" attitude, made worse by the "I don't believe you, the right person could show you the error of your ways" attitude), misogyny/sexism (sexual harassment, thinking if a woman isn't open to said sexual harassment she's a bitch), transphobia, and rape culture.

For the first time in my life I was thinking, no wonder some people become bitter and start subscribing to the darker sides of radical feminism, the ideologies that say men are the enemy instead of the social forces that produce things like rape culture.

Except that's just the point. It is the social forces that produce such behavior that are the enemy. And the way to respond to the fact that the danger clearly exists is neither rape culture nor ignoring it, but still a conscious "fuck you." Because when you defy your own very real fear, that defiance is only more real and more meaningful.

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Where did you get that quote from? It's one of the best non-academic language explanations I've seen and would be so useful to try to explain things to my students as I'm sure I will have to do again next year...

And ugh what a creep, that guy at the bus stop, sorry you had to experience that. What the whole story made me think of was the sense of entitlement many men seem to have; entitled to talk to any woman anywhere and entitled to a positive response, entitled to comment on a woman's body, clothes, attitude, opinions, interests, her everything, and have their comments matter and to be taken on board. And if they are not, if a woman talks back or even simply walks away, does not engage because why should they, then she is a heartless bitch indeed.

Good post, thank you for sharing.

Oh, the quote is something that seems to be going around on tumblr, which makes it difficult to find the original, but here's my source. Hopefully that's still useful! It's one of the best explanations I've seen too.

I know *shudder* it's something I was aware of before, intellectually and emotionally, but not something I'd ever faced in this context. I was actually composing a post in my head that - I realize now - was relating rape culture and gender identity, how it feels to present as female, as recently as yesterday, and then that guy came in and turned it into this.

A little googling gave the original source: http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2009/10/rape-culture-101.html Excellent post overall.

It's jarring when that happens. I mean I work in academia, I socialise mostly with women, I'm white, able-bodied and cis-gendered, and rarely wear outward signs of my sexuality (bi/pan/kinky) so for the most time I 'fly under the radar' so to speak. But then every now and then something happens that reminds me that despite all the other parts of me that make me me, for some people (for some men) I am just a woman (and the 'just' is very much present) and that does not amount to much.

Ah, google. That makes sense. /facepalm That post in its entirety is really powerful and really depressing.

That reminding aspect is part of what I was trying to get across here, simply because it's not something I'd quite experienced before, and I hadn't quite realized what it would remind me. It's almost like I hadn't realized it could even happen to me, because, similarly, I feel like I fly under the radar. One of my thoughts re:gender identity/presentation was that the more ambiguous my gender presentation is, the safer I feel, and it's not just about consistency between presentation and identity: it's as though the "wait, are you a girl?" confusion would act as protection - and that in itself reflects the influence of rape culture on society, when you think about it. It's so pervasive.

It freaked me out a bit, so. Just talking about it has helped me get my bearings a little. Thanks!

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