A personal perspective from the front lines of the war on women
Source: name withheld for safety
In the quote that follows, “I Blame the Patriarchy” blogger Twisty addresses a question I, like all feminists, have SO often been asked: “Don’t you think you could win more men to your cause if you were nicer?” And now, now, in my late forties, my answer is a firm “NO! NO I FUCKING DON’T.”
In my thirties, while I was also busy volunteering at and raising funds for battered women’s shelters (did you know the most requested item at a women’s shelter is hair dye, to make the women harder for their abusers to spot? If you ever run across a great sale price on hair dye, buy some extra and donate it to a women’s shelter, please – they always need it) and I was volunteering at the Women and Children’s Free Restaurant, and producing “The Feminist Papers” and “The Vagina Monologues” on my campus and marching in “Take Back the Night,” and taking the stage at “Speak out against rape” and being active in my campus Women’s Studies club and writing and editing the biweekly social justice newsletter for my church, and going to college with a near-perfect 3.9 grade point average, and raising a female child under the patriarchy, often as a single parent having to bring my daughter to classes with me as my military husband was frequently deployed during this period, I was also willing to take precious time to talk to men, both online and off, who demanded that I explain feminism to them, convince them – and it was required to be sweetly, nicely, patiently, with a smiling, pleasing feminine demeanor, and I complied, used up lots of time complying.
That was in my 30s. Now, in my 40’s, I am convinced that men who want me to explain feminism to them or “convince” them are just jerking my fucking chain, wasting my time. If they really wanted to know about the different schools of feminist thought, they could easily go online and educate themselves (there are so many fabulous feminist bloggers out there, start here), maybe find one of the many recommended reading lists that are online, such as this one, start from there. We women, we don’t have time to educate men. We don’t have time, period.
As Andrea Dworkin said in her speech, I Want a 24 Hour Truce During Which There Is No Rape:
We don’t have much time, we women. We are very close to death, many of us. And we are very close to rape and we are very close to beating.
Every three minutes, a woman is raped. Every eighteen seconds, a woman is beaten. The number one cause of death to pregnant women is domestic partner violence (ponder that for a moment – how sick is that?). For men, the number one cause of death in the workplace is work-related accidents, while the number one cause of workplace death for women is when an abused woman tries to leave her abuser and he shows up at her workplace and kills her there. Studies find that men’s number one fear of women is that a woman will laugh at them, while women’s number one fear of men is that one will kill them.
A well-known male facilitator of equality in the workplace seminars always begins by asking his mix-gendered groups to please make a list of what they do in a typical day to stay safe and to write until the timer goes off. He reports that – always – the women immediately begin to scribble furiously, “park under a light,” “hold my keys in my hand so I can get into the car quickly,” and so on, and that they write right up until the timer goes off. The men, on the other hand, sit there looking bewildered. Next, the facilitator asks people to call out their items so he can list them on the board and the women call out many, many items. Afterwards, the men report being shocked – they really don’t know women’s reality, what it is like to fear for your safety all of the time, to constantly be making a safety plan in your head.
And then there is pornography. There is rape on the sets of pornographic films (usually, believe it or not, female performers stipulate that they will not do anal, will even have that in their contract – then the male performer will force anal sex on her during filming, anally rape her in front of the entire (male) film crew and nobody steps in to stop it, and the director will just edit out the force part to make it look like she wanted it and loved it, happens all the time – check out the Pink Cross Foundation, which rescues women from pornography, for some shocking truths about the abuse of female performers in the pornography industry.
And there are men like my ex-husband who are addicted to brutal, degrading, woman-hating pornography – where women are “dirty whores” and “sluts” and “stupid cum-buckets” – and then they demand that the women in their lives act out their misogynistic pornography. And there is pimping and sex trafficking, so much sex trafficking these days.
Holland and Germany have legalized prostitution, did it about a decade ago, and all that has happened since is an explosion in the trapping / kidnapping / trafficking of Eastern European women, often by organized crime syndicates that can now run perfectly legal brothels. The human trafficking – let’s call it women trafficking because that’s what it really is – has gotten so bad in Holland and Germany as a result of their legalizing prostitution that both countries are now trying to undo legalization – politicians in both countries are calling it an experiment that has gone horribly wrong. And sporting events like the Super Bowl and the World Cup cause sharp increases in sex trafficking and pimping in the areas in which they take place, meaning that traveling male sports fans are seeking out prostitutes and the pimps are ready for them.
And there is the plight of the prostituted, usually molested as children, abused by pimps, usually substance addicted to help them deal with the horror, all too frequently beaten and robbed and forced to do unthinkable, painful, degrading, violent acts by johns (who will often show up with their fucking pornography and say, “this is what I want you to do”), and almost all of the prostituted are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – for many years, I have been online friends with a blogger who is an exited prostitute in England and her trauma just covers her like a suffocating stack of wool blankets. She still struggles hard– emotionally – to survive. Music and old movies are her best bets at escape. Sometimes the pain is so bad that she says she can’t write and sometimes the pain is so bad that she says she must write. Here is her blog and I challenge you, don’t mind begging you, to go there and read some of it, to try to know the unknowable, the trauma and horror of the invisible prostituted class.
And there is the sale of child brides as young as eight who are raped on their “wedding night” by middle-aged men and then dying of internal injuries the following day, the widespread killing of female babies for the simple crime of having been born female (the number of “missing” female babies in the twentieth century is estimated to be higher than the number of men who died in both world wars combined – tell me now that there isn’t a war on women) and there is horrific female genital mutilation (Sometimes just the clitoris is removed, sometimes the labia too, using a razor blade, and always without anything for pain relief. Some girls bleed to death from it. Some get infections that kill them. In some traditions, a girl’s vagina is sewn shut when she enters puberty and then, on her wedding night, her groom just rips her apart. This often causes fistulas and also incontinence, which makes them smell bad which leads to their being shunned from the village. One heroic western doctor specializes in repairing these fistulas, which cures the incontinence and lets the women be accepted back into their villages. He is always raising money for this specialized practice of his and a small donation to him can change a woman’s life), and there is Sharia law where a woman who is raped is the one who is beaten / stoned, and women can’t drive in some countries and in some, for crimes like not wearing the veil or for daring to go to school or for leaving home without a male relative escort they can be stoned, killed, have acid thrown in their faces. And there are “honor killings” where a raped woman is believed to have brought dishonor on her family and so her own family kills her – we have even had it happen here in the U.S.
Also in the U.S., the anti-choicers, having resigned themselves to the fact that abortion remains legal, have instead found ways to make it simply unavailable by passing outrageously strict laws that in effect just cause abortion clinics to go out of business and history from the days before Roe v. Wade teaches us that a desperate enough woman will find a way to get an abortion, legal or not, and now we are facing a return to those days, when the number one cause of death for reproductive aged women used to be botched illegal abortions.
And then there is the pay gap and sexual harassment and cat-calling, that curious male behavior that has never ended in a successful pick-up but rather is an act of dominance, meant to remind women, make sure we never, ever forget it, that the streets belong to men. And there are the “bus gang rapes” in India, Mexico. There is mass rape as a tool of war- by the Pakistanis against the Indians in Kashmir, the infamous rape camps in Bosnia.
In case you don’t already realize it, women are in crisis. It is now. It is urgent! And that, that is why I can no longer afford to take the time to nicely, always the demand “nicely,” educate my brothers about my sisters’ life and death, here-right-now crises. And just so you know, yes, I have been raped, more than once, including by the one man who promised to love, honor, and cherish me until one of us drew our final breath. And I have been slapped, shoved, kicked, knocked to the ground, more than once, and by the one man who promised to love, honor, and cherish me until one of us drew our final breath. And I was introduced to substance abuse by that same man – my pusher – specifically so that he could act out his pornography on me while I was high, cover my head with plastic bags, tighten his belt or his big, strong hands around my neck, take me to private sex clubs, all after he started getting me high first. And so I carry trauma with me, my own and that of my sisters – I have post-traumatic stress disorder.
And since the winding down and then the end of my 27 year marriage, I have often struggled to find a reason not to take my own life, have three times been hospitalized for suicide watch, used to cut myself with razor blades because it actually felt good to give the overwhelming emotional and spiritual pain a physical spot of pain on which to rest, to focus. And in just a few weeks now, I will be 46, closer now to 50 than to 40. And I’m thinking about my mortality and how in my 30s, I had great optimistic hope that, with enough activism, women could get the boot of patriarchy off of our necks, and maybe in my lifetime.
But now I’m thinking I’m running out of time. Andrea Dworkin once famously demanded from a group of liberal men that they organize their side for “a truce, twenty-four hours without rape. I want to experience that freedom before I die” and like so many feminists, I have greatly mourned Dworkin’s untimely death (still do), and I am keenly aware that she died without ever seeing the freedom of that single day without rape that she called for, and I am looking at this upcoming birthday and thinking that I too am running out of time and it’s getting to the point where my hope is down to “maybe in my daughter’s lifetime.” So, no, I don’t have time anymore to try to bring men to feminism. And I don’t have the frame of mind to try to be “nicer” in seeking my brothers’ support. Hear this well: what I want, and what I demand, is nothing short of recognition of the full humanity of woman. It’s that basic, really.
Now, brothers, go, go and fucking educate yourselves, without my or any woman’s help – so many of my sisters and I are busy trying to recover from our own traumas or we are helping each other do so. This is not work that we can or should do for you – do it yourself. Go, go and make the cause of your sisters your cause, all day, every day, not for one second letting your male privilege allow you to forget because for us women, there is never a second to forget. Go, go and firmly police your own for a change – challenge your brothers’ misogyny and sexism, every time. Go, go and fucking take to the streets in your own groups and organize letter-writing campaigns and boycotts and say loudly and clearly that the pimps and the pornographers and the rape and abuse apologists and the advertisers don’t speak for you if that is indeed your truth (because news flash – they believe that men are just support systems for erect penises while it is feminists who are actually your friends and your cheerleaders, who have never given up hope on your humanity, even though our faith has been consistently rewarded with systemic abuse). And, no, no, I’m not asking nicely. I am way past that.
So that’s me on the subject. And here is Twisty:
One of my long-standing beefs is with dudes who love to lecture me that I will never win them over to the feminist cause as long as I keep copping a tude. My response is twofold. 1) fuck you dude, and 2) the moral indefensibility of sexism exists independently of my or anybody else’s demeanor; oppression isn’t any less wrong if the oppressed aren’t ass-kissers. And besides, winning dudes over has never been, to my mind, the objective of feminism. Appeasement will never liberate women from patriarchal oppression. What’s that old bumper sticker? “Well-behaved women seldom make history?”