Friday, June 5, 2015

It Is Not As "Easy As All" That In Rape Culture

Note to self: I AM the princess...

Did I really NEVER write a post in May?!?! What the heck is wrong with me!?

Oh, right. My calendar exploded. I have been having a HUGE amount of issues with my electronics (seriously. my email accounts have ALL been totally screwed.). And travel... lots of travel.

One of my travels was to my beloved New Orleans to appear in a show there: "Storyville Rising." Sorry, I do not really have any pictures from it. but trust me: I was AMAZING!

Honestly, how could I not be?
A few days before I left, my baby mama and I were having some dealings with our son's school - which became an involved process of calling the principal, then the superintendent, then the school board, then the janitorial services department... and so on and so forth. Trying to get a lot of issues we have noticed nailed down. One of the issues is that there have not been enough substitute teachers. Now, this is something I had tried to get signed in to do at the beginning of the school year (I have some experience at it), but there were all these certifications needed by the school system, and I was like "screw this nonsense," and it never went anywhere. BUT, apparently, a few months ago system began outsourcing substitute hiring to an outside company -- and so we signed up! Which led to a conversation with a young lady at that office, which led to this:

We told her, "Hey! There is this great restaurant our friend owns just down the street from this office. You should go there for lunch."

To which she replied, "I don't like to leave the office because sometimes  men follow me down the street trying to talk to me."

We were astounded. She would not walk one block to a restaurant on the chance that she might get catcalled?! Especially in our crappy little "city" - if you can really call it that... less than 155,000 people. How can it possibly be that bad?!

My girl, of course, gets approached all the time. She is generally amused by the horrid attempts to engage her in conversation (with guys yelling their telephone number at her, asking her if she has a man, complimenting her butt, that kind of thing... honestly, dude - why do you think that's going to work?), . My girl is not afraid to say "thanks but, no thanks." And when they start getting vulgar, or try to push it too far, she is really quick to shut them down. Hard, if need be.

“Do you talk to your mother like that?!”

Basically, publicly shaming the guy. All based on the idea that a bully, if confronted fearlessly, will inevitably retreat.
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Cut to a few days later, I am in now New Orleans and around the breakfast table with three spectacular female burlesque performers and the discussion becomes about the nature of sexuality, sex work, performance, etc. (the show we are doing, Storyville Rising, is an immersive production set in a brothel in the infamous Storyville area of New Orleans, where prostitution and other acts were made legal for a time). I tell these ladies the story above, how my girl handles cat callers, and about how I hope to teach my own children to be strong and to handle bullying.

But instead of the approval I expect to receive, I am met by stony silence.

(uncomfortable silence)

So – what else could I do – I asked the ladies to enlighten me about what is wrong with my thought process about it. And I am glad that I did.

During the stories that followed of cat-callers not "getting the hint," and proceeding to follow, harass, and inevitably threaten these young ladies -- sometimes in full view of other members of the public who did nothing to step in (even with words) and stop it -- but, worse, often when no one was around... the threatening behaviors escalating while these women feared for their health, safety, and lives. It made me mad. It made me want to find everyone of these guys and bust their heads. 

As I was listening to these stories, I realized several times that I wanted to interject several times with my opinions -- which made me have to face a truth: I am just as infected with the white man's privilege as any other guy (luckily, I was smart enough to keep it shut). As you may have realized from the photos above, I am pretty pale, no matter what my ancestry may include. "The complexion for protection," is what I have been told it is. I am also pretty burly, and a trained fighter (so is my girl - she served in the military, and is pretty tough for being such a delicate flower).

One delightful lass from Ireland – who I just find so adorable that I could spread her on toast and eat her (which… now that I say that… seems kind of rape-y. ug.) said that she has never seen harassment like this in Ireland. Mostly, she felt, because Irish boys are raised to be more polite AND because Ireland just isn’t that big. So everyone sort of knows everyone, or at least knows someone of your family. Bad behaviors are going to get back to your granny eventually…

Her idea (and it is genius) is that when someone yells their digits at you, remember & memorize those digits!  THEN let her know them and she will call that person up as your elderly Irish granny (thick accent and everything) to interrogate that person as only your old granny can about their intentions to “court” you.

She had us rolling on the floor.

Afterward, though, as I bicycled around New Orleans a little bit, I really took some time to evaluate my general opinions... really measuring what my feelings were, as opposed to the hard information I got from other people. Their experiences, compared & contrasted with my own. Their feelings, compared & contrasted with my own. It helped that soon afterward, one of my friends shared this link to the Gentlemen's Guide to Rape Culture:

Written by a man, it explores a variety of issues and is a good read. As I read it, though, I was like, "is this how it really is...? "What the hell...?!" And then I have to wonder - am I that much of an a-hole as well?? I am trying to teach my kids important stuff: I do not want my son to be an a-hole. I want him to be respectful of women, willing to stand up for what's right, and to treat everyone fair & equally no matter what. I want my daughter to be strong. Demand equal treatment in all ways, and also to stand up for what is right... and not just what is right - but to have NO FEAR and to STAND UP FOR HERSELF AGAINST ANY AND ALL COMERS.

She better become an MMA fighter.



Though she'd rather be a Luchadore.

So I was upset. I really had to reevaluate. Luckily, the friend who posted this article was also kind enough - in between agreeing that I can be an a-hole at times - to point out that because of what I do and where I come from (in life... not geographically), I am a little more understanding of the dangers and empathetic to the plight of others.

But, my feelings of fighting fire with fire is not a feeling everyone else has... that Irish lass described me at one point when I was telling stories about my travel abroad as "a typical ugly American." That kinda made me sad to think I may, indeed, be that.

I have been talking with a number of friends about the whys and wherefores of "rape culture," and there is one thing that keeps coming up. So many of the messages that are foisted upon women can be summed up as: "you need to be afraid." Afraid to report assaults & harassment, because you will not be believed. Afraid to fight back in any way, because you will be judged by others. Afraid to stand up for yourself, because no one will back you up. Afraid of every man, because he is probably a rapist. And, god forbid, if you find yourself being raped - just go along with it, let him do whatever he wants... just try to come out of it alive (better just a rape than a murder). Accept your position as a victim of rape, violence, and harassment.

This is, to my mind, the absolute worst of the advice. Ever.

The lesson to my children is and always will be: Better to die on your feet than live on your knees. If that is what, in the end, makes me an outlaw - and, in turn, my children & family outlaws as well... then so be it.

We do not reject the law - but we understand that we are forced to live outside of it, because it is wrong. We must do what we can at any and all times to try and change it.

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Now, my baby mama did substitute teach several times during the last couple weeks of school. Within the first day or two, a 6-year-old first grade boy called her a "bitch," and told her she could not tell him what to do. 

How did she handle it?

She called security the moment he started being defiant - and once the word bitch left his pie-hole, she was like, "I'm calling your mom." Additionally, she did the school equivalent of "pressing charges" against him. Got him kicked out of school for a couple days. To which I say, GOOD! But she said the kid's mother did not apologize for her son's behavior or anything. Basically just said, "Oh well." 

And that is the real problem in the situation - no discipline in the home.

Let me share this link with you: it is to a video of a father dealing with his 18-year-old son who he caught smoking pot in the house. Son tried to "step up" to his dad and throw down on him. And, obviously, his dad had no choice to but to teach him some respect:  https://www.facebook.com/burtrell/videos/vb.717474509/10153386632054510/?type=2&theater

NOTE:  I do not condone violence except as a last resort!! But that kid had plenty of chances to run away or fight back (since that is, apparently, what he wanted to do in the first place). And once he sat down, that was it. Not one more punch thrown (plus, his dad never kicked him, locked him up, choked him, or anything - this was a man-to-man, one-on-one fair fight in every sense of the word). I found it interesting in the comments how it split evenly between those who were like "kid got what he deserved," and how many were like "violence is never the answer." THAT latter attitude while, in theory, is great - when you come down to it, and you have tried everything else, violence may be the answer.


Teach your children, teach yourself:  Be strong. Stand up. Never be afraid to fight. Always fight back.

I'm gonna put your dick in the dirt... (photo by Dark Mannequin Designs)



2 comments:

  1. To answer your question about whether or not it really is "that bad": Yes and no. There are plenty of us who don't see every man as a potential rapist, even strangers. I feel comfortable traveling on my own, but will take care with the places I'm comfortable stopping. I would feel perfectly comfortable walking downtown Austin by myself (lots of police presence down there), but even with 2 guys and another girl Dallas was a nightmare. It is such a complicated issue with too many variables.

    As for the office lady, try not to judge her too harshly. I've had some pretty nasty things yelled at me for no good reason and it wears on a person after a while. I spent many a lunch hour holed up in the computer lab rather than make myself walk through the halls and subject myself to people (in my case a mass of teenage girls with some kind of grudge) looking for a fight. Nobody should have to be afraid of doing anything, but... sometimes things just aren't worth the trouble.

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