Monday, June 02, 2014

Raising my own consciousness

I read a good article on Slate titled "Why It's So Hard for Men to See Misogyny."  The author Amanda Hess's thesis was that men were surprised by #YesAllWomen because men don't see what women experience.

Well.... haha.  I've been thinking about various life experiences, both remote and recent, and I realized I don't see what I experience.  Better phrased, I do not realize the misogyny I am experiencing for what it is.

There's a story of a sort which says, if you take a frog and toss him in a pot of hot water, he'll hop right back out.  But if you put him in a pot of cold water and gradually turn up the heat, he'll stay there and be boiled to death.

I am that poor dumb frog, so inured to "that's how things are" that I don't see them and don't react to them.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I spent six months backpacking in central America.  On a dive trip in Belize, I ran across an older gentleman from Croatia who invited me to look him up if I ever made it to that country. I am an inveterate collector of possible couches to surf, so we exchanged addresses and I thought nothing more of it.  However, for several years after that, I received a postcard or two every year inviting me, in pretty-good-but-not-fluent-English, to share "sexy time" with him because of various appealing features of my physical person.

As another example, from much more recently so I'll tone down the level of detail.  Suffice to say I had a relatively brief conversation with a guy via social media who was persistent about ignoring my disinterest.  It involved a steadfast refusal to take my "No thanks, I don't really drink" to mean anything other than "No thanks" when instead he heard "Please keep trying because eventually I'll be worn down into saying yes."

It's common knowledge that women more frequently speak in a hesitant, hedging, less-assertive manner than men (some reading here, and here, and here and here.)  When guy friends became aware of these postcards or similar invitations,  they absolutely hounded me for having invited such skeeviness and for failing to cut him off at the knees.  So I internalized that and always wondered what was wrong with me, what inappropriate vibe I communicated that "invited skeeviness."   What was wrong with me that I felt uncomfortable telling guys that I was just plain not interested in no uncertain terms.  Because truthfully that's what it was-- I doubted myself.  What if I was wrong, what if they only meant to be kind, and if they did mean "sexy" time, what if they thought I was being a bitch, wasn't it easier to just softpedal a denial into something nonoffensive.

Why do women care so much more about being "NICE" at the cost of being clear and protecting boundaries which are quite reasonable?

While I have been reading about this subject, I found a blog post called "Cloudy with a Chance of Rape" discussing this issue in context of the story in Twilight.  Now before you judge, let me add: I never read the books, never saw it, plan on avoiding either with all my heart.  With that said, I encourage you to read this lady Ana Mardoll's thoughts, a few of which I'm excerpting here, with my emphasis added (and some comments of mine, in brackets, about how this applies to my situation):

"Mike chooses to do these things. Bella isn't responsible for Mike's actions. She's not responsible for "leading him on" or "providing him an opportunity". Mike is fully motivated and capable of making his own opportunities regardless of what Bella does, and there is little-to-nothing that Bella can do to stop him given their current situation. I know these things, but I still have to remind myself of them, over and over, to combat that internal ugh, what are you doing Bella voice. That scares me a little.

The siren call of victim-blaming is that if we do everything just right, if we're really smart and savvy and clever, then we can't be victims. If we play strong defense and maintain a good offense and deny access and All The Sports Metaphors, then we'll be safe from the victimizers. Or -- even if we can't ever truly be safe from the victimizers -- we can at least be safe from the second-victimization that comes when society blames us and the justice system fails us. If we're absolutely perfect all the time in our rape defenses, then we'll have gained a measure of safety.

Reality doesn't match the sales pitch. Everything that Bella does here makes perfect sense, given her circumstances. She has every conceivable reason to try to maintain a friendship with Mike [Georgette has every reason to try to maintain friendships with these guys-- similar interests, possible resources for future travel or learning, and distance that makes them feel "safer"]. She has every conceivable pressure to keep her from effectively estranging Mike. Society absolutely would not back her up if she effectively and assertively estranged him here and now, simply based on all the bad behavior he has exhibited towards her in the past. That is how prevalent rape culture is: that so many people can look at Mike Newton and not see a budding sexual predator who consistently and deliberately crosses social boundaries in an attempt to assert power over Bella. [that so many people can look at a guy inviting a gal to come to his home for sexy time as just the way of the world, what do you expect, it's human nature, even though they hardly know each other, are of disparate demographics, and share no real relationship... what's wrong with a guy being persistent about inviting a lady to have a drink, she's attractive, you know she'd pitch a fit if she wasn't ever invited out by a guy, she wants it both ways, women have to expect that Alpha males will be persistent, that's what women want...]  Every time we've seen Mike on-page, he's crossed a major social boundary in an attempt to mark Bella as his. And yet this gets played up as nothing, as a sign of Bella's attractiveness, or as a point about sweet, nice, awkward high school boys (in contrast to Edward's brooding, violent maturity)."

Just a few thoughts.  I'll probably have more.