I’m tired of being an angry feminist.
I’d much rather be a mellow, happy, getting-on-with-things feminist whose rights were acknowledged and respected rather than derided, whine-about, or ignored. This is possibly why I spend so much time over at Urban Meliad talking about canning, gardening, and communing with the gods rather than over here talking about the latest bunch of bullshit to hit the fan.
But stuff keeps happening.
Look. I don’t, typically, go to cons. Conventions. Mostly because paying for travel and a hotel is more than I can typically afford, and partly because I’m not great with high-energy crowds.
However this doesn’t just happen at cons. It happens 100% of everywhere. Which, I think, is part of the point. It’s everywhere. Which is why it’s so damn hard to stop it in any given space.
The thing I’m talking about, for those who want the tl;dr version, is that – to use the words of Ann Leckie – “By default, women are supposed to be available targets of men’s desires, and men are expected to have the right to act on those desires. Women’s desires are immaterial.” (Ann’s post sums things up really well, by the way, so I do suggest you go read that one).
But what’s really got me thinking is Ann’s statement that: “If you really think that ‘speaking to women’ is indistinguishable from harassment, there’s a problem and it’s not with the rules.”
Which leads me to wanting to talk about “the rules” – not rules about zero tollerance policies in specific groups or areas or events, but the unwritten social contracts and expectations that are basically underpinning our society.
There’s this whole, STUPID narrative about how you have to be really clear about how not interested you are, or the douche who’s harassing you will just not get it (it’s all just a big misunderstanding, amirite?)… and that’s idiocy.
We’re human. We’re mammals. The vast majority of us can read body language very accurately and very fast, even in geeky-nerdy land, where folks who can’t (think autism-spectrum – although I gather a lot of those folks work their asses off to learn body-language by rote) are apparently, a lot more visible.
That ability doesn’t go away when someone’s body language is telling us something we don’t want to hear.
But we sure do live in a culture that tells us – loud and clear – that all those body-language signals can be completely ignored if the body in question is a chick.
All the hyper-vigilance that gets talked about in posts like Schrödinger’s Rapist – the way women pay attention to all those tiny signals in a semi-conscious way (rather than a completely unconscious way) because we’re going to have to come up with some kind of a water-tight description of What Happened if one of the umpteen guys we interact with every day turns out to be the guy who assaults us (and we decide to risk reporting it)… All that stuff? It happens from the Other Side, too. As Hariet points out in her classic post at Fugitivus, rape doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Specifically, most rapists are serial rapists who know exactly what they’re doing, and who choose their victims based on how likely they are to be able to get away with raping them (See: Meet the Predators for details, stats, and studies). Someone doesn’t get raped because she wore a short skirt and got drunk at a party. She gets raped because a rapist decided to rape her based on the fact that someone drunk, and wearing a short skirt, at a party is (a) less likely to be believed (and more likely to be blamed and shamed) if she reports her rape, and (b) probably just as aware of this as the rapist is and so will be less likely to report her rape in the first place.
This doesn’t mean it’s my job, as a woman (and therefore, statistically, someone who is likely to get raped), to wear clothing that’s approved of by the radical right and/or to never let alcohol pass my lips in a social situation. What is means is that we have a massive social Problem – rape culture – that gives rapists and other sexual predators a License To Operate by given them tacit social approval (see: rape jokes and slut shaming), making excuses for them (“he’s just socially awkward”), and – rather than holding predators accountable for their own actions – blaming their victims for failing to navigate around them (see: The Missing Stair).
It’s a problem.
It continues to be a problem.
It continues to be a problem every damn place I go.
And so I am still an angry feminist.