CW: assault, sexual assault, general #metoo discussion. Self care, my loves.
Whew, what a week, huh?
It’s certainly been a….week.
I’m writing this from my couch, where I’ve had a lovely mini-breakdown today, my body finally giving out after days on edge. I feel like I’ve been in a war.
This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you. I’ve posted widely about #metoo, about men’s place in this discussion, about what is empowering for survivors and what is just expecting survivors to do your work for you.
I posted about collusion, too. About the small things we do every day that reinforce the status quo and create a culture where women can be harassed, assaulted, raped.
I posted about my own collusion.
I was proud when I saw men I know take up the mantle and post about their own place in all this, and their commitment to changing that. To educating themselves, listening more, and changing their behaviour.
Of course, it couldn’t last, and their comment threads were a barrage of misogyny. Person after person standing up to say they have nothing to do with any of this. I fought them in the comments, these mostly-men who were uncomfortable with taking responsibility for their own behaviour.
I called my friends in to help me, begging them not to collude this time.
I deliberately called in the same men who had just posted their commitment to change – and women came running. Women flooded the comments, standing up for me, for themselves. Women who didn’t know me; probably some who don’t even like me. They were a wall of solidarity and I wept as they made themselves vulnerable and uncomfortable and unsafe for me and for themselves.
The men – tried.
You could tell they needed practice.
They tried to be rational, reasonable, calm, logical.
It didn’t work, because the people they were debating, men who don’t want to release their privilege, are none of those things. They might sound it, but they’re not. They say things like “She clearly thinks I’m a perpetrator and was unfairly targeting me. But I didn’t want her to stop fighting me because it’s important to me that she be able to fight REAL perpetrators like that.”
And my men, my friends, did not stand up for me in that.
They didn’t say – hey, that’s a gross, paternalistic and patronising thing to say. She isn’t a child, but an adult, and she doesn’t need your indulgence. They didn’t say – actually, she has accurately assessed this situation and has identified you as somebody who is not acting as the feminist you proclaim to be. They didn’t say – that’s not a cool thing to say. Stop it.
They kept reasoning with him. Persevering, attempting to educate.
Another man said awful things about survivors ‘letting their experience’ define them. When women swarmed him in my defence, he dug in. When a man tepidly, uncertainly, uncomfortably, attempted to step in – he got a response.
Sorry, I thought my apology was implied.
You will note that whereas he’ll fight women, he feels he has to appease and negotiate with men.
You will note that is still not an apology, and that he has expertly wormed his way out of having to provide a real one.
I moved to private messages, begging men to stand up. This isn’t the time for education, it’s the time for solidarity, for defence. Educate later. Build a classroom, herd them into it. Don’t educate on the battlefield. This isn’t the time.
But for men, this is all theoretical. For men, this was a classroom, a discussion, ‘armchair activism’.
For me, it was real life, real pain, real heartbreak.
For me it was the day I told my teacher I was being hit and she smiled vaguely and never mentioned it again.
It was the day I ran up to police, twelve years old, because a man had been following me down the street, an inch behind me, breath on my neck and fly undone – and the police couldn’t charge him because he hadn’t touched me. They would give me a lift home, though, ‘if it wasn’t too far away’.
It was the family friends who invited my abuser to their Christmas party, and when I confronted them, apologised but ‘we think it’s important to keep channels of communication open for your sister’s sake’.
It was the day a neighbour told me off for getting blood and dirt on her carpet.
It was the day my mother washed blood out of my hair and then went back to watch television with him.
And it was the day I went to pick up my sister and the man in the driver’s seat was paralysed in fear while I prepared for battle.
I know this is a war we’ve been fighting for our whole lives, and they’re green soldiers who haven’t even been to boot camp.
I know they just need practice.
I know I should be kind, keep training them, keep educating them. Forgive.
But today, I just can’t forgive a single one.
I promise to try again tomorrow.