These days, I’m reminded of Yossarian.
“They’re trying to kill me,” Yossarian told him calmly.
No one’s trying to kill you,” Clevinger cried.
Then why are they shooting at me?” Yossarian asked.
They’re shooting at everyone,” Clevinger answered. “They’re trying to kill everyone.”
And what difference does that make?”
― Joseph Heller,
No one is trying to kill me, but everyone seems like a target, and things certainly seem personal. The sounds bites are immediate, and in my hand on my phone. Along with the name calling and criticisms, and the insults exchanged for opinions and facts. Pixelated hate spat out in a second as a game with nothing at stake, because after all the entire world is an ugly “locker room” and they are only “words.”
Like Yossarian, I am damned as a whinging feminazi if I try to respond, and damned for condoning it if I don’t.
But it must be ok? It’s just some men complaining of “concessions” fought for by generations of women? Right?
Do I bother to assert their attribution of their suffering to feminism is wrong?
If I do explain their bad experiences are due to the patriarchal dividend, they can’t believe me. They can’t see that the system that oppresses women, also fails the men who are poor, less educated, or people of colour, or of differing ability, and sexual orientation. It fails across the globe. But all I see is their claim it is all women’s fault. Furthermore, any individual woman’s failings undermines the entire premise of feminism.
It’s always been all about Eve (of destruction).
How convenient it is for some to forget the entire world is a place where men have been for thousands of years, and remain, the “gold standard.” From marriage contracts, office temperatures to sport coverage, to reviews of novels, to how weather events with men’s names are taken more seriously than ones with women’s names .
How easy it was to feel the jibes thrown at my prime minister were also directed at me: “deliberately barren”.
How easy it has been.
“You’re antagonistic to the idea of being robbed, exploited, degraded, humiliated, or deceived. Misery depresses you. Ignorance depresses you. Persecution depresses you. Violence depresses you. Corruption depresses you.”
But it’s not just that I’m taking population trends personally.
When I was visible:
I wonder if he remembers the delight he took in demanding to know whether I was “frigid” at age 12. I never asked to be followed after netball one evening, aged 16, because I wore my skirt. I didn’t request the bullying from a class room full of boys when during high school I repeated a year. My mother never knew her boyfriend felt entitled enough to invite me, a teen, into a threesome. I made sure I was never alone with him and felt the relief when they broke up. After a university colleague was murdered by a man with schizophrenia, I endured my own schizophrenic stalker. On campus, I felt cornered into laughing at your jokes at the expense of ‘festy’ women because if I didn’t then I was one of them. I was patient as male students and later fellow employees repeated my comments and recommendations, and were rewarded. You didn’t bother to ask my name when you wanted to take me back to your place. I arched my eyebrows as you addressed the men around me when I asked a question. I did not consent to that nightclub kiss. I didn’t ask you, you who have not done my job, to explain my work as I was speaking. I never requested, passing pedestrians, your leers, recommendations on smiling more, and suggestions on not eating something because I “might get fat”.
Now I am invisible:
I don’t want your grudgingly granted concessions. I don’t need your labels. I don’t want to need your systems of recognition and achievement that keeps everyone but you, out.
I don’t want your locker room.
I want a clean slate.
We begin again and when we do, we are equal.
This means we may be different, but we agree our differences aren’t used as weapons. Your strength doesn’t dominate, it supports, while our skills and abilities aren’t weaknesses, but co-create this world. We complement and compliment. Each of us is celebrated. No one is owned, threatened, invaded or degraded. I am for me, my body is for me, what I do and how I dress is for me. And your life and body is for you. We believe each other when we speak. We ask for consent. We listen and hear. We are encouraged. I am not understood only in the context to my relationship with others, my roles or body and neither are you. We see each other as fully human. We are human. We are never a means to an end.
Don’t believe we need this? Believe Joseph Heller.
“What a lousy earth! He wondered how many people were destitute that same night even in his own prosperous country, how many homes were shanties, how many husbands were drunk and wives socked, and how many children were bullied, abused, or abandoned….When you added them all up and then subtracted, you might be left with only the children, and perhaps with Albert Einstein and an old violinist or sculptor somewhere.”
― Joseph Heller,