June 2, 2014 | life

On the Culture of Misogyny

yesallwomen

In the week that’s passed since Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree, I’ve been trying to find the words to adequately describe how I feel about it. I wasn’t shocked it happened. It has before and it will again. I spent the week reading and absorbing pretty much any and every article I could find on the incident and the general culture of misogyny. I am exhausted. I’m not just weary of reading it all and the emotional energy it has drained from me, I am beyond tired of living it – simply of being a woman and having to navigate this endless mire of bullshit we have to put up with. We can talk about it all we want – but what are we actually going to do about it? How, when and where does the culture of change actually even begin?

I’ve written before about my various run ins with street harassment. This week, as I walked from the station to my house, alone at night, I experienced yet another incident when a man walked towards me with his friend, got in my face, yelled something sexual, then didn’t want to let me pass him. The whole incident was probably three seconds of my life, but it had me petrified the whole way home. As so many other women who’ve experienced something similar, my main thought during it was ‘what is least likely to get me raped and/or killed?’ ‘Cause we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Ignoring it (as probably 99% of us do in these situations) gives the harasser the upper hand and down plays it all, makes them think it’s not a big deal. On the other hand, if I’d have jabbed him in the throat and poked him in the eye as I’d wanted to for invading my personal space, then I’m a crazy bitch who’s overreacting and might provoke him to physically attack me.

What did I do instead? Power walked home with my keys between my fingers, ready to swing if he followed me, then fired off a bunch of angry tweets when I got home, heart still racing. Of course.

What pissed me off the most is the guy involved probably didn’t even give that three seconds a moment’s thought afterwards. It was a bit of a laugh to him. He’s probably blissfully unaware that getting in the face of a woman who is walking alone at night can utterly petrify her and have her play out varying scenarios in her head as she scrambles to remember self defense techniques. He doesn’t know how much she has to fight against her natural urge to shout and question his behaviour because she doesn’t want to make him angry. Furthermore, I have no doubt that he most likely doesn’t give a shit.

In the wake of Elliot Rodger’s killing spree and the subsequent #YesAllWomen hashtag that emerged on Twitter, I saw a lot of men’s response to women’s honest accounts of harassment we face was one of shock. Many of them just had no idea that this is what we face on a day to day basis. So in that, we learn we have a duty to share our stories. Without the dialogue, no one will ever know. When men can move past the ‘Yeah, but not all men are like that…’ stance is the only time we’ll truly be able to get anywhere with this. Let us stop you right there homie, we know that. Pointing it out ain’t helpful and does nothing to progress the discourse. It’s also dismissive – implying that because you’re not like that, somehow the problem doesn’t exist, or at least, it’s not yours to deal with. So, as the entire reason for the existence of the #YesAllWomen hashtag points out, if you’re flying the ‘not all men’ flag, you’re part of the problem.

So onto the culture of rampant misogyny. One in which lonely, hateful dudes, bitter that they’re not getting laid enough, are writing 140 page manifestos about how much they hate women and how hard done by they are because we aren’t all offering ourselves up to them on silver platters, as is their due, before going out and gunning down a bunch of people, you know, to teach these sluts a lesson. Houston, we have a problem.

A few years ago, having heard mumblings about ‘the game’ and pick-up artists, I started researching into it because, you know, know thine enemy and all that (and no, enemy isn’t a harsh term here – they ain’t exactly trying to be our friends out here). I was left slack-jawed at how deep this movement runs. I’ve read a ton of stuff this week about the PUA community and probably the most disturbing of them all is this piece from Jezebel where one of their writers lurked on a PUA message board for a day and damn near lost her mind.

Reading all this stuff, you just think, how the hell did these guys get here? What made them loathe women on this deeply disturbing, profound level? I was having a discussion about it with my brother the other day and we were both expressing our frustration with the coverage of the Rodger case. We know these communities exist, we know extreme misogyny is nothing new, but what isn’t really happening in the coverage of this latest massacre is a discussion on how we change the culture.

Neither my brother or I had the answers, which made it all the more frustrating, but I’m sure we’re not the only ones wringing our hands wondering how the hell we change things. Sure, the education of young boys in regards to how to treat women needs quite the overhaul but how does that even start? Will we have to wait for an entire generation to pass before we see improvement? I think about it and it all just seems like entirely too big a problem to even tackle, but I know that’s not true. It takes baby steps, sure, but that’s beyond frustrating when people are literally being killed in the meantime. Every cat call, every assault, every incident of verbal abuse – all of that from this point on, with all the knowledge we have about these misogynist communities and the extent to which they’re prepared to go, is one too many. We all, men and women, have to play our part in turning this around somehow.

I just know I’m tired. I’m tired of being scared, of having to plan times I can go out so I’m not out too late by myself, I’m tired of questioning whether my outfit is too revealing (even though I know that has nothing at all to do with anything if I were to be raped), I’m tired of being cat called and humiliated in the street. I’m just…tired. But I’ve still got a whole lot of fight in me yet.

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4 Comments

libba

Thank you for writing this.
You have summed up everything I have been thinking about this case and the massive problem there still is with misogyny in our culture. I have been grabbed in the street and patronised at work etc. and I am getting so tired and enraged by it all. I feel so helpless when the response from so many people is that there is no problem and that I should ‘get a sense of humour’.

Amy

Thanks for this Bangs – this is pretty much exactly what I’ve been thinking about the whole thing. It’s exhausting and distressing and it seems futile to even try to change it sometimes, but it’ll all be worth it in the end, I’m sure.

One thing I have been thinking about a lot, however, is the ‘not all men’ brigade. I think I would be controversial and say ‘yes, all men, actually’. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t believe that every man hates women, or would threaten or abuse them. But I have seen every single man in my life do something sexist – including the men I know who call themselves feminists. A lot of things were relatively ‘innocent’ – throwaway comments, most of the time – but it all adds up to a wider culture, and I always call them on it – and usually they apologise and change their behaviour (at least in front of me). I also think that all men have a responsibility to address sexism and misogyny – especially since misogynists respect other men and not women, so there’s not much point us trying to change their minds. So you can protest all you want that you would never rape or harass someone (well done, do you want a gold star?!) but until you’re part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

WendyB

While I was reading the #yesallwomen tweets and it was getting later and later, I started thinking about whether it was too late to go to the basement laundry room in the apartment building to get my stuff out of the machine … and it suddenly hit me that a man would never be considering whether or not he would be likely to be attacked while getting the laundry at midnight. The fear is so second nature.

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