Friday, July 24, 2015

Be my whole self

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville has two fascinating essays from the female perspective.

In the first she discusses how her husband Iain likes women. She immediately runs into a problem. Our language and culture interprets that to mean Iain is a skirt-chaser, a man intent on bedding women. But Iain likes women and listens to them because he finds them interesting to listen to, not because he will be rewarded with time in bed, not because he considers women as objects to be controlled by men, but because he genuinely wants to hear about what women have to say. Our language is so patriarchy oriented it simply doesn't have the words to describe how Iain relates to women.

In the second essay McEwen says that when she meets a man she must remain guarded because she can't know whether her identity as a woman will be used against her. She isn't talking about physical violence. She's talking about men who make comments or "jokes," talk down to her or over her, or engage in an endless number of piggish behaviors that demonstrate "they view me as less than, and want to make damn sure that I know that is how they see me."
What I'm talking about is how I can't walk into a room and leave my womanhood behind, and thus any man who wants to trade on his male privilege and use misogynistic stereotypes against me has a ready-made weapon for harming me.

What I'm talking about is how I cannot magically discern which men are going to do this to me; I don't know until they reveal themselves, and by then it is too late—I am no longer safe.

What I'm talking about is how I know from a lifetime of experience that the men who choose not to harm me in this way are way more rare than the men who do.

When I say I want to be safe, what I mean is that I want to be able to be my whole self, without the fear that revealing my whole self will invite abuse.

I cannot afford the emotional cost of good faith, not anymore. My posture changes; my humor becomes more barbed; I am wary, as I size up whether there is even a chance that I might be safe.

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