Saturday, November 8, 2014

Men As Victims of Rape Culture

Recently I went to a nonprofit event to benefit... without being too specific, people who are homeless and/or may not have enough to eat. There are plenty of those in our proud United States, and the Republicans believe in punishing them as often as possible in a myriad of directions. I don't know why. I honestly don't know why, in a superpower nation of plenty and abundance, a political party has dedicated itself to kicking its own citizens while they're down. Can you form a political party around bullying? I guess with enough money, you can.

Anyway. I went to this nonprofit benefit to provide food to people who have no food. That seems like a decent cause: feeding the hungry. It's as unpopular with Republicans as sheltering the homeless and clothing the naked. And yet they pretend to be religious: I really don't get how they think Jesus ben Joseph would have been on their side, when every bill they try to pass stands in direct contradiction to everything he said, in the Bible they insist on interpreting in literal truth. How does that work? No one has ever, ever, ever been able to explain that one to me.

ANYWAY! So I'm at this benefit, and I'm in line to procure food and goods for a "suggested donation." I don't question the donation at all, I'm totally on board with it, I know that's how these things work, that's how they raise money. That's how it has to be until our government feels an obligation to its nation, which it doesn't because of the GOP. To them, the people owe a debt to the government like a tawdry dystopian YA novel.

Wow, I keep getting derailed. Does everyone understand that Republicans worship money and devalue human life except to what extent it serves their enrichment? Yes? Then I don't need to keep belaboring that point.

So I'm at this event, and I'm in line to pay a donation for a donated piece of artwork. There's two women ahead of me in line and one woman behind me, and there are women working the till. The woman behind the till does not know any of us, but she engages the two before me in lively and playful conversation, as well as the woman behind me. She doesn't know them, but she's happy to see them and asks them about their choices for artwork and how their day's going.

When I come up to the till, $20 bill clearly in hand, the woman behind the till's face falls into stony neutrality. I ask if this is where I place my donation and she affirms it is. I give her my bill, she accepts it, and I move on. Then she starts up a delightful conversation with the woman behind me in line.

Then I go to the next line, where my artwork is prepared for me, you know, dusted off and wrapped for transport. The female teen doing this is very friendly to the two women ahead of me in line, and when I leave she's very cheerful to the woman behind me in line. But when I present my artwork, her eyes lose their light and her smile disappears, and she perfunctorily cleans and wraps it for me, hustling me along as quickly as is practical.

Then we get a sample of food, and I'm in line with women ahead of me and behind me, and it's the same thing. The women ahead of me get bright and lively conversation, and then I show up and conjure dark clouds over everything, and then the woman behind me sparks a friendly, playful exchange. For some reason I'm bringing every worker down at this event, where the workers are genderless people right off the street, and the genderless people are all women. And I'm a man.

It's important to note that I'm a man and all the workers are women. You'd think it wouldn't be, but right now it is.

All the women workers in this nonprofit are unhappy to see me because of my gender. All the women workers in this nonprofit happen to be upbeat and cheerful and engaged around donors who happen to be women. It is too constant and too prevalent to be a coincidence. I'm being prejudiced against because of my gender. I'm not doing anything untoward: I say "please" and "thank you," and I read the signs and I follow the flow. I try to be nice and unobtrusive, and maybe they all hate me because of my race (I'm white) but because they are all of varied ethnic heritage but all women, I think they are discouraged by my presence because I'm male. Which wasn't my choice, but that's how it is.

If I were a Republican, if I voted GOP, at this point I would assume a feminist conspiracy and hate all women, in response. I would retaliate by supporting misogynist agenda and citing the day's events as actual evidence to support the male-hating pogrom.

But in fact, you have to look at the source of the damage. What has caused all these women to be unhappy at the presence of men? What has caused people to revert from being people to being genders?

Rapists. That's where rape culture comes in. If men didn't interpret women as objects for their pleasure, and if they didn't physically seize and violate them, then we wouldn't have a rape culture. If police took women's reports of rape seriously and didn't blame the victim, if schools and churches didn't blame women for how they dress and excuse the behavior of their students, athletes and laity, we wouldn't have a rape culture. If the media wouldn't reflexively cast female victims as delusional gold-diggers and defend its athletes and CEOs as prey for money-seekers, we wouldn't have a rape culture.

This isn't an exaggeration or a stereotype. I worked as a transcriptionist for a local college, and I typed in a psychologist's notes as he interviewed a woman who was raped at a frat party. A frat guy found the girl on the street, invited her to a party at his frat house, and he dosed her drug and he (and a few others) raped her without restraint. It sounds like a negative stereotype, but it happens constantly, every week, in every campus, right up to the present day. For some reason, law enforcement persistently refuses to take it seriously, and women increasingly believe they have no recourse to the law. So the problem gets worse and more intense, and less is done about it.

And what's the result of that?

This is what I call "rape culture splash-damage." I wasn't raped, but I'm prejudiced against. I try to live decently and treat all men and women with respect, but because some jock trapped and raped a woman, I receive the brunt of his abuse. I'm civil and polite to all women I encounter, on the street and in the service industry, but because men can physically assault women without fear of legal persecution, I'm regarded warily and with distrust.

If I were conservative, I would assume women just hated me. But instead I look at what caused women to regard men with apprehension. The answer to that is other men. (There's a breed of man who will, instead, strain to point out the exceptions of women who don't have a tragic background, they just have bad attitudes. And they're out there, just like there are men who hate women but haven't been abused by them. So why work so hard to seek out and hold up exceptions as if they were the rule? Some guys will just take any effort to avoid addressing the way things are, to protect their feelings or preserve the status quo.)

That is why every man should be invested in fighting rape culture. Every man should be a feminist, to support women and contribute to a safe and equable world for men and women, Instead of dismissing men's assault as "boys will be boys" and suggesting the woman was inviting assault, men should work harder to ensure we're all well-behaved. Because every jock thinking with his dick makes life harder for the rest of us who are aware of all people as people. Because every frat boy who drugs a woman's drink makes life harder for the men who insist #notallmen. Every jackass on the street who catcalls women, or even those who pay passing women "compliments" and then become hostile when they don't receive a thank-you or conversation in reply, those guys build the icily defensive environment the rest of us find ourselves in. Stop blaming women for the actions of men; start holding men to task.

That means, in the short term, that people like me will show up at nonprofit events and receive shit from women. Do I deserve it? Do men like me deserve it? Of course not. But the appropriate response is not to be mad at the women who are suffering. The appropriate response is to take action against the men who created this condition.

Only a conservative will receive that treatment and resent all women for it. Only a liberal will experience that situation and look at the larger picture, understand the systems and dynamics that created that environment.

Only a conservative will insist that the victim treat the privileged with the respect they're accustomed to. Only a liberal will strive to fix the problem.

No comments: