My last post blew this place up.
I had an overwhelming amount of support, attention, and even a little bit of criticism. I got many private messages saying “thank you,” from women who related to the story. I got a lot of comments in that vein. I also got a few comments from a woman who questioned my tactics, my beliefs, and my grasp on reality. She said she’d rather say something to someone in the moment than write a blog post about it. Sorry, I’m going to write a blog post about it.
This will be Part 1 of a two-part series. TW: rape, racism.
Instead of breaking down the values and dangers of confrontation, I wanted to go into a realization I had the first time I found myself arguing against women on a matter of gender. That is, women hurt women too. Women protect patriarchy, too. I am seeing it now in the news, with the SCOTUS ruling. I am seeing women standing on the other side of the fence, joyous because to them it is their own victory, they have taken on the fears of reproductive health as their own, they’re saving babies or some shit. Not concerned at all about their own uteruses. Because they’re not sluts. Or something. Anyway.
I was so naive, once, to think other women would understand me by virtue of also being women.
Let me tell you the story.
It was February, Black History Month, 2010, at UCSD. The Black Student Union (BSU) was waiting on an answer for their demands. A party with a racist theme, and some of the things said in defense of this party, and a noose hung in the library, revealed the toxicity of the campus climate against black students. “The University is allowing the African-American students to be racially demoralized by a group of students on this campus,” the demands letter read. This becomes relevant, later.
I’d only been a student for about 1 year. I had joined one of my University’s largest Facebook groups, which mostly posted events. Occasionally, people posted internet articles and discussed them. I mostly did not participate, because I was busy being an art student and doing art student things (read: get fucked up and play Minecraft). One guy posted an article about how chivalry was seemingly dead.
People responded to the post, generally agreeing that chivalry was dying, and it was such a shame. The article stressed that it was women being ungrateful for chivalrous acts that was part of the problem, and why were they doing that? I saw an opportunity to help explain why a woman might feel uncomfortable with chivalry, and I gave personal examples and explained in a rather diplomatic way (or so I thought). I said that it is possible that women could be uncomfortable because they are afraid. That, for example, when I walk to my car alone at night, I put my keys between my knuckles like wolverine because society tells me I should be afraid I could be attacked. So if a guy runs to open my car door for me, I might be unsure of his motives. I may have also said men should pay attention to their surroundings and make sure they aren’t accidentally making women uncomfortable.
People’s responses to my comments stunned me. Two women, especially, picked me apart. I tried to defend my statements, but they told me I was stupid to be afraid. It’s difficult to remember anything but the most horrifying of the things that they said, and that was this: “If you’re so afraid, why don’t you go run to the BSU and use their ‘safe space,’ then? Or are you too afraid of the big black men?”
I deleted everything I wrote. I was humiliated and shaken. I did not expect this from women. I thought all of them knew the fear I sometimes carry with me. I thought all of them had at some time or another distrusted a man who seemed to have “chivalrous” intentions. I thought they would stand up for me, in light of all that has happened to our fellow women.
Just one year prior, a student walked alone to her car at 8:30pm. She was held down in the parking lot, between the cars, and raped.