Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbia MO, Columbus, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, East Lansing, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Los Angeles, Muncie IN, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Plattsburgh, Richmond VA, San Francisco, Tucson, Twin Cities
BY REBECCA KATHERINE HIRSCH
So, SlutWalk. A movement whose name makes me cringe. I joined SlutWalk for the same reason I join many things: Desire, fear, half-conscious longing for union. But let’s zone in on that FEAR. Fear of what? Fear of oneself? Well, yeah, sure, but what else? Fear of… Dudes.
Yeah. Dudes. The men people. The ones with the power. The ones whose power has been socially encouraged to be insecurely felt and hence violently expressed.
But wait! Not all men are repulsive, sleazy, insidiously creepy wannabe he-men, evil warring rapist babies with penises made out of spikes! That would be crazy! But that’s how society presented them to me! (And now, whenever I consort with a fellow who’s aware of his socialization and curious to know about social constructs and his personal history and sources that inspired adherence to “male” stereotyped behavior, I just fall over backwards and say Let’s have open-minded, potentially non-gender-normative sex! Or no? You’re not into that? Ok, let’s do it the boring way! So long as it’s consensual, no expression of sexuality is perverse!) Too many men are manipulated into the pervasive idea that male power is in need of constant re-affirmation. Their defensiveness is metastasized into cruelty.
But back to that fear…
Where there is fear there is also disgust. By what am I disgusted? Ladies. The popular conception of ladies. Women people. The ones without power. Women were presented to me (via all media and popular mythology so deeply entrenched it’s taken as “fact” and “natural”) as vindictive, slimy, conniving explosives that kill everyone in their paths. They were also put forth as pretty brain-dead princesses (who secretly want to kill everyone in their paths which is why we have to stop them by shaming them and calling them mean names—how about ‘slut’? Yeah, that’ll do). This was confusing for me. Because I was none of those things. Or was I all of those things? I wondered at these conflicting, woman-hating messages late into the night.
And then I got ANGRY. SO ANGRY. That my options were the only options given every female since men realized they could band together and shame us down: Virgin or whore. Stupid victim who gets killed for her naiveté or evil temptress who gets killed for her lusty wiles. And the Everyman victor goes off to slay the dragon and live his untroubled life while I, the virgin or whore, die in the background wondering why the hell I was only given two lousy choices when I TOO could be the Everyman. Everyone is the Everyman. The Everyman is a myth that purports (white, resource-rich) men as normal and everyone else as abnormal, deficient, pathological.
Well, I am not down with these double binds! Society’s unfair and unrealistic breakdown of binary gender qualities and abilities presents MEN as strong, powerful creeps and WOMEN as stupid, pitiful harpies.
I am neither of those things and nobody is. I joined SlutWalk to smash gender stereotypes. Gender stereotypes, after all, perpetuate rape.
The stereotype that men cannot control their sex drives and must violently penetrate, bloody and maim everything they want makes me murderous. That’s an unfair stereotype. It casts men as infantile hyenas and says women must resign themselves to violence. This is a myth. A myth akin to black people being stupid or gay people being sexually wanton. When you think about it, all negative mythology condemns the same thing: weakness. Sexual weakness, mental weakness. However you slice it, we all fear our humanity.
Because ALL people are sexual and ALL people are imperfect. Our society superficially values sexual control and the veneer of intelligence (instead of TRULY teaching and valuing sexual education, intelligence and diversity) and so assigns these incomplete and inhuman characteristics to the people it values most: Men. White men. White men with economic resources. But men don’t possess absolute power any more than robots do. Myths hurt everyone! If men who buy into the system constantly feel they aren’t measuring up (since no human being could) and take it out on those who are societally perceived as weaker and less deserving of sympathy, do we blame men? (A few times, but only on an individual, not systemic, basis) Or do we blame the overarching mythology and dualistic system that creates an absolute, essentialist, polarized division of FAUTLESSLY GLORIOUS (male) people and BAD, SNEAKY, PRETTY (female) people? (SlutWalk says we should.)
I’m so sick of being afraid of men (for some of their violent expressions of “power”). And I’m sick of wanting to be a man (so I can at least tangibly manifest my own desired power without being called names). I hate the system that assigns the quality of aggressive thoughtlessness to men and calls it power.
All myths that arrange people into artificial hierarchies are socially dangerous because they are emotionally devastating. You say a women has to wear the “right” clothes in order to fan the flames of alleged uncontrollable male lust (MY FEMALE LUST IS UNCONTROLLABLE, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Still I manage to avoid assaulting people! And it’s not because my lust is lesser; it’s not because I don’t “naturally” lust: these things were SYTEMATICALLY taught to women, expected and enforced via shaming and calling a woman a “slut” if she acts like a “man” as if men were one monolithic hulk that has no empathy and no real desire for pleasure, just power and control). A black man has to not be black in order to not get targeted and arrested. A gay person has to not be gay in order to not be harassed and humiliated by zealots. A trans person has to not be trans in order to live in safety.
No one is free until everyone is free! Sexism is racism is homophobia is transphobia is ableism is prejudice. It’s the fear and hatred of perceived weakness we ALL have in ourselves. Why run from it? Why not explore it? Why displace our anger at other people who don’t deserve it?
And so! I’m marching with SlutWalk on October 1st to do my small part in challenging this culture that condones rape by glorifying qualities artificially associated with maleness and belittling all things perceived as female and feminine. I’m marching to
materialize the radical notion that ALL people deserve to be treated like human beings.
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