a view on "being different" and social conformity Monday, August 06, 2007

take an old-fashioned feminist who doesn't like the attention that Being Different attracts, and doesn't think non-conformity has to have a high-visibility component. add to that a strong tendency to be a peacenik. i am very, very picky about what ways i will "stand out" from the crowd.

while sometimes non-conformity is intelligent and necessary for integrity to one's political beliefs, most times i hear it being advocated like a panacea. Being Different seems to be regarded as a GoodThing(TM).

especially if you are a feminist you are expected to Be Different by adopting certain (predictable) patterns of behaviour. other than the fact that these patterns are again dictated by an arbitrary someone who considers they know best as to what is liberating for the feminist in question, the reasons given for advocating non-conformity are almost half-baked - and any refusal to comply and obligingly Be Different in the dictated manner means you are sadly under patriarchal control still!

broadly speaking, i think there are two kinds of social demands.

the first are to do with respectability/decency/something-else-equally-vague; the second is to do with maintaining the social fabric.

the first kind is the set of demands that are made of us as individuals representing a certain group. society is full of competing groups that try to attain social dominance/power. when a group A that is more powerful than group B decides that group B is worth noticing or being allies with, group B's power increases.

historically, B groups try to sell their members as highly desirable members, who are "respectable", "decent" or whatever else is in vogue. the group makes social demands of its members, along the lines of "if you're decent you wouldn't do this". it's telling that most of these decency/whatever conformity demands are mostly only restrictive! the group makes these demands purely to make sure that you don't embarass it. so no, the group doesn't give a damn about the individual in its quest for political power.

saying bow-wow to these demands is a part of rebellion against the group's oppression of its members, but it's nowhere near enough. this sort of non-conformity is important in adolescence when you're (hopefully :D) determining your politics and practising resistance because it's a relatively easy way to challenge the way you live and think.

but carried beyond a certain age and in the absence of anything more profound than the purely symbolic gesture, it's quite pointless and peurile. it becomes pop-rebellion along the lines of "i do ganja and so i am liberated and very progressive!".

i also think that this is a kind of non-conformity that doesn't really demand much of you as long as you don't mind the occasional bursts of attention. all the confrontation of beliefs that happens at this level, is confrontation of others' beliefs. you don't challenge yourself at all. so when no one's watching, it may be quite meaningless.

there is the second kind of social demands. i think these demands are made of us as members of society at large (or humanity if you will) as opposed to members of a certain social group. these demands have to do with stability of society. such as not trying to take the law into your own hands, or keeping in touch with your kin. i think it's actually lots of stuff like the second that is about building up a robust social support system to ensure reasonably well that nobody goes too berserk.

it's true that these expectations can be rejected too. there are people who manage to live quite happily and independently of their kin. (there are also some kin who deserve to be kicked out of the network!) then by all means, don't conform.

however, i'm a little wary of non-conformity to these expectations because while that may not threaten those who do not need these guidelines, who are wise, able &/or capable enough to live on their own terms, the potential for damage in terms of less able/wise/capable followers is tremendous.

the systems needed for stability are necessary in order to protect those who are not wise enough to intelligently reject these norms and who may get into trouble of a magnitude that affects not just them individually but also society as a whole. many children of the hippie generation suffered bitterly because of parents who thought they were being progressive by absolutely disrupting all existing social systems but just ended up being flaky and broke. today we have problems of adolescents going berserk and killing, school kids committing suicide because of stress and soaring rates of depression. i think they're all indicative of system failure. (how much more unstable can a society get?!)

so am i advocating complete docility and conformity as a safe option? no. i just think there is a huge area between these two kinds of non-conformity, where non-conformity means challenging ourselves more than an audience (and is therefore more honest!), where rebellion is reasoned rather than attention-seeking. i rather think many of the madusar patis figured this one out pretty well. i know some in my clan who have seemed outwardly perfectly traditional, but have been very strong and progressive women.

the more i think about it, i think it would be fabulous to teach meaningful, questioned (as opposed to merely rejecting) rebellion as part of higher secondary schooling. we'd finally be giving people a chance to become sensible adults!

Of girlfriends, wives and subliminal conditioning Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Read this extract from THE HINDU (16 July, 2007 Metro Plus [Chennai Edition])

When Shruti Kamal Hassan asked Arjun Vignesh (one of the ten finalists in the Chennai leg of the Horlicks Wiz Kids 2007 competition) "What is better – having a girlfriend or a wife? And why?", the boy blushed but was not out of his depth. All of 11 years, Arjun preferred a wife to a girlfriend. Reason: girlfriend means impermanence, but a wife is forever. He said “A girlfriend can dump you anytime, but a wife won’t” to thunderous applause. Guess who clapped? An auditorium (Kalaivanar Arangam) full of school students.


Just one paragraph and I don't know what irks me most.

1. The fact that it seemed appropriate for an adult - a 21-year old is considered an adult - to ask THIS question to a child of 11.

2. the fact that a 11-year old child answered in THIS particular manner.

3. The fact that an auditorium full of children applauded this answer.

4. The fact that Prince Frederick, the author of this piece, thought this charade worth reporting.

If I'm a prude, so be it; but in the world I knew it wasnt okay to ask a child if he/she preferred a girlfriend/boyfriend to a spouse. The question is loaded. Not because of the manner in which it is asked or because the person who asked it was an adult, but in content of the question itself. are we seriously expecting our children to be able to, at the age of ELEVEN, decide whether they want a relationship or a marriage?

If there is anything worse than the question itself, it is the answer! I think there is something horribly wrong in the way we look at the concept of trust if a boy finds himself able to question the need for commitment in a relationship. The boy's logic might be infallible but the assumption that a wife is bound by a social construct to not abandon her husband, begs the question, "Why did the woman want to dump him?". The boy's logic seems to insist that he either does not care about the reason for the woman wanting to dump the man in her life, or does not believe that the woman can have a valid reason for dumping a man. all the boy cares about is that one option does not give the woman the freedom to do something she wants, and hence (as far as he is concerned) THAT is the better option. But frankly can you or I fault the boy? All he is doing is reflecting a view that he has (doubtlessly) heard an older male voice. And how does the boy know that this answer is a good one? Everytime someone has made a statement like this, the statement has been recieved with much fanfare and merriment. It disgusts me, this mirth at the portrayal of a wife as one bound to her husband - a slave, a playtoy, a prisoner.

But what really hurts is that THIS is the kind of thing that our newspapers report. Does no one find it offensive? Am I ultra-sensitive or is the rest of the world immune? How can it be that a man can report this charade and report it as a story and nothing else? Does a journalist cease to be a human being with a sense of judgement?


The reporter goes on to say,
"Their answers were sweet because their innocence shone through them."

It wasn't their innocence that shone through. It was the conditioning that shone through. The conditioning that makes us prejudiced. The conditioning that makes us unthinking. The conditioning that makes us mock at guys who learn an art form like dancing for being sissies. The conditioning that makes us teach our young to dress like bollywood actresses.

I'm sorry, but if THIS is innocence, then I don't think I want my child to be innocent.

Kill 'em! Castrate 'em! Monday, April 16, 2007

What would be the appropriate punishment for someone who sexually abuses children? When asked this question, typically people respond with the following answers:

  1. Kill them!
  2. Castrate them!
  3. Rape them/their kids.

While these responses arise out of the shock and horror stories of child sexual abuse often bring, they are neither appropriate nor practical. And here’s why:

  1. Kill them!

Besides the arguments along the lines of human rights and capital punishment, it is a fact that killing them won’t help protect more children from being abused. First of all, killing an abuser will eliminate the possibility of that abuser abusing more children. What about thousands of other kids who get abused everyday? Second, it will not serve as a deterrent for other abusers. There are many countries across the world that have excellent rape and child abuse laws. However, these crimes are still extremely prevalent in those countries. In India, where laws and their implementation has always been an issue, this method will just not work. Third, being identified as a child abusers carries tremendous stigma in any society, including India. Social stigma is always a greater deterrent than legal instruments. If the social stigma does not deter the abusers, it is highly unlikely that death penalty will (this is not to state that laws don’t matter… of course they do… just that they alone are not sufficient). Fourth, death penalty is allowed only in the “rarest of the rare circumstances”. Take a look at the prevalence figures for child sexual abuse across the world, and you will realize that child sexual abuse is not rare, leave aside being rarest of the rare (World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 10 children is sexually abused!). Finally, this method will kill only who get caught. Abusers are so smart in their modus operandi, that for every abuser who gets caught, there are hundreds who walk away free. How will death penalty catch them?

  1. Castrate them!

This is probably the most common response. However, sexual abuse doesn’t require genital gymnastics. In fact, it does not even require for a child to be touched physically. Rape is only one form of abuse. What about child pornography on the internet? What about voyeurism (where the abuser gets sexual pleasure out of looking at children when they are in the bathroom, changing clothes etc.)? What about forcing a child to engage in sexual activity with another child? All these acts do not require the abuser to touch the child? But are they abusive? Of course! Castrating someone does not take away their ability or intentions to be abusive.

  1. Rape them/their kids.

Violence is not the answer to violence. If we do this, we will send out the message that rape is justified as long as the motive behind it is justifiable. Motives can always be interpreted, misinterpreted, manipulated and twisted. Rape is unacceptable. Period.

So what needs to be done?

We need to stop looking only at legal and punitive measures to stop abusers from abusing. They have their place, but they don’t change society. We need to stand up and be counted, instead of passing the buck to the courtrooms and expecting prisons to do the trick. We need to accept that:

  1. Abusers exist.
  2. They exist among us, and not just on Jupiter, developed countries, English-speaking countries, poor illiterate families, rich urban families and blah blah blah.
  3. They can be people we know, like or love… like our family members, relatives, friends, neighbors…
  4. They are not devils or demons, but people like us who live routine lives.
  5. Primary responsibility to stop them lies with us.
  6. They can be stopped by breaking the taboos and the silence about child sexual abuse.
  7. They can be stopped by talking to children about sexuality and sexual violence (in an age-appropriate way, of course).
  8. They can be stopped when we stop covering up for them when find out instances of abuse… but place the responsibility of child sexual abuse where it belongs – on their shoulders.
(What is a post on child sexual abuse doing on a blog on feminism? This is here because child sexual abuse is a feminist issue.)

Crossposted here.

those "sassy" babes Saturday, April 14, 2007

i chanced upon an edition of that gem of a magazine, India Today.

"smart and sassy" said the cover page, showing a young woman. the story was ostensibly about how women are making it big in the corporate world. india today is india's largest-selling english magazine, so i think it's a fairly representative visage for that fuzzy beast called mass media. i want to dissect the representation made by them now.

first, have a look at a couple of recent editions which have featured men on the cover page.



(from indiatoday.com)

and then, the current issue:


(from indiatoday.com)

let's see, famous actor... think of the face.

a cricket coach who was murdered ... how do we recall the person? face.

representation of powerful women ... strike a pose, display that groin. obviously a woman's intelligence, power or drive to succeed all lies centered in her crotch. therefore it's completely relevant if not absolutely vital to include a splay-legged display of it when discussing her abilities.

it makes you freeze to realise that it's easier for the media to portray a dead man as a person, than portray a woman as something more than a "body".

i don't know about you folks, but i'm yet to see a woman posture like that in a board-meeting, or even in a team meeting. wow, how realistic a pose. so that's what women do at work - stand like they're about to launch into a quick tea-break version of moulin rouge.


(from allposters.com)

using a chair in a cabaret act is almost cliched now. in 1972, liza minelli made a movie called "cabaret". the poster of the movie less blatantly highlights the woman's groin than this supposedly non-sexualised depiction!

also, how many women have you seen waltz into office dressed in the finely embroidered ensemble that this one has on? can you imagine getting any work done dressed like that? is it even remotely practical? the only thing you could comfortably do with an outfit like that, would be to sit in an air-conditioned glass case. someone's been suffering an acute attack of woman-are-decorative-elements.

finally, the most obvious idiocy. "sassy"?

sassy

adjective (sassier, sassiest) informal, chiefly N. Amer. bold and spirited; impudent.


impudent of the little girls to walk into an office and get noticed? ooh, they're being spirited in the presence of the Big Male In Charge, huh? the word drips condescension. so that's a really bad choice of words, mr editor, even if the reader didn't know that "sassy" is an americanised corruption of the word "saucy" which happens to have certain specific connotations.

saucy

adjective (saucier, sauciest) informal 1 chiefly Brit. sexually suggestive in a light-hearted way. 2 chiefly N. Amer. bold, lively, and spirited.


"sexually suggestive"? well, knock me down with a feather.

Of "Boardroom pin-up girls", leadership across "global ponds" and women's day Monday, March 12, 2007

On the occasion of Women's Day on March 8th, The Economic Times marked its "observance" of the day by inviting Padma Ravichander, Managing director Perot Systems, to write something up about the participation of women in higher management in industry. The original article can be found here.

Let me start by saying that I was hugely disappointed by the content and general writing of the article. I am in fact, so traumatized by the whole experience that I am going to proceed to dissect the article and tell you why I hated it so much. This is going to be a bit of an exhaustive ripping apart seeing that almost every line seems to bother me. Words in bold and with quotes around them are straight out of the article. Those that have quotes around them but are not in bold need you to imagine me making air quotes if I were saying all this out :)

I am really hoping I totally missed a big point here and that my whole understanding of the "message" is warped, because my trauma will continue if that is not the case .:)

So she writes this article and she decides to use for a title, "Boardroom pin-up girls making waves" . While it doesn't make any immediate sense to me, I am sure if I were top-brass management of a Fortune500 company, I would not want to be referred to as a "boardroom pin-up girl" whether or not I am "making waves". Even to just catch the reader's eye, this , I thought, was a rather poor choice of words.

It starts out painfully like a high school essay stating how women "hold seats on corporate boards, run major companies and are regularly featured on the covers of business magazines as prominent leaders and power brokers." and with the naivete of a high school essayist she asks "Who could have imagined this even half a century ago?" . Why do I get the feeling she thinks "half a century" amounts to 500 years back?

We are then treated to a whole bunch of illuminating statistics about how the percentage of women at the "top of the corporate ladder" is very low. She goes on to say that in IT however, " The demand for IT jobs particularly in India have ensured a greater population of women in the workplace than ever before ". Of course, if we had only half the jobs they would all go to men and women are just making up numbers here. Notice also, how a demand "have" ensured something....in The Economic Times no less!!! ( I am not going to be charitable to grammatical errors. With my not-so-admirable grammar skills , if I can catch such mistakes,come on, those editors are paid for correcting them!)

" Information Technology, world over is a relatively new industry and hence has enjoyed the luxury of greater gender neutrality than other industries where the organisational values, definitions of competencies and leadership are still predicated on traits that are stereotypically as-sociated with men tough, aggressive and decisive."

This long sentence left me in a fix. While the poor language and paucity of punctuations are besides the point (or may be the reason for the dilemma), I am not really able to make up my mind what it is trying to convey:
a) Gender neutrality is a luxury.
b) IT owes its gender neutrality ( even while the rest of the article shrieks about even IT not having enough women ) to the fact that it being a relatively new industry, helps it "concede" that women may in fact also be "tough aggresive and decisive".
c) The problem is somehow, more that concepts of competency and leadership are associated with traits such as "tough, aggressive and decisive" and less that they are infact "sterotypically male" .


While most women in IT, she observes, are at "entry-level" jobs, there is a "definitive trend" that they "can" become global leaders because IT jobs demand " for employees to work across countries and cultures and reach out to people across continents. " What about world peace?? This is the kind of writing (BS,if I may) I subscribe to when my answer to a question that demands a 500 word answer ends in about 50 and I need to fill up the space provided.

I gather the courage to read on. The next paragraph starts off promisingly with the question " So can women in IT make good global leaders and what is holding them back?" and I go "phew! May be she will redeem herself." But Alas! that was not to be. Ravichander is of the opinion that "Leadership is an inborn trait in women, whether they lead global teams across ponds or manage households discreetly by always ensuring that every member of the family or team is well nurtured and attended to. It is a quality that is fairly unique, yet very much a part of the DNA of a woman."

While I don't quite understand why someone would want to lead a "global team" across a "pond", it could be some IT jargon that I am unaware of. However, "inborn traits" such as "leadership" don't seem to ensure that every family in the world with a woman in it is well nurtured and I am not really sure how many times the household management is discreet or that every member is "attended to". A quality so "unique", a little less than half the world's population has it as "part of its DNA". ( why oh why can people not stop this abusive use of the concept of the DNA?!!) Is she also not putting in question the ability/involvement of a man as a caregiver or/and "discreet manager" of his household ?

She goes on to talk about the work culture in IT that leaves no minute unconnected and demands a "24/7 online-culture" of employees. How is the woman supposed to take care or her family and work? The solution according her is that " Both men and women need to join hands" and "look closely at our current management practices around meetings, deliverables, timings, work styles, success metrics, performance evaluation criteria and decide how we can change some of these practices across the organisation that would cater to needs of a gender diverse population collectively. "

Why is it a work-home balance struggle only for the woman? Not once does she consider suggesting that men share or should share the responsibility of the household. While evaluation of general work culture will help no doubt, how much impetus is a consumer-driven industry going to provide if it affects deliverables and time lines? How much good are sweeping statements in the vein of "re-evaluate work culture" going to do?

Like I said in the beginning, the way it was written and the fact that,despite the style and content, it got published was a big disappointment. Successful women like Padma Ravichander should be able ,in the least, to not consider themselves "pin-up girls". It is most unfortunate that she should give an impression that

a) A happy family and a successful career are involved in a trade-off
b) The happiness of a family is solely the woman's responsibility
c) There is no part or involvement of the husband in the success of a woman's career.
d) Men in industry need to be understanding to their women colleagues because these poor women do not get the support from the very same men in their roles as husbands.

Maybe the next time they will find someone better to ghost-write ( yes I am the optimist and still want to believe she doesn't really think this way.) the article for her and definitely someone better to edit it.

As a side thought, I wonder if IT big shots hire publicists and if this is in fact the light in which she wants to be seen by the "global" market, because otherwise, that is one more job that needs to be filled in by someone new :)




5 things feminism has done for me Thursday, November 09, 2006

aishwarya had tagged us quite recently (*blush*) for the "5 things feminism has done for you". sorry for the delay a., here it is at last:

1. feminism has made me a happier person in a lot of ways, and added to my sense of self worth. there are days when, even if my whole world has fallen apart and nothing's going right, i still think "i'm a woman", and feel this absolute rush of joy!

2. i love the emphasis that feminism places on honesty and ethics in analysis. one of the things that bothers me about mainstream academic/scientific thought is that it seems to be conducted in ethical and moral vacuums.
as noam chomsky once remarked, "the intellectual tradition is one of servility to power, and if i didn't betray it i'd be ashamed of myself."

3. i think i've become more responsible and more socially aware a person. there are so many things that i did not perceive before - so many worlds i didnt know coexisted with mine. after my introduction to feminism, i've also become more aware of silence being as political a gesture as active dissent or assent. i've learnt that brute force (or power) is different from strength.

4. feminism has taught me a lot about myself. my first encounter with feminist writing reassured me that i wasn't insane, and that amongst other things, it was in fact normal to be bothered by violence and misogyny. ironically that first book also shook me up and churned my mind. it took a while to be able to accept the things i was reading - and not feel like a criminal!

5. feminism has been mind and soul food, and so intellectually a very deeply satisfying experience! it has helped me clear up my head and be surer about what is important to me, how much freedom and responsibility i can handle comfortably, the codes i live by, my tread-carefully-here mental landscapes ... assorted things like that. one of the things i like immensely about feminist theory is that it doesnt "talk down" to the reader.

A sense of Responsibility Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Prologue: Aishwarya tagged us all for "five things that feminism has done for you" and i really think I would not be able to do justice to any of this in a paragraph. So I've decided to write 5 posts. This is the first of the posts. Essentially, as Aishwarya said, all of this boils down to "being a person". So a lot of what I say might not be integral to feminism per se. It is just that I have recognised these things largely because of feminism.

A sense of Responsibility.
that's right. Responsibility with a capital R.

"every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty"

- John D.Rockefeller Jr.

in a very narrow sense, responsibility is about being answerable to someone for one's actions. in a higher sense, responsibility is about having the capacity to make moral decisions and thefore being accountable.

While all of us (well, most of us anyway) recognise the veracity of the first, not too many of us really acknowledge either the validity or the relevance of the second. This is why the average man on the street takes no "responsibility" for a rape committed by one of his kind; why the average asian based in america takes no "responsibility" for the "war against terror"; why the WUCHM takes no "responsibility" for the fact that his tribe has been the single biggest human-rights offender in history of the human race; why the average indian non-voter takes no "responsibility" for the actions of the government.

we ARE responsible. it really does not suffice to say "I didn't do it!". it really does not matter if you AREN'T the perpetrator. it is really not good enough to say "I don't approve of this, so I'm not to be blamed!". WE are responsible.

WE have a collective responsibility. While it is true that each one of us has a right to our own personal space, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that the exercising of this right does not deprive anyone else of theirs.
While it is true that the question of whether a guy likes his girl-friend having hair-free legs is entirely his choice, the question of actually asking the woman to shave is not one that HE can choose to call "his own business": he has the responsibility of understanding that a woman has a much greater say in that issue AND he has the collective responsibility to ensure that his personal preferences do not re-inforce a social stereotype - especially one that is a feminist issue. (Laura has been kind enough to allow me to link to this post. I think it explains the concept perfectly. Read the comments too! )

It is not enough to know or to believe that domestic violence is a crime; or that pornography is demeaning; or that sexual harrassment is unacceptable. each one of us has the responsibility to ensure that no woman is subjected to domestic violence; that no man uses his male-privilege to enforce his opinion on the women in his family; that no country uses its military strength to invade another country. we have a responsibility to the collective to ensure that the world is a safe and fair place.

How does this tie up with feminism? The fact of the matter is that I used to insist that I be treated purely on the basis of merit and with no positive or negative bias because of my race, gender, religion (well, the lack of one) or sexual orientation. Six months ago, my argument was this .......

Why should I be mis-trusted or blamed for something that had been done by someone who shared with me nothing more than a gender, a country-of-brith, or a religion. Why should I not be trusted by a girl because some other male had abused her? I didn't do it, did I? I'm not a creep. I'm dependable. I live by my own code of ethics. If you do have anything against me, let it be on the basis of what I believe in; not on the basis of what other people who share SOME characteristics with me believe in....

This was, I used to feel, a complete and sufficient arguement. In fact I believed that I was being fair and that others weren't if they used a stereotype to classify me. It took feminism to drive home the point that I cannot disclaim responsibility for the actions of the people around me; that I cannot claim to have no responsibility for the actions of other men; that I should be treated without prejudice inspite of the fact that men rape, abuse, hurt and crush women everyday all over the world.

The fact is that given the number of atrocities we men commit against women individually and against womenkind as a collective by supporting or not protesting against gender stereotypes about beauty, it is almost a miracle that I have managed to find women who have treated me without prejudice as a person, as a friend. They had no cause to. They had no reason to. MEN (like me) had hurt them, abused them, subjugated them. And they trusted me. Even though I was a man. Even though i was disclaiming all responsibility for the actions of men.

I want to thank them for helping me realise that I do have a responsibility to the world. I want to thank feminism for helping me realise that every action of mine is not only a reflection of my personal preference but also representative of every male on the planet. I have feminism to thank for helping me see myself not as an island put as part of the main.

Epilogue:
every human's death diminishes me, for I'm a part of humanity;
so never seek to know for whom the bell tolls.
It tolls for me.

adapted from John Dunne's "for whom the bell tolls".

(update: added link to Laura's post: A rethink on choice)

abuse of male privilege

i had made a list - a list of the unearnt, undeserved privileges that i have as a well-to-do brahmin woman. i hoped - almost prayed - that some men at least, after reading that, would make a list of the gender-bestowed privileges that they have.

because this is what happens when a man abuses his male privilege and uses it to hurt a woman.

every time some guy says "but i'm a nice guy!" and expects to be trusted implicitly, i want to bury him in the mound of "nice guys" who do hurtful, vicious, unthinkingly dumb things.

no man has ever introduced himself to me, or any woman of my acquaintance, saying "you know what? i'm not a nice guy, i do bad things. so please don't trust me - treat me an aberration in the world of nice men". pretty much most men consider themselves nice people. "nice men" who happen watch porn, leer at women, "eve tease", or exploit vulnerable women and children sexually.

more than dealing with god, i find that dealing with men is a daily act of faith, with more immediate repercussions if i misjudge. each time i let myself be seen in the company of a man, i know its a risk. i know if anything happens to me, that fact that i was With A Man will be the first excuse to humiliate me and pain me further.

men know this almost better than women. the man who abused me was a father of a nice little girl. every single father and husband i know has taught his daughter and wife to never trust other men. my own father says every single man is guilty until proven innocent. im sure my husband will, with the same concern for my safety, say the same thing.

women are taught, as a policy decision, to mistrust men, but are expected to make a "personal" exception for every single male who chooses to enter their lives. questioning any man provokes "righteous" anger. a woman is expected to automatically wipe her mental slate clean and start from ignorance all over again.

she is confronted by two choices : to compliance or refusal. either way is a hard way.

in compliance, the more she walks away from her lived experience, from all the knowledge that she has developed from first principles, the more the rift between her resolutely rose-tinted world and reality. and reality has a way of catching up and giving you a nasty jar if you try to leave it behind. a woman conscious of the rift rails against the social order that expects her to be such a hypocrite to herself and others. a woman who doesnt perceive the rift eventually falls into a dark painful abyss.

so there is the other option. to refuse to wipe one's mind blank. to face the blaze of anger that will surface each time a man's code is studied. this is a choice that especially most women who have undergone abuse make. to always warn oneself of the danger of trusting blindly. of unquestioningly accepting someone's word about their morality. (often times, not even an open, explicit claim, but an implied one which is much harder to disprove or analyse because of its chimeral nature.)

it is both hurtful and infuriating to repeatedly have to make this tradeoff. and to be judged after being put in a situation that doesnt offer healthy choices in the first place.

were i a man, i guess i would want to crucify each one of my kind who sustained and reaffirmed such a screwed up social system. collective responsibility, while distinct from personal responsibility, has a way of hitting home.

I am not an angry girl
but it seems like I've got everyone fooled
every time I say something they find hard to hear
they chalk it up to my anger
and never to their own fear
and imagine you're a girl
just trying to finally come clean
knowing full well they'd prefer you
were dirty and smiling

- Ani DiFranco & Tracy Chapman