Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
August 5, 2004
And now for something a little more serious...
Category: Serious

So today I took a moment to drop in on some blogs that I haven't had much time to visit lately, what with the job and Scary-Crayon and my other pursuits (in the past few days I've finished reading The Zombie Survival Guide, read a few short stories, most of which sucked, and started writing another short story that I hope to finish either tonight or tomorrow). During the past few days, Caren wrote a lot more than she usually does, which is cool, since Caren and her musings are both pretty interesting. Kitzi's posting regularly again (told you you wouldn't be gone long :P). She apparently also liked Barack Obama's speech, which I thought was kinda lame, but then I think all political speeches are lame because they're aiming at a common denominator which (if I may say so myself) is decidedly beneath me. Why are you talking so slowly? Did you know that the entire time you spoke, the networks were flashing text beneath you that earmarked you as "the first black" this or your grandfather as "the first black" that, etc., etc.? Why are you talking about there being one America when during the majority of your speech you've been referring to people not by their names, but with emphasis on where they came from or the color of their skin and not who they are? Suck off, 'bama. Anon did a brief roundup of the blogs he reads. And (among others; hello to those of you I didn't mention!) Wendy outed herself as a survivor of sexual violence.

Before I get into that, special thanks to Skeletoncrew for a package of donated goods that arrived yesterday. What did she send? Stay tuned to Scary-Crayon's Dusty Plastic HELL to find out!

So. In her brief post on that subject, Wendy writes, "I'm a survivor of sexual violence. / No pity. No shame. No silence." I almost commented to the effect of, "I take it you mean no silence on your end, yes? Because I'm having a hard time coming up with an appropriate response to that admission." And it is a difficult thing to talk about. But as Wendy notes in her comments, "Silence is what keeps stuff like that happening to people." That's true. Talking about it can also be harmful, though, as I noted (or attempted to note) in an essay I wrote during my sophomore year at Yale. So now I'm going to post a lengthy excerpt (that is, everything except for five or six paragraphs) from that piece -- it was written a while ago, so the links may or may not still work. And Anon, you'll want to keep reading, since there's a Buffy reference in there. Here goes:

According to the National Organization for Women (NOW), "Every year approximately 132,000 women report that they have been victims of rape or attempted rape... It's estimated that two to six times that many women are raped, but do not report it." Moreover, NOW states that "although only 572,000 reports of assault by intimates are officially reported to federal officials each year, the most conservative estimates indicate two to four million women of all races and classes are battered each year." Conversely, most men are unable to think of even a single instance in which a woman violently assaulted a man, excluding episodes of the Jerry Springer Show. Statistics concur, as NOW notes that "women are 10 times more likely than men to be victimized by an intimate."

Stalking and male violence, then, are definitely serious problems in American society today, and the only way to ensure that the violence against women ceases is to make sure that people know about it and work towards its prevention. To "eliminate violence in Minnesota", for example, the Minnesota Violence Prevention Advisory Task Force (MVPATF) proposes, among other things, to "raise societal awareness about the impact of violence on Minnesotans," to "change public attitudes of violence from tolerance of violence to nontolerance," and to "reduce the personal, familial, and environmental risk factors associated with violence." Women are taught that if they feel uncomfortable around a man, there is probably a good reason for it, because a woman?s best line of defense is trusting her instincts. "Better safe than sorry" is the guiding principle in serious matters of life and death.

But promoting awareness of atrocities can be like throwing a trembling javelin. While we aim to hit a positive mark -- the reduction and elimination of said atrocities, violence against women -- we often miss the target and strike the tree of hypersensitivity and excessive fear of the atrocities happening. And while women may be safer having adopted this approach to social interaction, the result certainly seems at odds with the intended goals of the violence prevention advocates, which include, as the MVPATF outlines, "[working] in cooperation with citizens to create safe, healthy and nurturing communities." However safe the communities may be, living in constant fear of assault is neither healthy nor nurturing.

In contrast to the image of the liberated of the American woman, this victim mentality enslaves women and locks them within a suffocating, dank, gloom drenched cage. The hands of wicked men grasp at these helpless women through tarnished silver bars at every turn. No creature would willingly take refuge within this terrifying prison, but to venture outside is to invite battery, rape, or worse. And women are not the only ones who suffer as a result of the hypersensitivity to male violence. With so many men assaulting women, and with so many women believing that their safety, and even their lives, may be at stake whenever a man seems devoted and persistent -- traits once found admirable in a lover -- he may be more likely to be falsely accused of seeking to harm the supposed object of his affection. Terror grips him every time he decides to approach a woman even for something as simple as asking her out to coffee: Am I acting too friendly? Too withdrawn? What did that look mean? Is she frightened? Oh, God, why did I decide to do this? Now he need not only fear rejection; loss of his "normal" guy reputation may be swallowed up by glaring accusations of being a stalker, and in the worst situations even the law may come down upon his head. For a cup of coffee, it?s just not worth it.

Enter the death of impromptu relationships; kiss chivalry and romance goodbye. There still lingers a chivalric element about American culture, though its precious life is rapidly coming to a close. It whispers to the woman that she can only be sure of a man?s devotion to her by pretending to ignore his advances, and whispers to the man that he can only prove his devotion through his persistence in the face of this half-hearted rejection. And it may be difficult to tell whether the woman is "playing hard to get" or truly isn?t interested; women are usually too polite to outright reject men. The incredible love stories of the movies are no longer worth seeking, when devotion and questing for love are likely to engender terror in the hearts of women and strip a man of his reputation, his freedom, his life. The romantics are dying, and fear is killing them.

Still, it is interesting to note that women may be less likely to perceive a man as constituting a threat when she is interested in him. For instance, I was once told the story of a girl who received a call from a man who had gotten her number from watching her dial home at the movie theater. But because she was curious and somewhat interested, she went out with him, only to note afterwards that the guy seemed like a strange character. Indeed, most of the time the lovers depicted in the movies of today are often handsome and popular -- the kind of men who could have any woman off the street if he so desired -- and the woman is usually shy, or goal-oriented, or suffers from some flaw that makes the man "work" to bring her to him.

When the scenario is reversed, though, even in films the men unfortunate enough to fall into the creepy category of men, however sweet they may be, are usually treated like crap for the majority of the production. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a classic example of such an instance, but even television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer point out this unfortunate consequence of our hypersensitivity to the supposed intentions of certain men. On Buffy, for instance, Spike -- a vampire, hence the creep factor -- has been subjected to all sorts of emotional torture for his attraction to Buffy. He has been discussed privately in the most negative of terms (creepy, freak, twisted, etc.), had doors slammed in his face, and was not even allowed to bring flowers to the funeral when Buffy?s mother passed away (being accused of trying to charm Buffy into being his "sex monkey"). It took Spike?s physical torture and near death at the hands of an evil goddess, because he would not surrender vital information about Buffy, to gain her trust. Even here, in the face of all, devotion finally wins.* But because, for most men, it actually matters how the rest of society perceives them if they are to attain some measure of success -- and so with much reluctance such grand love-quests must be abandoned. Pursuit of women should be left to the dashing and handsome men, while the rest of us slink back into our bell-towers and crypts and try to make due. (I wonder, though, how many happy endings we have denied ourselves?)

... Could there be a better way than this, though? It seems unlikely -- on the one hand, we should certainly be conscious of the violence done to women and should do our best to spread the word and prevent such acts from happening, but on the other hand the suspicion and paranoia that result hardly seem desirable consequences. And given that not all men are the handsome superstars of the movies or possess even a modicum of their "cool factor," it seems a mystery that the average guy, or even the freak, should be able to go forth into society and somehow succeed in finding even friends in members of the opposite sex, let alone love. Perhaps our only salvation lies in the timeless notion that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Let?s hope for that.

*This essay was written before the airing of the sixth season, during which Spike attempted to rape Buffy. That doesn't bode well for my point. 😛

But seriously, does anyone have any solutions? Can we talk about these issues without people overreacting and regarding everyone who "fits" a certain "profile" as a potential stalker and accordingly shunning those people? (For those who would deny that this happens very often, remember that I wrote this essay in the aftermath of my near expulsion on these grounds.) As Anon would say, talk amongst yourselves. Or send me e-mail. As you like.

And soon... RED LOBSTER returns to Scary-Crayon. Be very afraid...!

-posted by Wes | 7:21 pm | Comments (0)
No Comments »
Leave a Reply...