Monday, July 31, 2006

thank god for feministe

Seems like victim-blamers aren't lacking in the feminist blogosphere either.

On the 28th, zuzu posted about a NJ woman who had been abducted, raped, and murdered when she and a friend went into New York City for some partying.
As per usual with threads about rape victims, the comments degenerated into a victim-blaming pissing match, with people talking about how "stupid" she was to have too much to drink and so on and so forth. One commenter actually said that the women were "basically hanging a “fuck with me” sign on their backs."

And today, zuzu called them out on it:

For once, just for once, I wanted to try to have a discussion about a woman getting raped and murdered that DIDN’T devolve into an extended rehash of the same goddamn argument we always seem to have whenever a rape and/or murder of a woman is discussed: Namely, we start out on topic, then someone has to come in and blame the victim (she was drunk! doesn’t she know there were consequences! she was dressed like a hoochie! she was a stripper! she must be lying! what was she doing alone at night? what was she doing trusting a man?) and we’re off to the races.

And inevitably, in all the talk about what the victim did or didn’t do and whether the natural consequence of having a few too many and making some poor parking decisions is to be abducted, raped, murdered and your body left in a dumpster, someone disappears.

And that person is the rapist/murderer.

And sadly, this post also degenerated (though luckily not as quickly or as far) into some lovely victim-blaming, and whether saying that women need to report their rapes is victim-blaming or not (again, losing sight of the perpetrator).

I wrote about this too, about a month ago.
But I didn't quite get around to making this point that one of the commenters made on zuzu's post, which I reproduce in full here, because it captures the big picture very succinctly:

We need to make him [the rapist] disappear to keep up the fiction that rapists are scary brown bogeymen who hide in dark alleys waiting to sate their uncontrollable lust for innocent white girls. They’re monsters, born bad, insane, hideous beasts. There’s nothing we can do to control them, so women must take responsibility for protecting ourselves.

If we keep up this fiction we can continue to pretend that men we know and trust can’t be rapists, too. We can continue to pretend that violent porn is “just a fantasy” and there’s no such thing as a “rape culture”.

Blaming women involves nothing more than decrying the rise in slutdom, which we’ve been doing for hundreds of years. Blaming men involves facing harsh truths about our culture, way of life, our sons and husbands and fathers. Blaming women is always easier.

on rape, disclosure, and relationships

I've been contemplating this post for a long time now, which of course means that things have become more, not less, convoluted. But let's see if I can make this somewhat coherent.

People talk a lot about the immediate damage that rape causes for the victim. You see it on TV shows (like my beloved Law & Order: SVU), you hear it talked about when the topic comes up in conversation (however rare that may be), and you read about it when news sources actually cover rape stories (again, a rarity).
You see the immediate effects: the tears, the pain, the complexities of the initial disclosure. Maybe you'll see or hear about these effects a month or two after. They have no qualms with showing that kind of damage. But past that, nothing. It's no longer worth covering or talking about when the pain isn't so fresh. But that, of course, doesn't mean that the pain is any less there.

I talked about this a little bit before, back in my post about the inaccuracy of the rhetoric of the "survivor" a few months back. About how you don't really "heal" or "get better."
I didn't really delve into how that inability to just "get past it" affects every other aspect of life, though.
Specifically, for the purposes of this post, how that plays into getting into/being in a relationship, and how that plays into intimate friendships.

I, personally, can't so much hide the fact that I've got...well, that I've got "a past." My left arm has about as much scar tissue as it has unscarred skin. (I'm right-handed, so my right arm is significantly clearer.) My upper thighs, too, are full of scars that scream "I'm fucked up." But the deal-breaker, it seems, is the scar on my upper stomach, right below my bra line. The scar that just puts it right out there. The scar spells out the word "SLUT."
That scar reveals, in no uncertain terms, that I've been hurt, and that I'm not exactly "healed." Even if someone who I was interested in could somehow get past the plethora of scars on the more easily noticeable parts of my body, that one would (and has) scare(d) them off. Because who wants to be with someone who was (for all they know, is) so unstable that she would brand herself as such?
At least, nobody who hasn't been through a similar situation herself. And even most of the people who have would rather be with someone "normal," not fucked up. (I know I would.)

And this is where things get tricky. Because once they've seen that scar, actual disclosure is somewhat unnecessary. Once they've seen that, they don't really want to know what it's about. And so you don't know how to have the "I was raped/abused/molested" conversation...since by that point, they've probably pretty well figured it out.
And of course, the point at which they figure it out is exactly the point when they decide that they don't want to deal with it. That you're too damaged for them to waste their time on anyway.

I know that sounds harsh. And I've had countless people tell me that I'm not "damaged goods," that I haven't actually ruined my chances of being in a relationship.
But really? It's kinda true.

I remember, when I was reading Lucky (by Alice Sebold), she wrote something about how, as a rape victim, you're perpetually alone. It makes you so different from every other "normal" person out there that people don't really know how to handle you, and they don't really want to.

I wish that weren't the case. I wish that rape didn't have such lasting effects.
But I also wish that people would recognize those effects. That they would actually acknowledge that the damage that rape causes doesn't end after a few months, after the victim "should" be "over it."

This isn't all coming out of nowhere. These are the things you think about when you start seeing (and shortly thereafter stop seeing) one of the lucky, sheltered women whose past is practically perfect. These are the things I've been reading, the things that have hit me pretty hard in the posts I've been reading in the couple past Carnivals Against Sexual Violence. Like the Triggers & Speaking Up post at lelyons. Because there's just something about triggers and relationships and the combination of the two that never seems to get much attention.
And in a way, I understand why it doesn't get that attention. Because really, who wants to talk about that? It's so much easier to pretend that there aren't implications years later, so much less disconcerting to ignore the long-lasting effects. But it's still a completely inaccurate portrayal of the reality.

Yes, I'm sure there are people out there who do well, great even, in relationships with women who have abusive pasts. Mostly, though, these are people who understand because they have similar pasts themselves.
The women I've dated and the women I will date who have practically perfect pasts will never be able to understand where I'm coming from in life. They'll never get why I'll cut away every so often while we're having sex, and they'll never get why I can't just automatically trust that they won't hurt me. Sure, they might say that they "understand," and they might think that they do...but unless you've gone through this yourself, it's not something you can ever fully comprehend.

I shouldn't have to try to explain this to people, though. I shouldn't have to only date people with similarly fucked up pasts just because the "normal" people won't understand. I shouldn't have to continue to deal with this, almost 8 years later.

And I know I do this a lot. I pull the "should" and "should not" thing, even though I know that "should/should not" really doesn't mean anything, and it's not something that I have any control over changing.
So to flip this into something a little more constructive, a little more plausible: I wish that people could comprehend just how deep the damage that rape causes goes. How long it lasts. How inescapable it is. Because even with all of this evidence, even with the huge numbers of victims, people still underestimate the damage and people still see it as a Not So Serious crime. And maybe that's because of our legal system that only recognizes it as such, or maybe it's because of the larger rape culture that surrounds us, but treating rape and sexual abuse as Not So Serious doesn't do anyone any favours...except, of course, the rapist.

Friday, July 07, 2006

a million little carnivals

I've missed a ton during my hiaitus. Sorry 'bout that.

I'll try to go through and talk a little bit about a bunch of these, but for now, a handy little list of the more recent ones (in no particular order):

Similar to the blogging campaign I participated in a while back (Blog to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence), Marcella has started what I guess is going to be a recurring carnival: the Carnival Against Sexual Violence. Number 1 is here, from June 1st. Number two is here, from July 1st.
Next one will go up on the 15th, and I'll link to it then.

And the carnival of feminists...well, I've missed a few, since the last one I blogged about was the 10th, and they're up to the 18th now.
So, links to the last couple:
Carnival of Feminists Number 18 at Ink and Incapability, up as of July 5th.
And the Seventeenth Carnival of Feminists at Bitch|Lab, published on June 21st.

And then there are The Gays with their damn Homosexual Agenda(tm) at the Carnival of Bent Attractions. The couple most recent ones:
The Seventh Carnival of Bent Attractions at 2sides2ron, up on June 10th.
And the Sixth Carnival of Bent Attractions at Multidimensional.Me, up on May 10th.

And lastly, the Radical Women of Color Carnival. I've missed a bunch of these, too, so the last couple:
The Fifth Radical Women of Colo(u)r Carnival at Fabulosa Mujer, up on June 6th.
And the Fourth Radical Women of Colo(u)r Carnival at blac(k)ademic, up as of May 6th.