“While popular culture tends to disempower women by telling them they must dress to get men to look at them, the modesty culture tends to disempower women by telling them they must dress to keep men from looking at them. In both cases, the impetus is placed on the woman to accommodate her clothing or her body to the (varied and culturally relative) expectations of men. In both cases, it becomes the woman’s job to manage the sexual desires of men, and thus it is seen as her fault if a man ignores her on the one hand or objectifies her on the other”
A few days short of my 17th birthday, I took a boatload of sleeping pills in the hope that my life would end quickly, quietly and without too much of a splash. Now, every Autumn I find myself reflecting on that particular potential non-birthday. And since I’ve defied my own expectations by reaching a few days before my thirtieth birthday, I thought I’d try to get some of the annual thought-roundabout down and share with whoever cares to read this.
I don’t remember all that much about the attempt itself or the exact reasons for why it was this time in particular that I didn’t just think about taking the pills. I’m sure that this must have added to the frustration for those who cared about me. It wasn’t one particular thing. But, in a way, it was. My Great Aunt had called me, very upset with me for not visiting her that weekend. It was jarring. The conversation was over in an instant. The decision was made even quicker. It was just something that I was suddenly always going to have done.
A solitary ear of corn stands in this now empty field,
We devoured sunlight together,
Extracted nourishment from the soil,
Feasted on water until plump and turgid.
Then you left and I remained,
Where we stood together, I stand alone.
One overripe stalk left unharvested,
A trite agricultural analogy.
A no good.
To be overthrown by a vast army of weeds that will push through,
Surging upwards and throttling what is left.
And still I feel glad to be nothing more than the leavings of the worms,
Devoured, now making this field fertile once more,
Just glad to be useful.
But they never tell you the price utility comes at,
Being used and then discarded,
Being left alone.
Being unmade and made into nothing.
At least I served a function,
I would be lying if I said it still surprised me that some young men think they have the right to privately and publicly pass judgement on female bodies. It doesn’t even surprise any more that a young man, my junior at my place of work would publicly pass comment on mine. What it does is infuriate me. In simply walking from one area of work to another, I open myself up for debate, for my choice to be approved of or disparaged by strangers who, it seems, decided to grow opinions rather than up.
In an earlier post, I may have had a wee tantrum about the #notallmen brigade. In fact, I may have referred to their actions as “ceaseless whinging about how difficult it is to be a white, heterosexual man in today’s hardcore feminist world”. I was wrong. I should have said hardcore gay feminist world.
Seriously though, being puerile get us nowhere, and while I may have meant it when I wrote it, it was not particularly helpful. Worse, phrases like this are likely to alienate those who do believe that they are truly good men and that it is the primary agenda of those who make inflammatory, feminist statements to lump the good in with the bad.
A part of me wants to treat such objections as a form of acting-out. People who consider themselves to be ‘good’ are quite protective about this aspect of their identities and see references to their group as ‘not good’ as a personal assault. It’s quite an egocentric stance – assuming that you are being personally indicted for the perceived flaws of an entire group. If not, you wouldn’t care. It wouldn’t become a matter of personal integrity. You might instead choose to focus on and empathise with the experience being shared rather than adopting the position of a victim of hate speech. Continue reading