Saturday, March 06, 2010

We used to fight for building blocks

What about this one for the masthead?

I’m sitting at my desk, with cold feet and the heater on, even though it’s a beautiful day outside. (Yes, I do my part to keep up US consumption of fossil fuels.) These are days when it’s hard to be cooped up in the basement. Even the squirrels have spring fever, evidently. One has spent all morning tearing a part an old piece of cardboard right outside my French door. Occasionally he stops and puts his hands to the glass, probably wondering where that Jay-Z is coming from. A cardinal perched on the clothesline is also appreciating the music.

I’ve been distracted today by other people’s blogs, which, I suppose, is putting my money where my mouth is. I read several regularly, including this one: The New Girl in Town

Love that Tavi self-identifies as a feminist. We may have the lost the 18-to-24-year-old women, but we have thirteen-year-old fashion bloggers!

And: More Than 95 Theses

Both of them led me on wild-goose trails today, though, to good places that disturbed me at the same time. The good thing is that I found out there’s lots more wildly intelligent feminist bloggers there than I had given credit for. This post is about Edward Cullen, and I can’t say anything better than what she said (in fact, I’ve been trying to give voice to her sentiment exactly for a year now, so I’m just going to link):

I ended up at a blog called The Sexist, which is absolutely wonderful. I’ve been thinking a lot about this “Walking in a Bad Neighborhood” Theory a lot. Mainly because I had to live it--I had to make the choice. Was I going to walk in the bad neighborhood, or not? I had the choice to make. Many women don’t.

Rape is always rape. Period. End of story. And no one is to blame except the rapist himself. (And, maybe, in a larger generic sense, our culture.) If I go walking through a bad neighborhood in a skirt that’s barely more than a belt, I do not deserve rape. If I am raped, I am never to be blamed for that rape. That rape was the rapist’s decision, and no one else’s.

But here’s the thing: I still have to make the decision about what to do. That doesn’t justify the rapist’s choice, it just distinguishes my choice from the rapist’s.

Should I go walking in a bad neighborhood in a skirt that’s barely more than a belt? It begs the question: am I more likely to be raped if I go walking in a bad neighborhood? Statistics on that differ significantly, based on what I’ve read today. I’ve engaged in some fairly risky behavior. I used to run a block from the worst neighborhood in Chicago at three in the morning. I was never assaulted. Except once, verbally, in the middle of the day, by a group of teenagers who yelled insults as I passed.

In my case: should I become a solo female sailor in a crippled boat that would require many months to repair, knowing I would be required to ask or pay for help, in a country that has the highest per capita rates of rape in the world? I still don’t think I have the answer that question. I haven’t justified it to myself. I wanted to follow that path. My decision not to was motivated primarily out of fear. Fear that what I was doing wasn’t safe, number one. But also fear that I did not have the abilities I needed to be successful.

There’s a place for courage, but there’s also a place for wisdom. Whenever I floated the idea of returning to Secret, my friends and family would always say--didn’t we decide that wasn’t safe?

I hate that reality. If a woman chooses to wear a short skirt, why shouldn’t she be able to? If that makes her happy, makes her feel beautiful, makes her proud? What harm is done to anyone by that choice?

The same for me with my boat: it would have made me happy and proud to be able to sail back to Florida by myself. But could I do it without endangering myself? No.

That’s my point about equal human rights. Until I am equally able to wear whatever I want, sail wherever I want, without having to think about my safety from sexual assault, I don’t have equal human rights.

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