Thursday, May 29, 2014

Good Grief

Let's move through the narrative of this point of view piece backwards, the way it occurred to me. I received an article about the Isla Vista killings, with the comment that some of the attitudes expressed by the shooter matched the male attitudes I addressed in my blog about sexting. Remember that one? I was talking about a (couple of) guy(s) that inappropriately propositioned me to respond positively to his  (their) genitalia pictures that he (they) sent to me via text message, or SMS if you're reading this in England or just Europe in general (yes, more than one guy did that to me).

My objective in said blog was to point out that trying to define "rape" as this specific thing was moot because people can cause mental sexual distress to other people without even touching them. There is this underlying idea behind trying to define rape as only sexual encounters that end in intercourse and ejaculation, perhaps because it is only within the last hundred years or so that it even occurred to anyone that it wasn't okay ever to force a woman to have sex with you, even if she was your wife. That specifically has probably only become unacceptable in the last sixty years. SERIOUSLY. It was okay to beat your wife at the turn of the century. Virginia Woolf talks about it in her shockingly hard while simultaneously easy to follow, stream of consciousness A Room of One's Own. Drink some coffee while you absorb that one.

And now this kid went and shot people because he couldn't get laid? Because he felt like women owed him?

There are a few arguments here, but the one with which I would like to spend the most time is the misogyny part.

It's easy to hate this guy, to look at him, as a feminist, and say, "this is why I am a feminist." He was a self-proclaimed hater of those darn feminazis.

Here we have a tragic case of a simple misunderstanding in which, the victim, said shooter, has completely misunderstood that which he hates. In his world and the world of so many misinformed men and women, Feminism preaches that women should hate men, that men are the enemy, trying to keep us down, to grind us down (illegitimi non carborundum). Except it isn't. Not actual feminism, at least.

Sometimes it's hard to define a movement of thought with just one word. There are layers to the theory, an idealism that seeks to permeate the wall that the patriarchy has built until feminism no longer requires a set of symbols (letters) to define it.

This is what has happened with the patriarchy. For ages, there was no word for this idea. It was least in western white cultures. Women were simply "other," lower on the food chain, the weaker sex.

Ah, but now, now we have defined it with a word, signifiers have been organized in such a fashion as to represent this idea that has guided our thoughts for centuries. Now that we have defined it, given it a name, we take ownership of it. We become aware of it, and we are able to let it go, to see the poison it is, and to flush it out of our system.

The tragedy of being able to understand the patriarchy a bit better is what happens to the humans it still affects. We become detached, disenfranchised from reality, lost in a prison created for us by our own ourselves.

The idea that women are separate from that which we, as members of the patriarchy define as truly human...with typical human experiences and what fuels the fires the fanatics light. It seems to me that this kid thought the women that rejected him, and there were apparently a lot, were doing it to him...because of him. The reality of most situations is that a man's world is not the focal point of any woman's world. The focal point of her she, her. And she doesn't have it easy, even today.

I've had multiple male friends (and lovers) laughingly tell me that I could have anyone I wanted. That I have nothing to worry about when approaching a guy because no guy is going to turn down a chance with me. And I believed them for a while.

And then I started dating. I've been "dating" for over four years now, and let me tell you, it is not easy...and it is rarely pretty. NO. I cannot have anyone I want. In fact, I can rarely have anyone I least these days. I have been rejected more times than I ever thought possible, but I'm still working hard, and while I wouldn't mind giving the entire male population a kick in the nuts, I certainly don't think they owe me anything (aside from everything for keeping my sisters down for so many years, dammit)...but I do worry that I owe them something...

And that's how the patriarchy affects me. I give so many men such a hard time, and I get so defensive and so angry with honest and good men because I'm worried that if I don't give them what they want, I'll be alone forever, a failure at basic human relationships. I project misogyny onto them, when it probably wasn't even there in the first place.

The truth is, rejection is just a part of putting myself out there. If I were successful 100% of the time, I'd be bored...and success wouldn't feel so sweet. I wouldn't have any reason to challenge myself, or to take things back to the drawing board, to expand on my beliefs and ideals, to care. I don't want to date every guy that falls for me, and not every guy I fall for wants to date me (ever!!!! WHY?????!!!). Life is exactly as it should be.

If I could talk to this kid, if he hadn't offed himself leaving us with no outlet for retribution or...reason to forgive, I would tell him it isn't about what you think you're owed. None of that is real. Being able to get laid whenever you want to/need to get laid isn't success.

Real success is contentment, empathy, compassion.

These are the things that make life bearable, and life seems unbearable pretty often. Falling for someone, realizing that you can trust someone, being able to accept the love someone tries to give you, those are the things that make life worth living...and none of those things actually require sex. Sex is the cherry on top...and also the whipped cream...and, if you've ever added marshmallow to your banana's also chocolate.

Sex is not a right. Sex is an honor, be it attached or unattached. Respect is what makes it best. Mutual respect.

The only way to get to that is to run as fast as we can in the opposite direction of misogyny, and then get ready to fuck it up a bunch before we get it right...if we ever do.

It's hard to change, even a little bit. We feel it in the pains of those who crumble under the pressure. I'm not saying this kid did the right thing or that the deaths he caused should be written off as a simple growing pain.

I'm saying: it's time to start talking openly about what it's like to be alive. Now we come to the part of the story that I discovered at the end of my journey: the story of the grieving father.

The moment this man began to cry at the same time that he unleashed his raw feelings of rage, I began to a human being. I understood it. I have no children. I'm half the man's age...and, oh yeah, I'm a woman.

But my empathy took over, and I wept with him. Because we are both on the same road.

The patriarchy (not feminism) paints a picture of fatherhood, of leadership, as being devoid of that kind of out of control, wailing emotion. That is reserved for women, the weaker (too emotional) sex.

But it isn't devoid of any emotion, or it shouldn't be.

The only way to survive change, is to stay open and to lean on each other. We have to feel empathy and, subsequently, compassion for each other. There isn't a single one of us that doesn't struggle down the same road of life. If you meet anyone that says they don't, they're lying.

It's time to stop pretending that life isn't hard, that we know all the answers, and that we completely understand and have achieved happiness. Believing otherwise is believing in a mirage.

It's time for it to be okay for anyone to be enraged and broken hearted, vulnerable. It's time to admit that's how we all feel a majority of the time.