we must be the revolution

This article is making its way around Facebook right now.  If you haven’t given it a read, take the time to check it out.  It tells the story of a teacher whose class takes an unexpected turn from discussing the ways in which a poem can be read to a frank and open discussion about rape and the recent Steubenville trials.  In the comments, there is an outpouring of compassion and support for this teacher who was willing to look her freshman class in the eyes and say, ‘This is rape.  This is wrong.  This is not a gray area.’

I wish we didn’t live in a world where this was a revolution.

I wish we lived in a world free of bullies and chauvinists.  I wish we lived in a world where this conversation wasn’t happening because the truth of it is so engrained in us, a discussion is completely unnecessary.  I wish we lived in a world where we loved each other and no one thought twice about what you looked like or where you came from or who you loved.

I wish a lot of things.

I’ve been in the process of moving into a new apartment as of late.  My move only covers a couple of miles:  from northeast Rogers Park to northeast Edgewater.  Not exactly the other side of the world.  While picking up some clothes from my old apartment, I had the sudden realization that I have yet to be catcalled in my new neighbourhood.  I was delighted by the concept, having faced daily harassments for the past couple of years from a variety of men so wide I couldn’t begin to describe all of them.  I was so thrilled that I was now in an area where men didn’t shout at me from the safety of their cars, where men didn’t follow me home growling about my body, where I could walk home from the grocery store without having to suffer an entire block of hey-girl-you-single-what’s-your-number.  And then I found myself thinking, ‘Wow.  That is incredibly fucked up.’

I wish we lived in a different world.

I don’t want to be scared when I walk home from the L.  I don’t want to avoid bars and, honestly, entire sections of town just because it’s a Saturday night and I know men will be belligerent.  I joined an online dating service recently and was immediately flooded with demands for sex from thick-necked Casanovas who had seen my picture and my status of bisexual and decided I was DTF.  Why else would I join a dating site?  It couldn’t possibly be because I was interested in meeting new people and potentially developing a meaningful relationship with another person.

Why would I ever think that?

I don’t want to be afraid of dark alleys.  I want to feel safe in my home, at my job, in my city.  I want to go to the grocery store without being accosted by strangers.  I want to run up the stairs to my train when I’m running late and not worry that some schmuck behind me is looking up my skirt.  I want to dress up to the nines or have too many drinks with my friends and not be told I was asking for it.

But that’s not the world we live in.  I’m a woman.  These things are a given.

I talk to women about this a lot.  I hear their stories and I tell them that they didn’t deserve what happened to them, that it’s not their fault.  I tell them that they’re beautiful and amazing and strong.  I tell them — I tell myself — that they are not what happened to them, they are not victims, never a victim, survivor survivor survivors.  We are moving forward, we are still fighting, we will not give up.  We are goddamn warriors and we might lose a lot of battles but the war will be won.

Then another girl is raped at a party while her assailants are lauded as being Such Nice Boys.  Another woman is killed for her family’s honour.  Another takes her life because she can’t escape the nightmare inside of her mind.  And then a couple of ten-year-old boys — ten years old! — come to school with a gun and a plan to rape and kill a classmate because ‘she was mean to them’.

We are still fighting, but there are too many lost in these battles.  And our grief is too great for tears.

I remember the first days of puberty, when my father was worried that a shirt I wore was too tight for my fledgling breasts.  I remember his concern that a knee-length skirt would ‘give the wrong impression’.  I remember my mother’s knowing smile as she left me and my first boyfriend alone in the basement, my father’s fury when he found me and a close male friend sleeping on top of my bed because it was too late for him to drive home.

I remember my mother screaming that if I ever got myself pregnant, I was out of her house.  I remember my father dropping my brother off at his first high school party with a condom and a brief tutorial.

I know they meant well.  I know they love us, me and my brother both, and they did the best they could.  They are a product of their raising and these actions are the actions of many — probably most — concerned parents.  That doesn’t make me any less angry.

Being a woman requires constant vigilance.  Escape plans for every situation.  Mace.  When is that going to stop?

We should teach our girls to be cautious.  We should teach them to be independent and clever and to protect themselves.  We should teach them to hold people accountable when they have invaded personal space, crossed lines, when they are pushing them to do something they do not want to do.  We should teach them that they are worthwhile and deserve respect and admiration.  We should teach them these things because we should teach all children these things.

But it shouldn’t be up to girls to protect themselves.  We shouldn’t live in a world where the only thing standing between a woman — a girl — from rape is her steadfast assurance that she does not deserve to be raped.  We should live in a world where no one rapes.

We shouldn’t live in a world where this is a revolution.

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