Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Breaking the Surface

I have officially received a much-needed kick in the pants from Meg.  I was working on the post The Silence Stops Now this morning and I kept feeling like something was missing or that I was really skirting the issue at hand.  Mary and I talked about it and she told me that if I felt something was off, I should sleep on it.  But I hadn't posted in a few days and I couldn't see how else I'd change things, so I published the post anyway.  

I can't say it was an absolute mistake, as I don't think it's a horrible piece of writing, but I have to say that I should have listened to Mary.  I'm also thankful to both her and Meg for having my back, while still being able to call me out when I don't say something that I should.  As Meg did in an email to me today, pointing out (very gently) the fact that harassment is what Marcotte was addressing, specifically, in It's Really Time for the Harassment to End on The Raw Story.  From Meg:
I read your post.  It's good, but I think I was still hoping for more.  I feel like it only scratches the surface of how serious and prevalent sexism and harassment are.  Women deal with it every day, to the point that it's regarded as commonplace.  But we are still having to legally combat sexism in the workplace, church, etc.  
I think this is just a hot button issue for me.  I see it, I hear about it from my closest friends, I have to deal with it myself, and it doesn't seem to be getting that much better.  When I read your post, I realized that you didn't go down the harassment road so much as the general sexism one.  And then I was reminded of all of my working-in-church moments, and growing-up-in-private-school moments - where women were truly treated like second class citizens in the most passive and unassuming ways.  The "it's for your own good," "we're protecting you," and "you were actually created not as smart and not as strong as men, it's okay."  Then when you are as smart and strong as the men you're working with, it seems difficult for them to swallow.
"I'm the Best" by Nicki Minaj is Meg's new anthem (at least, this part of it): 
All the girls will come in, as long as they understandThat I'm fightin' for the girls that never thought they could win'Cause before they could begin you told 'em it was the endBut I am here to reverse the curse that they live in

So the question of the day is why did I hesitate to talk about harassment directly?  I suppose because there are so many levels to it - things get complicated very quickly.  And I don't actually want to bash men in general or be negative at all.  But, admittedly, I kind of wussed out on that last post, though I did not intend to.  So here is what I feel, at the end of the day, having talked to other women about this and examined where I stand:

As women, we are not required to treat men the way they want to be treated.  While I prefer to use courtesy with my fellow human beings, I am not required to give my attention or anything else to anyone, if I do not want to.  I do not owe anyone anything.  My preference for courtesy, tact and diplomacy come from wanting to have a nice, positive experience with other people and hopefully get the same in return.  However, I will not respond well to acts of intimidation or attempts to make me feel guilty.  I will not put up with someone who tries to control or overpower me.  I would never do that to another person, why on earth would I allow them to do that to me?

There is a difference between being courteous, which both sexes benefit from, and being the one who always has to be in control.  That is, in the end, what the harassment is about - power, domination, control.  I don't care if you think you're better, stronger or smarter than me - you might be all three - you do not own me, control me or get to have me.  

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