I’m an introverted adult. I have a professional life and I don’t just bum around in bars or at the union or the library or wherever else I used to frequent as a student. As I get older, there are fewer and fewer options for clubs and activities with people I don’t already know. Consequently, I don’t necessarily meet a lot of single girls, so I have tried online dating. I actually met my last girlfriend through OKCupid, and we had a long term, fairly good relationship for two years before things fizzled. I sort have talked about her before, but short recap, after two years I wanted to get married and she didn’t, and so she decided to end it. It sucked. Prior to that however, I had managed to go on several first dates, this being 2010 and 2011, usually if I wanted to, every weekend or so I could meet up with someone new for drinks or bowling. Just recently I’ve actually considered trying to meet someone new in earnest and I have had very close to no success. At first, I was under the impression that I was doing something wrong. Maybe my e-mails are too cookie cutter. Maybe my profile isn’t very interesting. Maybe I’m actually just ugly, that’s possible too. When I actually arranged a date, I ended up getting stood up.
I told my sister that, her response was to blink at me and say “People actually still do that?”
Anyway, it had seriously started to get me pretty down. The somewhat classical trap for the intelligent and resourceful is to consistently assume that because you are resourceful and intelligent, failure is solely your own responsibility. You didn’t do it right, or maybe you just need to be better, you still aren’t good enough. This is a dangerous and self destructive line of reasoning. Quite frequently, this will, in fact, not make you reach higher goals. It will actually outweigh any or all achievements that you do make with a looming sense of doubt and the knowledge that whatever you did, it will never, ever be enough. That’s shame, and it is a weight around your neck while you are drowning.
Then however, I saw this article about a man who posed as a woman on the same dating site I was using and it greatly altered my perspective of what was happening. (Yes, it’s a Gawker site. Sometimes they do good stuff.) Tl;dr: A guy from Reddit had similar woes; the imbalance between eligible women and eligible men on the site should make it easier for women, they have a huge selection of men competing for their attention, and they get to pick the cream of the crop. Wonderful, no? Well, turns out, that large pool of men is full of ginormous assholes. A guy who bums around the internet consistently and has been to the cesspool that is 4chan’s /b/, the guy running the experiment should have had relatively thick skin. He lasted only 2 hours before the deluge of obscene and desperate messages forced him to delete his account.
My lack of progress finding new people to spend time with was now cast in a very different light. There is a ton of dangerous themes at play here. The bizarre entitlement of the dudes who start by fawning and immediately switch to borderline criminal desire when they don’t get what they want immediately is disturbing. The fact that anyone, let alone a large number of people, are that vulgar and insulting to strangers bothers me to a great extent. It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around. Someone like me, with (what I’d like to think) are reasonable expectations for online dating, are operating on the basic assumption that a woman on a dating site is looking for the same thing that you are, they are interested in meeting some new people because they have busy lives and society isolates us a little more as we get older. I approach each new person with the same level of respect that I would provide any stranger, that they are another human being with thoughts and feelings and rights, and that if we share that we can start a conversation and try spending time together. Apparently that assumption is bad, and somewhat naively idyllic. In truth, there is a very vocal group of people operating under the assumption that because they are on a dating site as a man, they can immediately treat others like meat, and when they don’t immediately get what they want, they start to abuse people. As a linguist, I am acutely aware of the power that words have on people. Each one of us is endowed with the limited power of mind control; words are processed largely autonomously by the brain, and they activate associated memories and sensations. If by saying or writing words that you know will result in a physiological effect like nausea or revulsion, it is equivalent to physical assault.
Digest that for a moment. Those disturbing words are (to me, just are) very close to physical assault. A not small group of people in a population that is looking for companionship try to initiate relationships with physical assault. How and why is this even possible that these men think that that is socially acceptable?
I still feel down, but now for an entirely different reason. Where I was convinced I wasn’t good enough, the backlash of this culture undermined my self esteem, it may have to do with the fact that I am in a minority of people that approach this whole prospect with respect. I am folding up paper airplanes and tossing them out the window at people I think are interesting and then sad when they don’t respond. What I didn’t realize is that those paper airplanes with notes written on them have to fly over a tremendous ocean of shit and abuse only to arrive with a pile of other paper airplanes full of razor blades and poison. That’s just a horrible state of affairs for everyone, and a very solid example of how anti-feminist thinking and attitudes among men really hurt men just as much as they hurt women. Why is it hard to approach women as if they were just another person, just like you, for such a large number of people? Do they never ask themselves how they would feel if they were approached that way? Is there that little empathy in people?
Food for thought.
I have made a new friend! April over at Modern Sex Culture reblogged one of my posts, and I wanted to thank her, so I sent her an e-mail and I told her that it’s very cool that she is talking about what happened to her and in general talking about things that are tough to say. She wrote me back and told me that there was a TED talk by one Brene Brown that discussed shame in culture, and I watched it, and, well, here watch yourself!
This is really very great. This is something I struggle with on a daily basis. I wrote off a lot of my neuroses as guilt, as things I was taught being raised Catholic, and that in general it was making me miserable. The honest truth, though, is that whatever those guilty feelings were? This is actually shame. The constant lock in my brain of “You aren’t good enough,” and “Who the fuck do you think you are?” these messages that my chemically imbalanced brain sets on repeat man nights, this is shame. I don’t go through life with a lot of people externally shaming me, for which, I am extremely glad, because my internal mechanism has pushed me to thinking about no longer existing on occasion. I cannot imagine for a minute how miserable it must be for others, women especially. I’ll admit, I was brought up in a very socially conservative environment. Women were not to enjoy sex. Boys and girls were not to admit that they were curious about sex. God mandated through his servants that sexuality was a sin. Exploring a core facet of your human existence was a sin that would get you eternal punishment if you explored it before dedicating the entirety of your future to exploring with a single person, and only to the end of having children. On top of this, it was a gross double standard, looking back now, that was the end of the message. Girls, if you got pregnant, oh God help you, you are going to raising that baby and you are going to suffer and give up your life because you done sinned and sinned HARD.
Dear nonspecific higher power (look, I shamed myself into not saying ‘dear god’ without really thinking about it, its that built in) let’s think about how awful these messages are for a second.
First and most disturbing: A child isn’t a punishment! It’s not! It’s a time to grow up and become responsible, but its not a punishment! It’s a living breathing human being!And believe it or not, you aren’t stuck with it! I will say here that I am not keen on abortion while being pro choice; I respect a woman’s right to be in control of her body and certainly respect an ethical decision to not be able to provide for a child and terminating an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, but I also believe it’s a symptom and not a moral disease. It’s a symptom of refusing to teach children what sex is about and how to responsibly take precautions, motivated by shame! There are some pretty basic things you can do to responsibly explore the nature of your body that they refuse to teach young women SPECIFICALLY that they could use to help prevent them from having children too young!
God help a girl that is smart and responsible and realizes “Hey, sex is fun and is a neat thing my body does!” because that girl is a slut.
Keep in mind, the good old boys are usually pressured into sowing some wild oats in their high school years. Who exactly are they supposed to be having sex with if the girls are expected to never open up and explore their bodies? You better find someone that isn’t a slut, because sluts are inherently bad, so you better go force your way into a “pure” girl’s vagina.
HOW IS THIS OK? HOW DID WE GET TO THE POINT WHERE WE ARE SHAMING YOUNG PEOPLE INTO RAPE AND ACCEPTING THAT RAPE IS A THING THAT’S OK?
It’s mind boggling. I focused on sex here, because I have a background in human interaction and language, but this concept of shame is built into almost everything around us. You can’t ask for help at work because that would mean that you are a weak link, even if there is a dozen people with the same problem and that by discussing it you would all do better jobs. It’s utter madness.
Fixing it is so simple, too. You just have to realize that other people are people. They have feelings and problems just like you.
Secrecy, Silence, Judgement. They are the root. We strike at the root.
… you have a moral obligation to say something. I drove into the office this morning and I saw a girl holding a sign. It is finally turning to winter in Kansas, and it was starting to sleet at 9 in the morning, so I read her sign, it was clearly important to her.
It read “University of Kansas Horn Prof. Paul Stevens only cared about my boobs, and not my education or about sexual violence.”
It made an impact on me. It is awful to say it, but had the circumstances been different, if it had been 60 and sunny instead of a windy 28 degrees as sleet started to pelt her, it may not have hit me as hard as it did. I realized that was unacceptable. So here is the Doctor, standing up and saying something. Sexual violence against women seems to be a pervasive cultural trend, and that is sickening. It seems to be exceptionally bad in college settings; I saw on the news a girl at Missouri State, a good student, a scholarship swimmer, committed suicide after no one took her allegation of rape against a football player seriously. The university was silent. The civil authorities performed a minimal investigation.
Now someone is dead.
Think about that for a minute. Silence and ignorance didn’t make the violence go away. Instead, it killed someone.
There are sometimes stories about positive outcomes. Activist group Anonymous, labeled “terrorist” by many, in a nationally recognized campaign, forced a Missouri (I’m starting to notice a trend here, are you?) prosecutor to reopen the case of a high school girl raped by multiple high school football players. Originally swept under the rug by a local prosecutor protecting some good old boys, a state prosecutor, in the face of such an enormous uproar and deluge of bad press, decided to get involved and reopen the case. When fighting for human rights became “terrorism” is a post for a different time. I know I don’t currently reach a lot of readers, but if I post this and you take a look into helping end sexual and domestic violence, supporting victims, or just being aware that this is a problem in your life, your workplace, your community, then we will be making progress. If authorities and made aware that this is an unacceptable, bordering on hellish state of affairs, we can make change happen. I am not naive enough to think we will end violence forever, but we can take a stand and say that sexual violence is culturally unacceptable, is a vile violation of human rights, and will be investigated with due process and punished accordingly.
Here are some people looking to change things. They have a lot of resources for survivors and people that want to make a serious change in how we go about things.
If you see something, say something. We will make them listen.
I currently spend a lot of time at the gym. By virtue of the fact that the elliptical machine I like is positioned in the corner of the gym where they show several different network news outlets, I get to catch up on what is making headlines. There is about ten million things wrong with this, because the news tends to make me furious for a lot of reasons, not the least of which that none of the network news outlets is actually news anymore. In one of the rare gems of actual news amid all the vast sea of shitty, sensationalized celebrity news and the general fear mongering of Fox I saw this:
“Our party stands for the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women,” Huckabee said. “…Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government.”
(Quote taken from this news article)
I was absolutely floored. I found it difficult to believe that a seasoned politician, who is trained constantly by advisers and speech writers and assistants, could possibly have said something so asinine and back handedly offensive. Barring any sort of discussion of healthcare, lets think this for just a second. Women shouldn’t need birth control if they can control their libido; why exactly do they fucking need to? Why can’t a woman decide what to do with her own body and be responsible about sexual activity? If there was a reasonably safe (while admittedly female oral contraceptives are not “safe”) oral contraceptive for men, would they be required to “control their libido” too? Oh wait, no, because Viagra and other male enhancements are widely available and covered by most health care plans. So men don’t need to be responsible for any of their activities, and can easily get drugs that insure they never have to think twice about successful sexual interactions, but a woman either needs to reign in her libido or pump out children as a consequence of her nymphomania. Seriously?
What the hell is wrong with these people? Why are there so many very misguided and close minded opinions on women’s sexual freedom and health? How can so many people be so completely and totally out of touch?
Why have those same people become our leaders?
I’m livid. The problem in politics is so horrendously entrenched that I’m not sure how to fix it, other than to make noise in places like this, let people know we are watching. So what on earth do we do? How do we fix this madness of polarized politics and plutocrats? How do we take them on in the system they built?