Y’all, Slarti and I have our go-rounds, but every once in a while I think he’s teetering on the edge of feminist consciousness.
Look at his post today.
Here’s the dichotomy: most women seem to accept [Mary Winkler’s] story at face value and start the discussion from there: “He abused her, but should she have killed him?”. Most men I know see it differently; the stories of abuse conveniently came forward after she was caught and charged with her husband’s murder. Many men I know, when she was first arrested, started pools about when she would first claim abuse; it is, in our eyes, quite predictable.
This gives me hope. Not what Slarti is admitting to–that makes me sigh with despair–but the fact that he is wondering: why is it that a lot of women automatically assume she’s been abused and a lot of men assume the abuse accusation is just her way of getting out of a murder?
I put a little hope in that wondering. I’ll admit it. It makes me feel a little hopeful.
Because the answer to Slarti’s question is out here. Newscoma’s given it to him straight and other women have given it to him sideways.
Most of us knows a woman who’s had the shit knocked out of her by a man. And most of us are familiar with all of the reasons why she won’t leave or report it or why she goes back. Most of us recognize the meaning of heavy makeup or the jaunty scarf in the middle of July. We recognize the flinch or the plays for attention from men they perceive as powerful.
In other words, we see through the ways that women are hiding what’s happening to us from you.
So, to us, abuse looks like a wide-spread problem. Everywhere we look, we see evidence of it. But you look around and see only rare occasions.
I was going to go someplace else with this post and we may yet get there, but I want to sidetrack for just a second.
If there’s one thing I think most men don’t get, one big societal difference between men and women, it’s that women are under scrutiny all the time in ways that men aren’t.
Are we pretty enough? Are we dressed well enough? Do we fit the mold well enough? Are we too cold? Did we lead you on? Did we provoke this? Are we lying about what happened to us? Is our health really in danger?
We get this message, constantly, that our lives are up for examination at any time anyone should want to examine them and that the presumption is that we’re lying.
I think this is why we lie to you about what’s happening to us. I mean, if I love you and you say you love me, and you punch me in the face, I should walk around with that shiner hanging out there like the accusation against you it is. But I’m sure (whether or not it’s factually true) that, if I did that, other folks would want to know what I did to bring that on me.
Who can bear that? To be hurt by someone you love and have your community act like it’s your fault?
I get why that is, though. I really do. I think that most men think, hell, most of you all reading this right now think, “If some fucker was beating B., I’d have my ass in this truck so fast…” If you truly knew I was being hurt, you would feel compelled by human decency to act.
And yet, how many of us want to take that next, violent, step if we aren’t sure? You want to question me; you want to know for sure that your anger is justified.
It feels like you think I’m lying.
Most women try not to organize their lives around the shitty things that have happened to them. We want to put it behind us and move on.
Still, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if, on one day, everyone wore a t-shirt describing the violence that has been perpetrated against them or someone they love.
I think that we would see how much it sucks to be weak in this culture. We would see women with shirts full of hurt. We would see grown men with paeans to the terrible things that have happened to them.
What I mean, is that I suspect the default in our society is violent meanness. We tell ourselves another kind of story, but I think that’s not true. We only wish we were kind and good-hearted, all of us.
I don’t mean to sound like I’m down about that. I actually think there’s something hopeful, as long as it’s not delusional, about seeing us as better than we are.
I was at a meeting the other day and we were talking about the Sisyphian task of bringing mental health care to rural women and one of the men in the room raised his hand and said something like, “Are we screening for domestic violence in these situations?”
And every woman in the room turned to look at him, with his smug smile like he’d just thought of the solution to all our woes, and the woman running the meeting said, “Of course. We have to. Domestic violence is ubiquitous in the cultures we serve.”
He didn’t even have the courtesy to be embarrassed.
Bless your hearts, I can’t tell you how often I see this–that a problem isn’t really a problem until men recognize it as a problem.
Couple that with the belief that women’s lives are open to scrutiny by whoever wants to take a look around…
I’m just mad at myself for the way things went on this thread over at Volunteer Voters. I totally let myself get sidetracked by this argument that there are obviously some times when a woman just doesn’t “need” an abortion and it should be just fine for “us” to legislate that she can’t have one under those circumstances.
It’s a good argument, from the anti-abortion side, because it is easy to get distracted. They shout out something like “What about women who just want to look good for swimsuit season?” and you shout back, “What about women who want children and need to abort this pregnancy in order to save her uterus?” and they’re all like “Oh, look, we got you to concede that it’s okay for us to sit around and pass judgment on whether a woman’s reason for wanting an abortion is good enough for us to grant her one.”
Which, I think, brings me back to the point I was going to head towards at the beginning of this post. What if our default was to believe women?
Yeah, sure, some lying liars who lie would slip through and they’d violate our trust. But, still, I can’t help but hope for a day when, when we tell you the truth about our experience, your default is to believe us.