On women in the world

I don’t write about social or political issues in this blog, or on twitter, or on my tumblr. Not because I don’t have views or opinions, but because this is not a place where I want to discuss them. If I wanted to have those discussions, I’d create a space for them.

I also don’t do it because I don’t have the wherewithal to be angry all the time, or horrified, or hurt. I had my time where I fought for things I believed in against the wall of ignorance and bigotry: I had the energy for all that negativity, for the fighting once. Not any more.

Sometimes I despair over how the world is. My despair is a reason I choose not to watch the news, not to read current affairs. It is a kind of self protection, and I justify it by saying that unless I am going to DO something about it, my knowing about terribleness in the world doesn’t help anyone in any appreciable way. My hand wringing and upset and anger and sadness does not help anyone else one tiny little bit. It just makes me feel bad with no benefit to anyone.

I’m not going to start talking about these topics, but I want to say this in response to the valuable and important discussions that have arisen over a young man who left behind angry hateful words and six dead bodies.

Not all men are bad people, everyone knows that. But all women carry a level of fear for their safety when they walk around in the world because they don’t know which man *might* be one of those. We can’t tell who might get violent if they are rejected, or who will escalate into verbal abuse if they are ignored, or who thinks that grabbing at a woman because she smiled at him is reasonable behaviour, or who is going to go on the attack just because.

I don’t know any women who have not been sexually assaulted. This is shocking to me, even as I say it.

I have been sexually assaulted three times. And when I say that, I am not including the times I have been harassed or touched or groped in bars or on transport or at parties because I don’t even keep track of that stuff. Hundreds of times? I don’t even know.

Once I was sexually assaulted by two ‘friends’ who started out ‘mucking about’ which escalated into them trying to get my clothes off. I was 15 and they didn’t stop until I screamed. Once by a stranger at a club who cornered me in the bathroom and hissed “Are ya scared, are ya scared?” into my face as he held me up against the wall. “No”, I said because I refused to give him the satisfaction. I was terrified. Once it was a ludicrous unbelievable groping by a man who was being paid for his service and expertise and I couldn’t even believe it happened.

When some strange man harasses me in some way, I studiously ignore him and hope he goes away. A polite response might encourage him, a rejection might anger him, a rude reply might end up with him smacking me. Even *ignoring* him isn’t safe because “Think you’re too good for me, you fucking bitch?!”

This is the society that we have built and it sickens me every time I hear yet another story where we try to pretend that anger and hatred and entitlement towards a woman by a man is a once-off, an anomaly, and not part of the ugliness that we have carefully nurtured and strengthened systematically and from the ground up.

I am saddened and I despair and it makes me want to never leave the house again.

I won’t write about this again, and I probably don’t have the spoons to reply to comments. I just wanted to say it out loud. I don’t even know why.

Maybe because it hurts and I don’t know where to put it.

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  1. I also don’t do it because I don’t have the wherewithal to be angry all the time, or horrified, or hurt.

    This might be ironic coming from someone whose entire blog is devoted to being angry, but I completely understand. Being angry and sick at heart and horrified is exhausting.

    I’ve already muted a lot of stuff on twitter, limited my exposure to the news, and just today I’ve had to stick a regular commentor in the spam filter and close my email client because I cannot deal with people expecting me to provide peer-reviewed proof that I’m allowed to be scared of the many violent misogynists in the world.

    It’s awful and exhausting and quite frequently I’m not sure it’s even doing any good. I may need to go on a strict media diet of cute cat pictures and explicit fanfic to get my anxiety under control, because the price of being a woman on the internet seems to be constant, unrelenting fear.

    1. I know exactly what you mean. And (unfairly!), I rely on people just like you to to carry the justifiably-angry flag and wave it around madly.

      So let me take the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ for all you do with fighting the good fight. I don’t always agree with you, but your voice is an important and valuable one, and I appreciate it.

      And I think taking time out to look after yourself is so important: Cute cat pics and fanfic sounds like just the thing. And chocolate *warm hug*.


  2. I don’t know any women who have not been sexually assaulted. This is shocking to me, even as I say it.

    I read this and went completely cold. Because neither do I. Not in kink circles, not among vanilla folk, not among family.

    God damn. How much worse is this than the survey data would have us believe?

    1. Right? :(

      And I find it a little ludicrous that my criteria for only ‘counting’ those three is because they were situations where I felt helpless and scared. That’s why I remember them, and THAT’S why I call them out.

      What does it say that I don’t count in this any of the unwanted sexual contact that happened ‘casually’ or ‘in passing’: some guy sticking his hand up my skirt on the train, a guy who got his dick out and ran after me in a park… If I could easily get away, if I didn’t feel helpless, or I wasn’t scared then, eh, I’m not even counting it.


  3. Friday morning, before all of this happened, I wrote for the newspaper about sexual assault and the need to stop victim blaming and making excuses for the perpetrators. Based on the statistics it’s virtually impossible to not have a family member or friend who has been raped. What sickens me even more is that this means the odds are extremely good that I have a friend or family member who has raped someone. That realization makes me shudder.

  4. Thank you Ferns. I agree. It’s not that I don’t care, I choose now to dwell on things I have some control over. My energy to be a champion has been re-directed. So many things to become overwhelmed about. I filter now what comes into my life.

    ~ Vista

  5. Thanks for sharing this. Since I am not that type of guy, nor do I know if any of my acquaintances are that type of guy, it is shocking to know that this is what women have to live with.

    I wish it wasn’t like this. It should not be like this.

    But it is useful for me to know about it and understand what women have to deal with.


  6. * sigh* It’s horrible world sometimes and all I can hope is it gets better, at least the women/girls of today stand a chance of getting things done when I was young it was just “accepted” as seen by the recent slew of high profile abuse cases here in the UK relating to media personages. Ferns you have to leave the house… after all that spider is in there somewhere… waiting….
    Oh and excuse my flippancy, you know I think a lot of you and I am sure it was indeed awful but “Once it was a ludicrous unbelievable groping by a man who was being paid for his service and expertise” You were paying a man to grope you and he did it badly ? Honestly come here and I’ll grope you right proper for free! *smiles* Honestly if this attempt to lighten things is clumsy or badly worded please delete/edit as you see fit love. You will always be a joy to those of us here

  7. Good for you for putting it out there! It takes a lot of strength to put things like that out there for the world to see. *big hugs*


  8. It hurts us all. You speak a painful truth with courage. Mysogyny remains pandemic and is the prime source myriad evils, personal and public.

  9. Miss Ferns,

    Thanks for writing this. I know why you don’t generally want to do it, but it’s much appreciated when you do. More power to that fine lady’s elbow. :-)


  10. I went to a Dominant women’s event last year. I sat in a room with 5 other women who admitted to being raped during a safety conversation.

    My own mother in law disagrees about whether or not my definition of rape counts. Because they didn’t physically beat me down or chemically incompacitate me. Even I didn’t think I’d been raped for years, even though I FELT raped.

    I’m a big proponent of enthusiastic consent in the last two years, about the time I started coming to grips with the fact that I was date raped three different times by three different “boyfriends”.

    I avoid news for the most part too. I do have one on one personal conversations that I hope are useful.

    1. I totally get where you’re coming from re: news. I don’t bother watching it. I also think it’s biased.
      Re: sexual harassment – I still can’t believe how, as a woman, you have to factor it in as an ‘inevitable evil’ in your life. I’ve been harassed at work, groped in trains, and just last night I was walking down the road and a guy slowed down to ‘kerbcrawler’ speed and started shouting at me, ‘Oi! Stop! Come and get in my car!’ as if I was some sort of sex servant at his beck and call.
      I shouted abuse at him and luckily he drove off, but a more naïve person would have been really intimidated. So depressing :( Really feel for all the women on this thread who’ve had such rubbish experiences.

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