Q. Why are you guys bitch about things all day? Do you have a everyday period cycle if so… Then you really need to get it checked out:)
A. I’m not one to beat a dead horse, but I must confess, I’d been thinking about this question ever since I last posted it two weeks ago. As an Internet writer, one of the particular unfortunate consequences of what people call “being a woman” is that you tend to develop a thick skin. Or really, you must. If you want to survive, that is. And even then, thick skin is not a guarantee against vitriol from those who are just bent on making you know (like really know) that you are less than and do not deserve a platform. I am quite certain Lena Chen had thick skin, otherwise, how does one withstand for so long comments like, “Fucking slut, she only shuts her mouth when she opens her legs.” I am also sure that Anita Sarkeesian has thick skin, as how would one be able to mull over a fact that by Googling her name, you will come across Photoshopped images of “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian,” a response to the fact that she wanted more women’s representation in video games. I am certain thick skin is perhaps par for the course. But maybe can we start asking why we always need that thick skin?
Of course, the above is a harmless comment about periods. A misspelled, grammatically shitty one, with a smiley face, seemingly written by a thirteen-year-old boy who thinks every shit he takes is hilarious, but more probable and far more unfortunately, that comment was likely written by an adult man who also thinks every shit he takes is hilarious. Especially if those shits are taken on top of women. Harmless. Hurt no one. Excused again.
But what if even past that thicker skin you were still offended? Because they are talking about you. Maybe not you directly, but you, as you are. You as a whole, you as part of a group that deserves less or is treated differently. They are always talking about how silly it is that you are offended that they should be able to react you with whatever disdain they want. The beating of the dead horse. That you are again offended by not getting to partake in basic inalienable rights, like being allowed to be yourself without fearing repercussions or violence or harassment or even better, someone feeling enough at ease with their own privileged position to play “devil’s advocate” and hypothetical chess with the shit that you live through day in and day out. Is that what taking offense is?
I would like to wish that it wasn’t such a Herculean effort to actually just, you know, exist and be acknowledged in the way you want. Or that “harmless” wasn’t a get out of jail free card that excused everything on the basis that it just did not particularly happen to “offend” anyone at this point in time. “Offend” is a bit of a sore topic, it seems. We hate people who take offense; why must they rattle the boat? The boat was working so well for everyone but them. Hell, even I can personally testify to this, but when I say I hate people taking offense, I mean like being offended that the store is out of Cheese Doodles or your favorite show was cancelled. Or someone used the word “fuck.” These things, it seems, are of no actual personal lived value and offer nothing more than maybe a few seconds of enjoyment, so to become offended that they aren’t in your reach seems wasteful. But according to popular opinion, being offended is easy and we love how to tell people how if they are offended, they need to get off the Internet, man. Being offended somehow has the same emotional weight as being over-sensitive, whiny, and, my favorite, “politically correct.” Being offended is somehow failing to sit at the cool kids’ table because you disagreed with Mary Sue Ellen or Bobby Jones, both of whom just happen to think, “What do you call the useless skin around a pussy? A woman,” or, “What do you tell a woman with two black eyes? Nothin’ you ain’t told the bitch twice already,” is downright hilarious. And that Blue Jasmine is a great movie and art has nothing to do with a personal life and why is it that women always want to bring down successful men? Or that sexism is, like, over, you guys. Stop bitching. Stop being offended. Stop beating a dead horse.
Except replace the cool kids’ table with your coworkers, peers, and families. The people who make up your life.
I tell you, some days this shit is easy and some days I am surprised I haven’t self-immolated where men tend to gather. That would be a political statement, wouldn’t it? Yet, I fear that it would go unrecognized. “That bitch was crazy!” I can hear them say. Crazy bitch lights herself on fire for radical women’s views! More at 11. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
To survive, you can’t let it live 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I don’t think I’d ever leave the house, and even then, I’d probably not even make it here, as my father is a compulsive watcher of Don Imus in the morning (to which, he thinks is only just entertainment, not really how they feel, but thus…). Sometimes it just lies at the back of your brain, a semi-active thought, but nothing at the forefront, nothing that competes for survival in the rest of your head. Other times? That shit is like a raw wound that right as it is about to heal, gets torn the fuck open again (Again? Oh yes, again.) The wound then gets salt poured into it, most oftentimes under the guise of “helpful advice” or “strong opinions,” usually from the people who have the least deserved amount to be saying such asinine horse crap. Know-nothing, know-it alls, I believe my mom would call them. But what they say? It stings. It burns that wound like hell and fury. It hurts. It hurts in a psychic-emotional way that cuts so deep down into your core and lights up all the parts of your thought process that say, “I am not worthy. I am not worthy.” You are not worthy because you have been dealt a hand in the genetic card game that somehow pivots someone else’s hand better than yours. The game, of course, has always been rigged, but you bringing that up goes directly against the rules of the game to begin with. Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars. Your thicker skin can’t do shit here and if you want to play the game, well, you gotta stop beating that dead horse.
But back to the salt in the wound. On the one hand, it means kicking someone when they are down, adding pain to what is already painful. We are all familiar enough, I’m certain, with personal experience, of what that phrase truly entails. And thicker skin sure doesn’t do much when it’s been ripped open for the thousandth time. Trust me. But I like to garner this: salt is healing. Salt is actually good for wounds. The method of torture and pain actually also heals a wound from the bottom up, leaving less room for scar tissue and infection. Which is not to say rub a heaping pile of fresh table salt in that skinned knee of yours, but maybe, just maybe, there is some sort of silver lining in all this.
Maybe the silver lining is, that each and every time something like this happens, whether a shitty comment from some basement baby thinking he is protecting the endangered rights of privileged men everywhere and showing those women who’s really in the know, or the Greek chorus of voices screaming, hollering, and shouting to shut sexual abuse/assault/rape victims up, or even worse, those who share the same small plot of “womanhood” and yet, have that same sort of hatred so deeply embedded in themselves, all they can do to keep from recognizing they hate themselves is to hate on other women, maybe, just maybe, this is the salt in the wound. The hurt that comes from direct pain applied to the gaping wound, but the pain that eventually heals from the bottom up. Because it shows us how much fucking work we have to do. It shows us the cultural tolerance for where we are at. It gauges perfectly exactly how well we can roll our eyes with disdain when someone says, “Sexism is over, baby!” It can show us where we can expect the blowback and still find the gumption to stand our ground, as things like, what, you got your period as a response to our anger is not something that will trigger us into desperation at how truly fucked up the world can be. Of how much that dead horse needs to keep being beaten.
As I said, it is just silver lining. I want more than silver lining though. I want so much more.
In a perfect world, I’d want these to be teachable moments. Lessons not in some direct political position (not that anything is wrong with that), but in the power of goddamn empathy and respect. In not seeing women as targets of disdain or receivers of shitty jokes, bad policies, and whatever garbage leftovers they feel like giving us. In those naysayers putting aside their own personal experience or their own fervent hero-worship of yet another rich, talented man who just so happens to rape or sexually abuse young girls. In a perfect world, instead of always seeking out a reason why a woman might be lying for whatever reason, asking why we do not consider why a man might be lying. Are we able to drop the false accusation argument as the sole reason why we can’t be quick to judge? Are we really so willing to turn our eyes only to the possibility of the low likelihood of a false accusation and so eagerly turn our back on the countless actual rapes and sexual assaults, which include almost 237,686 assaults each year in the U.S., with 44% of victims under 18 and 80% under 30, and 97% of assaults that will never, ever, be prosecuted. Was it also mentioned that these were often not committed by jump-out-of-the-bushes-in-the-dark boogeymen, the stuff we are warned about starting as little girls, and that instead, it is almost always someone you know? Or that we still don’t make the same money? Or that we still are under-represented in almost every realm? Or that we still are fighting for the most goddamn basic of rights and care? And that if we go forward with our tales of general treatment, harassment, sexual assaults, of how, yes, we are offended by this hot bag of bull crap, that we will be believed, validated, not chased away or have backs turned to us, left out to cope with the fallout on our own?
Instead of assuming that thicker skin is needed, understanding that thick skin, no matter how thick, still gets ripped open?
Would that require us as a society to be more accountable? To not wash our hands of women and think that they probably had it coming? Or is it that misogyny, harassment, rape, and sexual assault are just part of the cards we are dealt and we should suck it up? Can I ask this as a woman? A sexual assault survivor? A writer on the Internet who certainly gets her fair share of blowback from men who think she should “shut the fuck up and get back in the kitchen, only taking a pit stop to suck my dick”? As a fucking human being who is asking for their basic autonomy to be respected? Can I just ask that we stop turning our backs on each and every person who comes forth with another story of their experience, solely on the basis that they are a woman? Because that dead horse has been beaten already?
Can we do more? Can we?
Until then, we will keep on our paths, the world at large rubbing salt in the wound and I and many, many, many other women will beat that dead horse. I understand why they keep rubbing salt in my wounds. I’ve always understood it because it’s the world I’ve had to adapt to.
I just hope that one day they will see why I keep beating this goddamn horse.
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