Monday, March 25, 2013

When You're Powerless

I'd like to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a group of girls who had reached the end of a lovely evening out.  They decided, it being a freezing night in England, that their best bet would be to take the bus back home.  And for about half the ride, it was fine, until at one stop, a man got on the bus.

He was scrawny and pale, with a fresh-looking cut across his forehead; he was also carrying an open bottle of whiskey and an open can of Coke.  He sat near the girls, and started to bother them. It started innocuously enough- he asked one of the girls to hold his Coke for a minute.  She said no.  He asked again, and she said no.  He set the can down on the seat next to him, and for a minute that was that... until he started asking the girls where they were getting off the bus.  And didn't stop.

The girls ignored him, starting to feel afraid.  The man noticed that one of them was avoiding looking at him at all, and he started to ask if she was ignoring him.  She was, but she didn't want to say anything, so she stayed quiet and continued to stare out the window.  The man started to insult her to try and get her attention, threatening to throw his drink on her if she didn't acknowledge him.  The girl sitting behind him had her headphone cord in hand, prepared to strangle him if things got dangerous.  Instead, the bus reached the girls' stop, and as they got off the man kicked two of them.  As the bus pulled away from the stop, the man climbed into the back of the bus and waved cheerily through the window, as if he hadn't just terrified them.

And then we realized that this wouldn't have happened if our 6'3'' Hungarian friend David had been with us.

Though one of my friends reminded us that we had managed just fine without a man there to protect us, I still had to walk back to my flat alone in darkness, and I was afraid.  I wanted a man there, because the unfortunate truth is that many men who would otherwise harass or attack a woman won't if they see she's "taken" by another man.  They wouldn't want to mess with another man's "property".

The whole situation was awful.  There were five of us, minding our own business, wanting to get home, but this drunk lout decided that he would make us uncomfortable for fun.  The fact that he thought it was his right to frighten us and attack us just to get his jollies shows a certain entitlement that as a feminist I try to combat. The fact that he made me that much more afraid to be alone afterwards means that, in a way, he won.  The fact that I desperately desired protection from someone bigger and stronger and male made me feel like a bad feminist.

So often, I deal in abstractions.  As far as I can remember, I was never harassed in high school.  I knew intellectually that as a woman I was oppressed, but I hadn't known the weight of that oppression.  Now that I'm getting older, spending more time in public, I'm being reminded that to some people, I have no power.

It makes me fantasize about being a vampire and terrorizing them, while simultaneously wanting to turn into a baby red panda and running away.

Good luck harassing me up here! (Source)
I'm afraid of encountering this man again.  London is a big city, but he and I both live somewhere between Putney and Tolworth.  We probably shop at the same ASDA.  I don't want to see him again.

I want my power back.  I guess that's why I blog; through writing, I can have some semblance of power which men like this guy would try to take from me.  Because he can insult my nose, throw his Coke on me*, and pretend my fear is all a big joke, but he can't take away my voice.

I'm going to listen to Macklemore for a while.  He always makes me feel better.

*Thankfully, he didn't

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Joke's on Us

In one of my classes, each of us was supposed to prepare a performance response to something that came up during the term.  Being a class on the theory of comedy, there were multiple discussions on what the line was in offensive comedy, and something the lecturer said over and over again was "Comedy changes the situation".  There's nothing wrong with comedy offending someone if the point of offending them is to get them to think about their assumptions, because that's a change in the situation.  In discussing with my lecturer one-on-one, we talked about how so often comedy just targets people who already get the short end of the stick in society, rehashing tired old stereotypes and only serving to put those people down.  This has bothered me for a long time, and this is what I decided to address in my performance response, and I knew that the way I had to do so was through slam poetry.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Thoughts on Health and Meat-Eating

Oh hai.  Don't eat me plz.  (Source)
I'm an omnivore. A picky omnivore (I'm slowly getting better).

I have friends who are vegetarian and vegan. Some are more evangelistic than others. Some are just like "Eh, I'm a vegetarian. Big whoop." Others regularly post things about how much better, healthier, more moral, etc. their choice is.

And you know what? For the most part, they're right. Humans very likely aren't meant to consume meat in the quantities we (meaning Americans) do. Most of our meat is produced in wasteful and brutal conditions (which I get to see every time I drive through California).  The vast majority of wheat (70%), corn (80%), and soy (90%) grown in this country go toward producing meat and 50% of our water goes toward growing these things.  It's unsustainable, and it's unhealthy both for us and for the animals we eat.

So why am I not vegetarian?  Because meat tastes good and I'm picky.  Those truly are my reasons.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Love! Betrayal! Scandal!: Shame and the Church

Rachel Held Evans' latest blog post, "Ashamed," is convicting, powerful stuff.  She addresses a lot that is wrong with the American church, with nothing held back:
I am ashamed of the bumper stickers, the t-shirts, the logos, the fog machines, the light shows, the celebrities, and that paralyzing fear of Silence we’re so bound and determined to avoid that we keep shouting and shouting and shouting at one another till our words are just clanging cymbals echoing off church walls.  
I am ashamed of the walls. They are built high, with circles of barbed wire around the top, to keep pests away from our bread and wine, to keep the Silence from getting in. 
I am ashamed of the abuse, the shaming, the cover-ups, the secrets, the millstones* being forged in Sunday school classrooms and pastors’ offices where people are supposed to be safe, and the way I want to watch those millstones drag a few more bodies down to the bottom of the sea.  
I am ashamed of the violence—in our theology, in our words, in myself.
Many who read this post agreed with Evans, and told their stories of the pain they felt from fighting so hard to remain devoted to the faith while the church continued to behave abominably.

I identify with those people.  Where once I was delighted to announce my Christianity to the world, felt nothing but excitement at entering the walls of a church, now there is so much pain.