Thursday, September 03, 2009

Whatever doesn't kill you

does not in fact make you stronger.

I have been thinking, as have many many people in the blogosphere, about Melissa McEwan's amazing piece The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck.

To say my mother was hard on me would be an understatement, but she didn't have to be that way. She wasn't hard on my brother, not in any way close to how she was on me. In those rare moments of clarity, when I could ask her why without triggering a giant fight about how I was just "overly dramatic, blah blah blah" she said it was because the world wasn't going to be nice to me, and I should learn to deal with it cause I'm a girl.

She thought that she was making me stronger. I will give her that. But years of therapy, bouts of depression and agoraphobia and an inability to finish things that might actually make my life easier, like school, and I know that what she did didn't prepare me for the world. Each new cruelty, each little bit of unfairness, left a crack, a tiny fissure of pain and insecurity. I am a road map of scares and breaks and bruises.

That's what our terrible bargain does to us. It's not just "eat shit or spoil the afternoon". Those "jokes" about women drivers or pms or rape, leave a crack. Each cat call, or scary moment with a boy who may not take no for an answer, or ass grab, leaves a little fissure. Every dude who refuses to acknowledge our right to control our own bodies cause real, not theoretical, damage to real women.

It is a testament to our strength that so many of us carry on, cracks and all.

So when confronted with the daily hurt, we can choose to shut up, or we can choose to fight. But choosing one or the other doesn't actually lessen the damage. Either way we are going to get hurt. I'm a fighter by nature, but lemme tell you that after a while I feel like curling up in a ball and crying. When good guys, like one of my roommates decides to go on a screed about his (admittedly) awful ex by using every horrible sexist name in the book, it hurts me. He's not just insulting his ex- he's insulting every woman on the planet. So I ask, in nice terms, cause this is a person i like most of the time, if he can try using different insults. I explain- nicely- why. But but but he says, trying to justify why in this one instance misogyny is not just ok, but justified, required even.

Those kinds of things cause cracks. Roommate and I used to cook dinner together fairly regularly, now i don't even want to be in the kitchen. I don't want to be around someone who, when the chips are down, will hate on people like me and not see a problem with it.

And after what seems like ages of troll battling with yet another dude who thinks his (poorly reasoned) intellectual arguments and refusal to actually hear the stories of real, living breathing women are his god given mission, I am tired and hurt and still more damaged.

And any man, who claims to love women, or who claims not to hate them, should try not to hurt them, and should listen when we tell you that you are hurting us. It's not an intellectual game, it matters and it hurts.

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