sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (fuck patriarchy)
[personal profile] sabotabby
Hopefully a continuing series where I criticize the left, but from a place of love. You know, if people are interested in that kind of thing.

Today is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. That's something I wholeheartedly support, being an unapologetic man-eating feminist myself. But like many good ideas that are too good for the moderates to fully ignore, it's quite often watered-down and turned into the merely symbolic, especially in public institutions like schools or quasi-public spaces like Facebook.

Dec. 6th is the anniversary of the massacre at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal. Fourteen young women were murdered at the hands of a maniac, simply for the audacity for being female engineering students. In a country where mass shootings really don't happen often, it was shocking and horrific and leaves a deep psychological scar on any of us who remember, vividly, hearing the news.

Dec. 6th is a day for ritual now. Any well-meaning person of any gender dons the white ribbon (even though the original point was for men to show that they were against violence against women*). Schoolchildren make handprints on banners that declare, "these hands will never be used in violence," even though that is statistically unlikely to be the case. Posters go up, most with roses on them.

On Facebook, every other post is a list of the names of the dead, now with the requisite likes and hearts and crying faces and sometimes angry faces (from the leftists).

It's not that I don't think that these are all important rituals to have, or that these 14 women are not worth remembering. They absolutely are. But I'm uncomfortable when something I feel passionate about is reduced to a cut-and-paste of names and ages so that everyone can show how they remember, how important the ritual is, and how very not-sexist they are. It becomes an exercise in form over function.

Violence against women in Canada does not, by and large, look like a lunatic carefully sorting the female students from the male students and then gunning down the former. That has happened, but that is not what usually happens. Women are more likely to face violence at the hands of a loved one than a stranger. The dead are less likely to look like photogenic young students and more likely to look like this:


Oh, you probably can't see that too well. That's the 1181 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada between 1980-2012, who rarely get spoken about on the one day that we get to talk about violence against women. Marc Lépine is dead, and beyond the reach of justice, but there still might be justice for the women pictured above. We won't know if we don't do anything about it.

It's not a day to talk about the women and girls in prison and foster care, or even victims of domestic violence. Not sex workers or trans women or non-status immigrants, who face a greater risk of violence and exploitation than the general population.  It's not a day to talk about women who have been raped by men who are deemed more trustworthy than they are, and thus are re-victimized in the press and the courts. If we took today to look at those things, we might look at violence against women as something other than a horrible event that happened once but is now safely in the past to be ritualized. We would have to see it as something ongoing, something in which all genders are complicit.

It's not a day to talk about misogyny, today, as rampant and widespread as ever, to shut down any number of MRA and Alt-Reich groups who have seized the zeigeist by the pussy. That would be politicizing things, and the National Day of Remembrance and Action is a hashtag, not, like, a political thing.

My beef is institutional, not individual. On a personal level, listing the names of the 14 victims of Dec. 6th is understandable, even laudable. On an institutional level, however, framing violence against women as a rare, dramatic act rather than a routine and persistent symptom of a patriarchal culture is not productive. I'm not going to lie and tell you I have an answer to this, or even that I know with certainty that it's a problem, per se. I guess I just want a louder, angrier, more complicated discussion. Not symbols, and not copy-and-paste. Ugly, unvarnished truth that moves towards action. For starters.

* Gender is, of course, more complicated, but a lot of us didn't know that in 1991 when Jack Layton was first promoting it.

Date: 2016-12-07 05:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's so hard to figure out the relationships between identity, action, truth, and practicality in my own head, let alone manage to communicate effectively to other people about what I feel like we should be thinking about and focusing on and doing. This stuff is difficult. But it's so important we think and do. Thanks for contributing to that.

Date: 2016-12-07 05:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well and truly said.

Date: 2016-12-08 02:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've been thinking this year about how little people grasp that the seemingly trivial, everyday acts of sexism or thoughtless remarks are hugely important as they ARE the attitudes and the worldview and the makeup of the more obvious acts of violence. (Not just in sexism, of course - in any of the world's ills or evils.) It's been in my head a bit because I have a close friend who can drive me round the bend with his utter ignorance of the most basic issues of feminism (e.g. he complained that the FB thing I think I reposted from you maybe, about emotional labour, was really mean to men!). But also because the last year of upsetting family stress has shown me the misogyny lurking inside normal blokes. I've twice witnessed on men's faces such delight at seeing a woman being "put in her place" (i.e. me being shouted at or sneered at abusively).

I had a silly Facebook tiff with the same friend and his dad, who is a pretty successful poet and lecturer in English literature at various top universities, because they couldn't see why on earth I might think of discussing sexism with my son when I (hopefully) read stories from Greek myth with him in a few years time. FFS. They quite earnestly (and patronisingly - I do after all have a degree in Classics and philosophy, grr) told me that the Odyssey isn't sexist because it's full of "strong women" like Circe. Then they got annoyed when I pointed out that actually the stereotype of women (but only if they're beautiful) being dangerous, malicious, sly enchantresses luring men away from their families and "men's work" with the sexual attractions that poor men with their so much higher sex drives just can't resist is part of the "wives or whores" story made up to excuse violence against women and pointed out that if they thought about it they'd probably realize they knew quite a few women who'd suffered horribly because of the idealisation of the beautiful, evil enchantress. Apparently it was mean of me to "politicise" a nice children's version of Homer. I was grrr that someone who should know better (a lecturer in his 60s ffs - I suppose he was still a teenager in 1968, but still) is teaching literature to young women and men and is so ignorant of (what should be) such a huge part of his subject.

(I met up with said friend's mother last week and told on him, and she told me that her husband, the poet, had suddenly announced to her when my friend was 2 that he'd met an Italian countess and was leaving her. And he left her alone in a foreign country struggling on benefits as a single parent. So I feel vindicated!)

Sorry silly waffle rant.

There is a point to it, which is that I think people need to realize where these things begin in supposedly trivial, stupid things they say in their utter ignorance. I see these supposedly small and innocent things as horrifyingly evil little pulls on the lever by people ignorant (without excuse) of what lies at the other end of the pivot. If that makes sense.

Date: 2016-12-09 02:25 am (UTC)
ironed_orchid: (meh)
From: [personal profile] ironed_orchid
White ribbon day here is probably co-opted from the Canadian model, but is about domestic violence against women.

First Dog on the Moon had the perfect cartoon about it and about awareness raising in general last year: White Ribbon Day

Date: 2016-12-09 02:30 am (UTC)
ironed_orchid: pin up girl reading kant (intellectual hottie (green))
From: [personal profile] ironed_orchid
Some of their cartoons are better than others, but I rarely disagree with them. First Dog is a national treasure.


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