i clicked the off button on the remote and thought, with a certainty that frightens me to recollect, "she's already dead."
they discovered her body this afternoon.
i thought about her on the train ride to work. and by this, i mean i thought about her and i thought about myself, in that we're both women. as far as we know at this point, she was merely a young woman in a parking lot - i am that woman a lot of times too. and these horrible moments in time, regardless of how long the odds of them happening to any given woman are, exist for all women in the sense that we know it could happen to us. that we could walk out of a Target at 7:10 pm on a saturday and not make it safely to our cars. that we could be the victims of such terrorism, such pointed destruction, such punishment.
and it is punishment. it's punishment for that supreme sin that we all commit every day, that heinous offense the feminist blogosphere has trenchantly labeled Living While Female. nothing galls our patriarchal society to see this offense on constant display - we walk about so freely, talking and making decisions, like we had some right to be acting with something resembling agency - and it makes every possible effort to discourage this behavior. since we are all, however, such uppity bitches who for some reason refuse to take direction and quit being so evident all the time, force is often necessary. harassment, intimidation, abuse, rape, murder: the price we pay for breathing.
you know what makes me sad, though, above and beyond all this? all this, for which i could already cry for a lifetime and despair until i die? what makes me so sad is that we believe it. we women believe, on some collective unconscious level, that the charges against us are true.
last month, joss whedon posted a lengthy lament about the way women are perceived and treated, uniformly around the globe, as inferior and detestable beings. his thoughts were in reaction to the infamous internet video of a kurdish girl, Dua Khalil, whose death by stoning was captured for posterity* by cameraphones in the mob that murdered her. this reminded him, somewhat randomly but understandably, of the trailer for an upcoming movie in which the sum of the action is the kidnapping, torture, and murder of a beautiful young woman. whedon writes,
The trailer resembles nothing so much as the CNN story on Dua Khalil. Pretty much all you learn is that Elisha Cuthbert is beautiful, then kidnapped, inventively, repeatedly and horrifically tortured, and that the first thing she screams is “I’m sorry”.
What is wrong with women?
I mean wrong. Physically. Spiritually. Something unnatural, something destructive, something that needs to be corrected.
whedon is at a loss to explain why the crime of Living While Female is so universally reviled. i am at a loss as to why we apologize for it.
and we do - not just in the movies, where such a scripted repentance could be read as wishful thinking more than anything else. we do it in real life, all the time, under both the most ordinary circumstances and the most unimaginable ones. the most sickening part of reading about the De Anza gang rape case, for me, was this observation from one of the female party-goers who helped the girl to safety:
This poor girl was not moving...She had her one shoe one, her jeans were wrapped around one of her ankles and her underwear was left around her ankles. To the left of the bed there was some condom thrown on the ground. When they lifted her head up, her eyes moved and she said 'I'm sorry.'
she was sorry. she knew enough, even drunk to the point of unconsciousness and physically incapable of movement, that she was sorry about something. because we always are. we are always supposed to be.
you know what i wish? well, i wish a lot of things, really, chief among them being that men would stop hating women so goddamn much. because it's not our fault. whatever it is that actually drives that misogyny, whatever fear is actually coiled up at the bottom of that vast heart of darkness, it is most definitely not our fault.
but barring these impossible dreams, you know what i wish? i wish that we would stop apologizing. it's not easy - we've learned to say "i'm sorry" to try to preempt the whipping, or to lessen the lashes, or just to quiet our own minds while it's happening. we've learned that "sorry" helps us survive. but i wish we could start fighting back, just a little, in little ways.
so women - you women i know, you women i don't, any women who happen to read this, women everywhere, right now - start by not apologizing. don't apologize for just being what you are - don't apologize for the big and little things you do because you're a woman, or because you're a human being who happens to be a woman. don't qualify your thoughts, your opinions, your feelings - don't beat people to the punch of implying that they don't matter. "i know this might sound stupid, but..." "i know this is a dumb question..." "this is going to sound silly..."
stop. it is worth saying. you are worth hearing. women, please, say it, ask it, take it, do it - don't apologize.
there is nothing wrong with you.
*this is a link to twisty's post about the video, which does contain a link to the video, but it doesn't begin automatically. i couldn't bring myself to watch it, and can understand anyone else who can't either.)