Wednesday, June 06, 2007

above and beyond all this.

this morning, i sat down on the couch, put a bowl of cereal on the coffee table, and turned on the tv to check the weather forecast. after the weather channel gave me the only information i really needed from the morning news, i ignored my better judgment and clicked over to the Today show. the top of the hour news segment was about 18 year old Kelsey Smith, who went missing from a Target parking lot under very suspicious circumstances (security cameras caught what appears to be a woman being forced into her car in the hazy corner of their footage). the segment talked about the rewards offered, the suspects being searched for, the family's pleas.

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”.

“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.)

90 comments:

Toast said...

Well that was a bracing "First Read of the Morning".

For what it's worth, I think that if you loathe women, you must, at some level, loathe life.

fridge said...

Fantastic post. Gonna print this one out and start a file titled "Stuff for my daughter to read when she's old enough" Thanks.

smt@bhny.com said...

Toast, thanks for directing me here.

Kate, thanks for writing this.

It reminds me (sort of) of a comedian I once heard who was discussing the power of the word cunt and how it is the worst possible thing someone can call a woman. And she said, and I am quoting as closely as I can remember,
"The next time someone calls you 'cunt', you say 'That's juicy cunt to you!'"

Too many people make you try to feel bad for you to do it to yourself.

Miz Shoes said...

I've loved you since I found you a week or so ago, but today I added you to my blogroll. Thank you for a wonderful piece.

kate.d. said...

fridge, i hope this doesn't sound insanely cliche, but you can do more to help your daughter deal with this stuff than pretty much anyone else.

my dad is an amazing man, and has never once made me feel like my opinions or feelings were inferior or unworthy - he has made me feel not only loved and appreciated, but respected. that is a singular gift that only you can give her, and it will be invaluable as she deals with...all this.

and thanks to smt and miz shoes for reading!

Sarah said...

I came here from Feministing - marvelous, marvelous post, though of course I wish it didn't need to be said.

jayniek said...

gosh am i glad i know you.

Cola said...

I know that feeling, and what an awful feeling it is. I feel it all the time as a woman with a history of infidelity. Men don't trust me and I tell myself that it's just that they don't.

Really, though, I'm punishing myself for behaving like a man.

Thank you for your thoughts. I found them greatly heartening.

Baby Pop said...

I also came by way of feministing. Great post. Will try to catch up on the rest.

Toast said...

I'm punishing myself for behaving like a man.

Yes, because Men all cheat.

Chrissy said...

via feministing as well, and very glad i stopped by. you put into words the way that i feel - thanks for letting me know i'm not alone, or crazy, or sorry about anything.

em said...

Another Feministing reader here, and I loved this post. Every time I hear about anything like that on the news, I think for a brief moment, "That could be me/my sister/my best friend". Thanks for articulating that feeling so well. It's just a shame that this feeling has to exist in the first place.

kate.d. said...

oh toast, my dear, i'm getting some nice feminist traffic - please don't agitate :) as a favor! for me!

because we could get into a whole blahdy-blah about men and cheating as their historical territory, and the ensuing gender role/stereotype/crapola that has arisen from that, but we'd get exhausted. and it's thursday - we're already exhausted! at least i know i am.

then again, that could be the "could cause drowsiness" meds i took this morning... :)

Anonymous said...

Yes, because Men all cheat.

No, but it is part of the privilege of being man. It is not a failure as a man to cheat. It's halfway expected. Yes, there's some society expressed disapproval, but it's almost always tinged with respect, admiration and longing, as it's a display of sexual prowess.

21stCenturyMom said...

Another from Feministing and I'm so glad they directed me here. You are so right - so very right.

One of the better parts of aging is that you lose the need to apologize so much but not completely. To shed that nasty bit of cultural brainwashing completely takes work.

Toast said...

we're already exhausted! at least i know i am.

Not me. I'm feeling feisty. But, fine, out of deference to you I will not comment further on any heinously unfair generalizations that my eyes stumble across. Don't say I never did anything for ya. ;-)

kate.d. said...

Don't say I never did anything for ya.

i would never say that :)

and thanks everyone, for clicking over. like i said in comments at feministing, even though you know it's true, it's nice to see concrete evidence that so many other women feel the same way. so thanks for saying so :)

Toast said...

It is not a failure as a man to cheat.

Wow, seriously? I consider it one of the biggest failures imaginable. Of course, I've never had Big Swingin' Dickitis. I'm a proud Beta Male, totally in touch with my compassionate side.

Oh wait: Not commenting...

Anonymous said...

Another Feminister. This was really beautifully written--thank you for putting it just so.

I'm going to email it to my mom and sister and grandma and aunt right now...

Cara said...

Thanks so much for posting this. You're right. We do say "sorry" way too much. And it is a way to reinforce that we are the ones to blame for our victimization. I'll be coming back.

sindee said...

Oh my god. Thank you SO MUCH for writing this.

Anonymous said...

Very well written indeed. I, too, amd sick and tired of being "guilty" of LWF, and I want it to fucking stop. We need to make it stop. Some way. Some how.

I have cried off and on for the past 24 hours since they found her body. My heart goes out to Kelsey's family.

It is just so....draining to be a female with all that we face (both presently and potentially with all of the attacked on women's right, reproductive rights, etc.).

If we don't do something to make it stop, it will only get worse, it seems to me.

Thank you for writing this.

Anonymous said...

I challenge us all to say, rather than "I'm sorry," a big "Fuck you." Still two words. Just way more powerful.

fridge said...

Thanks for the Daddy pep-talk, kate. There are many days I can use it. I definitely feel the burden of being the archetypal relationship for that little girl I love so dearly.

I also feel the responsibility of teaching her little brother to do right by the women in his life.

Anonymous said...

The hardest part is when it's other women saying you should apologize; women who berate and badger in teams and tandem with a singular goal to force you to finally apologize for being yourself (how dare you!) ... force you to do what they themselves do all the time.

But I didn't, and it pissed them off. I held my ground ... and held it, and held it, and held it, and held it ... until finally they quieted themselves and accepted the fact that I was not going to apologize.

Felt great!

After that, when it was all said and done, that's when I finally turned and walked away; leaving in my own time and on my own terms.

Damn! That was something. (Empowering) I'd never done that before.

Now I'm back to being just another random voice in the crowd, with an inner experience and understanding that no one can take from me.

I'm not sorry but I am saddened. I lived ... but others haven't and their voices have been silenced and that saddens me terribly.

Thank you for posting this, thank you for having the courage.

Bless you.

--a random voice

Sara said...

I also popped over from Feministing, although I suspect I will be visiting more often.

Truly incredible, poignant post. Thank you for it.

I have always been a compulsive apologizer, but no more!

While I may not be able to quit apologizing unnecessarily all at once, this brilliant post has inspired me to pay more attention to where these apologies come from.

Goal One: Stop apologizing to my partner when he becomes upset with me for calling him out on doing something wrong. (The apology is to keep from seeming "unreasonable" or, worse, "hysterical." He has never said such a thing to me, but I still expect it/deep down think I deserve it.)

Even if it's something small, it's a step in the right direction...
thank you thank you.

Andrea said...

This is a great post; thank you for writing it. I came over from Feministing. If it's okay, I would like to link to this from my own blog.

I've been aware of how often I say "I'm sorry", or "I'm stupid" throughout the day... must stop. Thank you for the reminder, and the great post.

Lenka said...

Thank you for writing this, and so eloquently putting into words the despairing feeling women live with - the truth that so often festers without words. I will be thinking about what you wrote for a long time.

Jo said...

I came over, like so many, from the link at Feministing...

my god, thank you for writing this.

I apologize constantly when something, anything, is wrong, because, deep down inside, it must be my fault, right? ;_;

Just.. again. thank you.

Al said...

Excellent piece. Your balance of insight and emotional critique gives amazing weight to what many would see as just another unfortunate news story.

The way you describe thinking that it could have easily been you, is a thought process I'm quite familiar with. I went to university in Montreal, and in my third year, two weeks before Christmas, fourteen women were murdered by a man with a sawed off shotgun, as they wrote their engineering final.

It wasn't until I acknowledged the sick truth telling me that my position as a male is what is keeping me from recognizing the level that violence against women operates at. I look back on it now and realize it was one of my defining moments personally and politically. As men, feeling bad is not enough. Speaking out, validating womens truth and lives, and actively subverting the mindset that lets these events continue is a responsibility more men need to shoulder.

Thanks again for this very well written piece.

kate.d. said...

andrea - feel free to link, of course! thanks.

fridge - ah, and the son, also amazingly important stuff. goodness, you've got your hands full :) but as a dad, for sure, there's no more important work than raising your kids to respect each other (and themselves) as human beings.

Lock said...

A few years ago when I was checking out at the grocery store and moving kind of slow and dropping things, I apologized repeatedly to the cashier because the store was pretty busy. She then said something to me that I'll never forget: "Why do you keep saying you're sorry? You haven't done anything wrong; you don't look like a sorry person to me." After that, I started realizing how often I say "sorry," and also how often men get impatient and angry if I'm in their way, like I don't even have a right to exist and take up space (and I'm pretty small -- I've seen the crap women larger than me get for also being "in the way" on the bus, train, street, anywhere).

A fun experiment I like to do is to walk down the sidewalk -- always keeping to the right -- and seeing how many men walking toward me refuse to move over even if they're walking on the left. I've actually flat-out collided with several men this way. As women, we're always in the way, never them. And then, of course, this fury at our very existence all too often builds into violence when we dare go anywhere unaccompanied by a man.

I just wish men knew what it was like to always have to be aware of how much space you're taking up, who's looking at you, what you're wearing, how much you're drinking (well, generally any amount for women is considered too much and grounds for being raped) how loudly we're talking, if any of our body language could be mistakenly interpreted as sexual (like the other day when I thought I was alone on the street and bent down to pet a neighborhood cat, and suddenly a car full of guys pulled up next to me and started staring and commenting because they decided I must have been showing off my tits and ass for them).

It's everywhere, all the time, there's hardly any freedom and we're constantly being judged and staked out. It's like being constantly stalked and monitored by the FBI, except in this case half the population is the FBI.

Suzanne said...

(here via feministing)

good god. brava, my dear. brava. here's to living while female, eh?

Never That Easy said...

What a moving, honest, & true post... I find myself apologizing a lot, for the dual crimes of living while both female and disabled. Neither are things that are offenses, but I apologize nonetheless. I'm trying to curb that, though, and will now have your post in my mind as I do so. Great post.

Anonymous said...

And you know, somewhere right now there's probably some "debate" going on about how Kelsey did something wrong - didn't park close enough to the store, wasn't eternally vigilant enough to notice she was being followed, went to the store alone (i.e, without a male protector).... Because the goalposts will also get moved, right? Sure, go home by dusk, lock your door, and it will still be your fault if you're attacked - for living alone. Go out to a bar, don't drink, and it will be your fault for getting dosed with a roofie because, hey, you showed your face in public. It's always, somehow, ultimately the woman's responsibility for male violence. We keep saying "I'm sorry" because we'll forever be blamed for the actions of others.

stringy said...

Another Feministing visitor, great post. If woman apologises to you for something insignificant - please let her know that she doesn't have to (politely, of course!). I try to do this, e.g. "you don't need to say sorry, asking questions is the only way you'll find out what you need to know"; "it's not silly, it's how you feel"; "don't be sorry, you're not a mind-reader and I should have told you what I wanted".

We need to look out for each other, to remind ourselves of what we know to be true but forget with the pressures of just getting through the day.

jessilikewhoa said...

thank you for writing an amazing piece. i too came here from feministing, and linked to this from my own little blog, i hope you dont mind, i felt it wasimportant to share with my lovely lady friends.

Mike said...

Great post, Kate. I followed Toast's link, and he got it right: definitely a post worth reading. Well done.

cinnamon.mcbadger said...

My blog header states 'here, you will love your cunt, give good sass, enjoy the company of men but not misogyny, be free to be yourself at all times, have an opinion and NEVER apologise...

I'll be changing it to read 'Never apologise for being a woman'

Your words have inspired, thank you x

mark said...

"""A few years ago when I was checking out at the grocery store and moving kind of slow and dropping things, I apologized repeatedly to the cashier because the store was pretty busy. She then said something to me that I'll never forget: "Why do you keep saying you're sorry? You haven't done anything wrong; you don't look like a sorry person to me." After that, I started realizing how often I say "sorry," and also how often men get impatient and angry if I'm in their way, like I don't even have a right to exist and take up space (and I'm pretty small -- I've seen the crap women larger than me get for also being "in the way" on the bus, train, street, anywhere)."""

I have to throw the brakes on this one (commenting on this ridiculous blog post I'll leave for elsewhere since this is clearly hostile territory and my words would be wasted.) I apologize constantly. All the time. To cashiers, gas attendants, fast food workers, whoever, for being too slow, being too fast, handing over the wrong bills, ordering with a stutter, you name it. Why do you think for a moment that this is a uniquely female thing? You think being apologetic is unique to one gender? I know dozens of guys like me.

You know who taught me to apologize constantly? My first wife. I was infatuated with her. I spent almost every breath trying to please her, and she never was. I apologized every 5 minutes with that woman. Maybe I should trade in my penis, since it seems I'm on the wrong team?

Feminist pride is fine, but you sound silly when you make unqualified generalizations that show a clear bias to any sane reader. You're not forwarding your cause by being unfair and single-minded. It's really ironic that so many women do this in the name of *fighting* disparity.

somewaterytart said...

Excellent, Kate! Just perfect.

Valkyrie said...

I call BINGO on mark!

http://viv.id.au/blog/?p=431

I'll chime in with the others to say great post.

susanne said...

I had meant to comment yesterday, but this whole thing has me very upset and angry and sad. Really an excellent post, Kate, and I'm happy to see that you're getting lots of recognition. It's about time!

I have actually seen, here and there, little murmurs and implications blaming her because she was wearing shorts and a tank top, so obviously she was asking for it. I can't put links because I wouldn't even let myself read the stuff. I glanced over it and moved on.

As to the "sorry" thing, a woman from another department constantly says this anytime she needs me to do something for her. It's my job to help her, dang it! I always call her out on it, but then she apologizes for apologizing.

mark said...

>As to the "sorry" thing, a woman from another department constantly says this anytime she needs me to do something for her. It's my job to help her, dang it! I always call her out on it, but then she apologizes for apologizing.

Yep, and I do the same thing, and I'm a big hairy man. My coworkers constantly tell me to stop apologizing. Why is this being portrayed as a singularly female trait.

Valkyrie, I'm not sure what point you're trying to convey. Where do you figure I fit on the bingo grid? I'd love to discuss it with you.

kate.d. said...

commenting on this ridiculous blog post I'll leave for elsewhere since this is clearly hostile territory and my words would be wasted.

mark, please heed your own sage advice here. your words are wasted in this comment thread - mainly because they're reductionist, but also because they're so transparently spoiling for an "argument" - i.e. a ceaseless back and forth where you can point out how ridiculous and hysterical feminists are.

take that tripe elsewhere, please - that's not what this post was for.

mark said...

You're right that some of my language was dismissive, and I will apologize for that. I can't help but be a little jaded after reading many many many of these arguments and having many circular discussions. While you no doubt will think that such discussions are cirucular because your opponents spout "tripe", it's also true that they may think the same of you.

I simply think that it's unfair to characterize the trait of constant apology as one that is uniquely female. It is most definitely not. You seem to be perpetuating a stereotype, to me, which seems to be counter to your goal of breaking unfair stereotypes.

To tell me to go elsewhere is far more dismissive than the words I chose to debate you with, though, I think.

m said...

I am interested in hearing a response to what I feel might be a sampling of the general male opinion:

"The whole Living While Female thing as if men don't go through anything similar.

How many times in school did she get punched for no reason? Was expected to fight? Had to stand up to bullying? Because that stuff happens to men from the moment they're born.

And it's even worse if you do something that bugs people. How many times do young women get their asses kicked because of something they've said? Not very damn often.

Speaking of feminists, whatever happened to Camille Paglia? I remember thinking she said neat stuff when I was in college."

From a forum I frequent with lots of men (I am one of the few females there, but we are all technology geeks).

mark said...

You know very well what the reponse here will be to that, "m". :-)

Also, I question how you know that it's a typical male opinion. No doubt that young women go through a sort of "hazing" by their peers just as men do, so there are parallels, but some with feminist tendencies tend to reject or discard the fact that men are expecting to behave in a certain fashion, be tough, have thick skins, tolerate physical (and emotional) pain, etc... Which is a great, screaming double standard.

mark said...

And, as I replied on that forum, I will reply here: to argue that women never get beaten for something they've said is ridiculous. "The bitch just wouldn't shut up" is grounds for a beating in LOTS of the US, unfortunately.

By the same token, to argue that it's typical of men to believe that women are never beaten is ALSO ridiculous. Men aren't IDIOTS.

kate.d. said...

mark, to be honest, i didn't post this to encourage debate. (sometimes i do that, though i'm used to about 20 people reading it, not 2,000, so this is entirely new terrain.) i posted this for women to read, and hopefully find some comfort in. not to sound too prickly, but in sum, this post wasn't about how men feel about it.

in light of that, though (and in light of m's related comment/question below yours), maybe i'll post something soon as an arena for this conversation (which you're right, will most probably merely result in circular allegations of boneheadedness, as they usually do) to happen. but until then, please leave it out of this thread. thanks.

mark said...

Kate, it's your blog, and so that's fine, but what you're saying, to my "ears" basically boils down to:

"I'd like to post something horribly biased and not be challenged on it, so that I and other likeminded people can sit around feeling comforted by it."

Now I know you'll say that's "reductionist", but that's the essence of what you're saying.

I think you might be similiarly incensed if I were to post on my blog at whispersinthedark.com that most women who receive beatings probably deserve it, and we should be more lenient on abusers because their acts are likely of aggravated revenge and not malice. If I further asked all women to please not comment, because I wanted men to be able to read it and be comforted by it, would you simply say "Oh, OK then." and go on your way?

Tom said...

Mark, you were not simply dismissive, you were outright hostile. You took personal offense to the idea that over-apologizing is a feminine trait when you could have simply stated your case. I'm a guy and I find I apologize a lot as well, so the apparent premise of your argument is valid.

But that is not your intent in posting. To open with "commenting on this ridiculous blog post I'll leave for elsewhere since this is clearly hostile territory and my words would be wasted" is, as kate.d said, clearly spoiling for a fight. Furthermore, by being dismissive about the greater point of the post (gang-rape and murder) and focusing solely the apology-aspect, you managed to invert the basic dynamic of the post and so that all of your "debate" is perfectly disproportionate.

You reinforced this with your response to m's question: "You know very well what the reponse here will be to that, "m". :-)" Again, off the bat, dismisses the entirety of the responses from the readers of this blog.

In the future, either make an argument or don't. Starting off whining and hostile is a poor means of debate.

And regarding Valkyrie's post:

C4 R1
C5 R1
C4 R3
C3 R4
C3 R5
C4 R5
C4 R5

Bingo.

Gemma said...

Thanks very much for this post. It put into words some things I had been thinking about for quite some time.
'Living While Female'. What a horrible and startlingly true concept.

mark said...

Tom -

You're misinformed. I happen to know "m" and her post is not in earnest, it's designed to stir up trouble. But that's neither here nor there.

>But that is not your intent in posting. To open with "commenting on this ridiculous blog post I'll leave for elsewhere since this is clearly hostile territory and my words would be wasted" is, as kate.d said, clearly spoiling for a fight.<

After reading a very heavily stilted blog posting about how evil men are oppressing women everywhere, it's hard to leave an objective response. I did apologize.

As far as focusing on the apology aspect of it, Tom, that's the bulk of the post.

And yes, when my arguments are reduced to points on a Bingo grid, I call that hostile territory, so no, I don't think my comments were out of line. I knew what sort of reception waited here. It wouldn't have mattered a wit how congenial I was.

m said...

"I happen to know "m" and her post is not in earnest, it's designed to stir up trouble. But that's neither here nor there."

'm' (me) is surrounded by men most of the time and rarely gets to hear women with enough balls and ability to argue/debate well on this angle of the subject. Not really instigating, just interested in hearing how other women handle different perspectives.

Toast said...

mark, to be honest, i didn't post this to encourage debate.

Yeah, if you're looking for the argument room, here you go.

Toast said...

After reading a very heavily stilted blog posting

Why do you keep using that word?

Dawn said...

Your words brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for writing something so powerful.

Tom said...

"You're misinformed. I happen to know "m" and her post is not in earnest, it's designed to stir up trouble. But that's neither here nor there."

There was nothing particularly trolling about her comment and now she appears to flatly contradict you. But you're right, that's neither here nor there, it is your response which is in question. You dismissed any potential responses to her and evidently did not read her post thoroughly. You said "Also, I question how you know that it's a typical male opinion" when she quite clearly stated that she frequents a forum of mostly men. Again, make an argument or don't.


"After reading a very heavily stilted blog posting about how evil men are oppressing women everywhere, it's hard to leave an objective response. I did apologize."

Do you really think they're saying that you are oppressing women? That every single man is? Patriarchy is a culture, not a conspiracy. It does not require the active participation of all men, it requires the insulation of most men from the burdens that women face on a daily basis. This is supported by your baffling lack of empathy for most of what's expressed in the post; the idea that you could come away from documented stories of gang-rape, public stonings and abduction/murders and feel that it is you who are under attack is nothing short of shocking.


As far as focusing on the apology aspect of it, Tom, that's the bulk of the post.

I should have been clearer, the bulk of the post is about expectation for women to apologize for brutal acts of violence and misogyny commited against them in both real life and fiction. She concludes that it has roots in apologizing for everything, even non-violent situations, but the overall point is that there's a culture of violence against women where women are blamed and held responsible for the violence; where only they have to address it. This is absolutely true. I live in New York, and I can tell you that the level of the expectation of harrasment voiced in these comments simply does not exist for me.

For you to focus so heavily on your apologizing in non-violent situations misses the point. Even if you are correct, your point should simply be that apologizing in non-violent situations does not necessarily lead to apologizing in violent ones.


"And yes, when my arguments are reduced to points on a Bingo grid, I call that hostile territory, so no, I don't think my comments were out of line.

I knew what sort of reception waited here. It wouldn't have mattered a wit how congenial I was."


A self fulfilling prophecy if there ever was one. You entered hostile and then blamed everyone else for hostile responses. As I said, there is validity to your basic point about over-apologizing, but you poisoned the well from the outset.

kate.d. said...

mark, you have dual identities. interesting.

and i haven't even read this last little outburst of stuff here, i have to go to a meeting, and i'm tired.

apparently the impulse to joust just cannot be quenched.

mark said...

>. She concludes that it has roots in apologizing for everything, even non-violent situations, but the overall point is that there's a culture of violence against women where women are blamed and held responsible for the violence; where only they have to address it. This is absolutely true.

Which is also why many men feel the need to apologize. They apologize for the perception of them as violent, boorish, aggressive, domineering...

Take your blinders off.

Rachel Rev said...

Amen. Amen. Amen. Excellent post. Thanks.

Another Chi-town feminist blogger,
Rachel

Tom said...

"Which is also why many men feel the need to apologize. They apologize for the perception of them as violent, boorish, aggressive, domineering...

Take your blinders off."


That was your point? That men are victimized by indirectly by other men? And your response is to take it out on women?

The level of sophistry, bad faith and misdirection you employ is astonishing. And punctuating it with a meaningless and obtuse cliche nicely ties it up.


Sorry for hi-jacking the thread katie.d.

mark said...

Really, by other men? Is it other men who treat us like potential rapists, murderers, muggers, and psychopaths? Nope.

Women are emotional by nature, more so than men. Women tend to be influenced by anecdote above evidence. One rapist out of 100,000,000 men is enough to make women fear that any man could be a rapist, and that's not a tenable position. Sorry.

kate.d. said...

mark, you're starting to get on my nerves. i don't really care what your ears hear, or what you might hypothetically write on your blog, or about how you felt when you read this post.

it's not about you.

seriously.

and tom, i thank you for your thoroughly sensical thoughts here - "patriarchy is a culture, not a conspiracy", dear god if we could bottle that realization and sell it! - but would love it if we could nip this all in the bud. at least here, at present.

and believe me, if i throw up a post titled "American Gladiator, Feminist Blogger Style", i'll let you all know.

mark said...

>You said "Also, I question how you know that it's a typical male opinion" when she quite clearly stated that she frequents a forum of mostly men.

Oh well then, I stand corrected. Participating in a forum occupied by about 50 men who all happen to share an interest in a specific topic/industry is CERTAINLY a good way to get a scientific and comprehensive sampling of all men.

Tom, you're so silly that you're not worth arguing with. And yes, now I'm utterly dismissing you.

mark said...

Kate.d -

Someone espousing and promoting hatred against me is always about me, no matter what walled garden they do it in. Stop pretending like I'M the one that's out of line.

mark said...

And sweetie pie, hate "in context" is still hate.

kate.d. said...

and with the "sweetie pie," i'll ask you to leave and not come back. that's enough.

see you at toast's.

mark said...

The condescension was getting thick in here, so I thought it was the fashion.

For what it's worth, I understand what you're trying to convey in the post. I just think your delivery needs work.

Ta.

jayniek said...

kate,
um, wow. i'm sitting here, mouth agape, upon finishing up that 5-hour comment marathon.

and tom, your insight and eloquence is much appreciated.

(kate, yours always is)

hetherjw said...

Kate,

Thanks for the fantastic post. I don't know how I missed it for almost two days. Fortunately I had JK to alert me to it.

Tom, wonderful, evenhanded responses to Mark.

jessilikewhoa said...

uh oh! zipper check! someone's male privelege is showing.

kate, i want to thank you again for a beautiful post. i kno i already commented, but after reading the ugly thread hijack, i felt the need to reiterate, you hit the nail on the head and you are a fantastic writer.

and mark, i think your statistics are off, as 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. please dont minimize other peoples experiences.

erique said...

Hi Kate, I commented on your post over at Tart's blog, but after rereading the post and the comments (plenty of vitriol!), I wanted to comment again.

Fantastic post, although I know this is meant for women, what it expresses is so genuine, and thorough, and even moving, that it meant something to me to read it even though i have a dong.

so, kudos. Great post.

thinking girl said...

Katie D -

thanks, great post. wonderful. women should never have to aplogize for being women, much less for being victimized.

mAndrea said...

Mark's first comment blamed someone other than himself for his own problem with apologizing.

Yes, bingo indeed.

Angel said...

Hi, I came here via a link from Thinking Girl. Very recently I noticed how apologetic I have been all my life, especially in relation to my male partner and our "domestic" lives. I'm much, much more aware but I have to say it has been a challenge unlearning what I have learned to do all my life. Thanks for your post!

doctressjulia said...

This was intense and intelligent. THANK YOU. And, MARK? Choke on a load of shit, why don't you. You're using up my oxygen.

Anonymous said...

http://www2.ucsc.edu/rape-prevention/statistics.html
18% of US rape victims are white females, and 80% of the US is white, whereas 19% of rape victims are african-american, and 12% of the US is african-american. That means that black women are along the lines of 7 times more likel y to be raped than white women. Further, 80-90% of victimization is by someone of the same race. So pelase stop the self-centered, ignorant, and childish whining about "I'm victimized every day by being born white and female."

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post. I agree we should stop apologizing! Moreover, I want to see more women stand up for other women. Let's give each other the benefit of the doubt for a change.

mark said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Golden Silence said...

I was impressed by this piece. I put it on "Don't Be Silent."

Anonymous said...

You all have obviously had some bad experiences with men and I am really sorry about that.0

Seeing Eye Chick said...

Thanks for writing this, I found this site throught he Carnival Against Sexual Violence.

I am appalled that men cannot just read this and think about it, that it must be turned into a "Who is the biggest victim" contest. If they have so much to share, perhaps they should start their own blog.

When women write about women's experience, its not generally composed to make men feel better about themselves. In fact its all about the woman and what she feels and experiences. If it has anything to do with a man, such as in this case, its specific references like the DeAnza case and the unfortunate Overland Park kidnapping in KS.
So unless Mark and the others are tyring to compare themselves to rapists or defend against raping as a pastime, I dont see what their commentary has to do with anything.

Generalizations were not made in the blog entry about men. It was made about women being targets for random sexual violence. That is not hyperbole, that is a accepted truth. You can look up Rape and Molestation stats to see it has the numbers to back it up.

Thank you for putting this entry online. I too am saving it for my daughters to read when they are older.

Oddly enough, in the *Im' sorry for breathing category, I posted theraputic, sarcastic letters in that vein about my experiences.

So it was really nice to see this kind of synchronistic counterpoint.
Thank you.

judyb said...

Kate,

i stopped back by after getting a couple more responses to the link i posted on my blog, and i was shocked (but not really surprised) to see the comment thread.

It saddens me that people don't even seem to be able to agree that living in fear of violence is a bad thing, regardless of who is scared of whom.

Despite the fact that i don't think i fall into the apologetic female category (which some people seem to think is the required condition for being victimized -- it's not), i still connected with what you have written in a very personal way. Thank you for writing this post.

Jessica B. Burstrem said...

Another Feministing popover here. Gee, I wish there was this much evident traffic on the other sites posted at that time. I haven't gotten any comments at mine, but I keep trying: http://www.motherblogs.net/jessica

There I write about feminist approaches to mothering sons, which women actually tend to resist more than men - probably for the same reasons that we feel the need to police ourselves, or at least scold ourselves, and apologize for ... everything.

I don't apologize. Thanks for spreading the word. :)

Best -

j

marisa said...

Thank you for this post. The apologizing you talk about comes out in all kinds of ways. I teach, and I am always amazed at how women start their comments in classes with stuff like "I may be wrong but..." or "this might sound stupid." It is stunning.

And to respond to one of the anonymous comments, the danger in reading kate's post as being about her whiteness is that doing so overlooks how this apology thing is a phenomenon that crosses racial and ethnic experiences, even as it might be expressed in different ways by different kinds of women. If your argument is that black women are more often victims of sexual violence, that is even more reason to spread the conversation...

Lauren said...

I would ask Mark, if he's still reading, to perform an experiment where he works. Really pay attention to how many of his female co-workers preempt their sentences with "I know this sounds silly but..." or similar. The take note of how often his male co-workers say the same. I have grown up with almost exclusively male friends my whole life, they never understood why I used the words "I'm sorry" so much and in the way I did, and they rarely preempted their opinions as I did.

Did they still do it? Yes, sometimes. And the "beta-males" as he designates himself, did it a lot more than the alpha males did. (By "a lot more" I mean, they did in fact do it). But fact is, EVERY woman I know does this to a greater or lesser degree. There is some gender differences here, and it's silly to ignore that.

And I totally agree with bottling Tom's patriarchy summation, that was just perfect and so true. Why is it that when women talk about the patriarchy men always think we mean THEM as an individual?

Anyway, great, great post. I came here from Feministing and have been showing it to female friends all over.

whatsername said...

Incredible post.

I came across it today in my archives of posts saved for awesomeness and possible future use for my schooling or pet project www.genuinewomen.org

I don't know if I gave you the props you deserve the first time I read this. I might have been too jacked up to go and repost a quote of it to my friends on my livejournal. Even if I did, praise is always nice right?

So yah, bravo. :)

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