You wear the breasts, and they wear the brazenness

For our daugthers – and our sons! – We need a new “normal” (Part 1)

What is our “normal” these days?

From the latest discourses and the masses of women worldwide to step forward with #metoo we learn that sexual and verbal assault is a fact for the majority of women and seems to be “normal”. Sexism is normal. Too many humans who carry a body attachment called penis think they are superior to those carrying breasts. They act within a system that makes it quite easy for them, and harder for the breast-carriers – It is indeed “a men’s world”. This fact has so many subtle and not so subtle nuances that I can’t begin to repeat them all – and you know those anyway. But finally, by campaigns such as #metoo and #heforshe, we are forced to finally LOOK at the imbalance. The default in most things is set to this:
man and his voice and needs = respected, normal // woman and her voice and needs = disrespected, not normal.

Or not that important. Let’s rather talk about her looks. Or her kids. She’s good for family, right. Women are mentioned at second glance, as a special case you just about managed to remember. And only after all the men have been mentioned and heard. The default is set to the male perspective (politics, careers, wealth, health, sports, movies, overall visibility, and especially sexuality/porn, power, and so forth). I single out the latter two now, to continue:

In #metoo we saw credible and heartbreaking (and only surprising to few, mostly men) accounts of women and their experiences. 99% of those will be true and will have changed THEIR lives. Only a small percentage is attention seeking and changed a poor man’s life. We don’t want either, tho.

Should becoming a victim be “normal”?!

Excluding single incidents sharpens the discussion: As Trevor Noah on the Daily Show put it: if he asked how many women in his audience have suffered assault by men, unfortunately 90% of hands would go up. If he asked how many men in his audience have suffered false accusations that threatened their existence or reputation: maybe one hand would go up. In our “normal”, men are not the victims.

But it is indeed “normal” to become the victim of some form of assault by the penis-wearing fraction of humankind — just because you wear the breasts, and they wear the brazenness. Fact.

So this is our girls’ “normal”: They grow up to learning they’re not only seen as less important and less visible, but they have a big likelihood to experience some form of mistreatment that changes their life – just because they wear the breasts and not the penis.

My daughter will not understand this. I hope that our sons will not understand this either.

Fact is: I don’t want this normal.
My daughter is not prepared for this normal.

We accept too much

So far I’ve been spared most of these horrible, life-changing experiences others had to endure – and only via #metoo had to learn that I’m the minority unfortunately. Let’s ignore the incident on a Rome bus where men of all sizes used the cramped opportunity to grope me and most other schoolgirls. That didn’t change my life.

But what about this one uncle who assaulted my baby daughter even before she was born? He asked about the gender of my child and upon hearing “girl” he said,

Oh, well, doesn’t matter. If she doesn’t have a penis then at least at some point one will be in her.

HE SAID THAT. IN FRONT OF ALL FAMILY. And who spoke up?

Not. a. single. soul.
Including myself. I was too shocked and just managed to get up and leave the room.
What I find most horrifying is not what he said. There will always be idiots who never got reprimanded enough and in reality just feel sad for themselves. I feel sad for him. But what did change my life is the fact that nobody spoke up. I (or we, if you want to include our unborn child) were left alone. They merely coughed and smiled apologetically. Accepting.

She wasn’t even born.

So.
In this “normal” it seems to be okay to talk like that. It seems acceptable. Has it become acceptable because the sheer amount of incidents like these and worse creates an ugly normality for our women?

What to tell my child?

I’m dreading the day my kids’ pure expectations and their naive outlook on life will be shattered. It holds such beauty to not know about this ugliness. That it’s not all about equality and treating each other with respect (from both sides!) with no regard for body colour, body attachment, or bodies’ abilities. Why can’t we all be kids there … *slams head on table*

Especially for my daughter it won’t all be unicorns and pretty horses. Because pretty is … dangerous! She’ll have to learn at some point that not all boys love her for her badassery and wit, which so far has been her experience, thank the Nordic gods. But that some might see her womanhood as an invitation and turn her into a victim just because. She won’t understand that. She won’t accept it, I hope. I teach her to only see humans, not sexes. It’s simply about respect.
But that respect won’t always be returned.

There is a fine distinction which excludes women when it comes to general respect:
Yes, abuse and attacks happen to almost everyone, penis- or breast-wearer. But in most cases there is a supporting system in place that seeks justice on the victim’s behalf. Other humans, or courts. Thieves and murderers are chased and locked up. If a rape victim dares to speak out and endure the brutal backlash, fine, the assailant might face some sort of consequences. At least a small percentage of rapists do. (In Germany, 8.4% of court cases see the conviction of a rapist, the rate sunk from 21% a few decades ago (source below) — isn’t that so very encouraging to put yourself out there and through the trauma again?)

And what about the daily sexism and assault? That’s still accepted. The assailant and his accomplices will try to shut the victim up, mock and ridicule. Brush it away, it’s not their pain. The majority will just be silent, look away (“you know what he’s like” *deep sigh*) like my family who is accomplice to my unborn daughter’s assault. Is it correct then that he is worth more than her? Or have we finally learned from the masses of women speaking out?

The lesson my daughter will hopefully never have to learn is: not the man who might at some point assault her is the arse, but SHE is the arse for … erm, having breasts, or being pretty. Or being too nice, or too rude. She surely provoked something. She is female, and can she please be more harmless.
But she’s strong like me. It’s on us to be less harmless.

Is the new normal on its way?

Maybe #metoo kickstarted something. The amount of decent men waking up to what is happening to their beloved wives and daughters has made an impact. They do listen more closely and they speak up. Like my husband now does, with said family and others. I hope a future uncle wouldn’t talk like that to MY pregnant daughter anymore. Or at least be called out by someone present. Or get slapped by her straight away, like I should have done.
That would be a cool, new “normal”.

So what to do?

Surely not what the now pointed at minority of abusers do: Deepening the trenches of course, so they feel safer. They try to take the victimhood from the women and hand it to the men, like the Orange Disgrace did (“scary times to be a young man”).
Ehm, no. The chance to be hit by lightning is greater (0.0083%) than to be hit by a false, life-changing accusation (0.0032%). Fact.

Neither will we accuse all men to be the same, because just as the majority of women experienced assault, the majority of men is decent and very much on our side.

They might just be mumbling into their beards too much.

What should be “normal”?

It all boils down to one human respecting another. So let women dress the fuck up and make themselves feel amazing as much as they want. Stop commenting on looks, or her voice, or her way of life. I’m not judging your stance, walk, hair colour and cut of beard either. But both sexes like to take the weaker sex down to feel better themselves. (What I get comments on, from both sexes btw, is that I’m “too strong”. “Too manly” often. I could do with some grace, they say. Harmless, pretty grace. Ha. Ha. Cute. I’m feckin 40, I’m not spoken to like I’m a sweet little girl with pink ribbons in my hair and no agency! I hate pink for many reasons.)

Is it maybe this strength and confrontational attitude which spared me most of the shit other women had to go through? Maybe.
Would this mean that we should now tell all women to wear their heads higher and walk more proudly and of course slap every hand that goes to parts of their bodies they find frightening?

It would probably help. But:

Why on earth is it even necessary to educate yourself in self-defence and psychology to avoid assault?!
Why is it feckin MY or my daughter’s job, to AVOID something? Why not teach the baddies some rules in the first place, and if they misbehave, call them out, make it no longer “normal”?

It’s gotta change.

Let’s create a new normal.

 

Part 2 to this post will follow soon and hopefully offer a simple outlook to a better future for all sexes. It IS complicated — and then not. I’m interested to hear your comments and if you want, experiences. 🙂

 

HAPPY READING & WRITING 

Sources: #metoo and #heforshe is on twitter, and any other social media

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Oct 4, 2018: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LZ3P1sv9jE, 

Crime statistics for Germany, 2014, ZEIT online, https://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2014-04/studie-vergewaltigung-anzeige-verurteilung

Comments (6)

  1. Kim B 11.10.2018 at 3:32

    Well said. Yes, let’s hope for a new normal. I think now men are starting to realize, at least the decent men, what it is like to be a woman in this world, the constant vigilance we must undertake. Every time I see something about what women should do to protect themselves, I get angry. I’d like a world where men are held accountable for preying on women!

    What your uncle said is truly horrible and I’m sorry it happened. That must have been shocking. No wonder you couldn’t speak up. I certainly wouldn’t have known how to respond to something so disgusting.

    I look forward to reading part two. Speak it, sister!

    • sarah

      sarah 11.10.2018 at 9:08

      Thank you, Kim, for adding your voice and yes: I think people SEE now, they look and listen more, and most men are becoming our allies more openly- and I hope in the future such comments and behaviour will be opposed straight away by someone present. I see it as everyone’s job now to address disrespect and make it harder for the assailants to feel safe. Thank you also for your support here, and I’m writing part 2 as we speak! 🙂

  2. Mary Grand 10.10.2018 at 11:46

    Hi Sarah, thank you so much for this post. I was so upset when you shared about what your uncle said…so shocking and as you say the fact that no one said anything adds to this. Having been brought up in a very mysogonistic religious sect I am sure many of the men thought it even if they never said it. It happened, it still happens, but I do hope that we will create a new normal very soon for us and our daughters. My daughter teaches me a lot, now in her 20’s she challenges me to stop accepting things , and I do hope that the world will be a better place for her , for your daughter, for all daughters.

    • sarah

      sarah 10.10.2018 at 11:55

      Hi Mary, thank you so much, and I’m sorry if my experience upset you 🙁 It’s surely others who experienced worse. You are so strong, thinking where you’re coming from, and I admire your outspokenness and honesty and support always. So very glad to know you and be in touch. Hugs x

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