ruffled feathers

there are lots of things i’ve learned in AA. some i’ve always known, but have had to been reminded of. some i’ve needed to hear in new ways. some i don’t know that i’ve ever really heard or learned. maybe i have, but just never understood them or couldn’t or wouldn’t or something. maybe my defense mechanism of denial was too strong at the time.

some of the things that i’ve come to learn over time and which have actually been proven true as a result of living and having real-life experiences are … that when i’m angry, i’m really afraid. sometimes i can’t suss that out for a really long time, but eventually, it’s there. there’s some underlying fear that is the root of my anger. that’s why inventories are so key in AA. getting to the root — the causes and conditions — of what really disturbs me. why i feel, and thusly, why i act the way i act.

the other one is that when something disturbs me, there is something at unrest/unease with me. i’ve seen that at work time and time again, in the smallest of situations. sometimes, a long grocery line barely fazes me. sometimes, waiting behind one person somewhere makes me want to punch them AND myself. it’s all how my spiritual balance is hanging that day.

a poem for men who don’t understand what we mean when we say they have it
by D. A. Clarke

the men here go on: “How can you not read this as a feminist’s rant? It clearly is a an attack on all men. It doesn’t say “some” men It says “you” meaning the big bad male population.”

first of all, i’m so sick and tired of people throwing around the word feminist as if it’s a swear word. i’m a feminist, gents. i’m proud of it. it’s nothing to be ashamed of. people have made that word out to be something so reviled that even though most women are into feminism’s general tenets and principles, they shun the idea that they might be a (whisper) feminist. god forbid.

second of all, if you perceive these things to be an attack, that’s on you. this is a reality for many women, even though another commenter believes that she had to have been hurt badly in the past or “she is incredibly full of overly dramatic shit. or both. … either way i don’t happen to believe any of this applies to me as a man, nor to many women i know.”

i’m here to say that that’s why this woman wrote this poem. men *rarely* believe they have privilege, because they don’t know what it means and they don’t know what it means to not have it. as far as it not applying to many women you know, i’d hazard a guess that most women you know don’t even think anymore about the things d.a. clarke talks about. they’ve become second nature to us. we’ve all just accepted that this is how things are. most of us don’t even realize that it could be any different.

i rarely actually address commenters in such an open way unless asked to, but this is very important to me. it still rocks me that people i know and love and trust still can’t see the forest for the trees when it comes to how women are perceived and how we go about our daily lives in comparison to how you do. i guess it’s hard. i don’t think about being white except for on a rare occasion. i just do my thing. but if someone points that fact out to me, it doesn’t piss me off. i AM white!

so, i’d like to show you my take on this poem, and why this isn’t so farfetched 17 years later …

***i didn’t get to finish this post before i left the house tonight. now i see that this woman has been called a “raving lunatic” as well. wow. this is really fascinating to me, since this is coming from people i normally see pretty eye-to-eye with AND see as pretty levelheaded. also, where everyone is getting that this poem is saying that “all sex is rape and all men are evil” is COMPLETELY baffling to me. i’m SO sorry that it hurts men to hear that it’s really shitty to be catcalled or worry about being raped walking home or wondering if that look or touch by a male doctor or male massage therapist was .. was it? it was just our minds .. was it? was it?

but this shit is real. it exists. then. now. probably tomorrow unless people teach their male children otherwise. and yes, it sometimes pushes the point some, but it’s a poem … that’s why it’s called ‘poetic license.’ and of COURSE she’s pissed. you would be too, if you really thought about it. if you thought about how your daughter is going to have to live or how your wives already do. or if your world got changed so that you had to think about your dicks every day … not if they were hard or if you were going to get laid or what might happen to them if you were playing your cards right. but what danger might befall them if you wore the wrong clothes or said the wrong things or just existed, by yourself and someone else was in the wrong state of mind. if you were constantly sort of somewhere subconsciously making note of who was around and what you had to do to ‘get away’ or ‘be safe’ or ‘protect yourself,’-just-in-case- maybe you’d get pissed off, too.

now … to what i had to say about the poem BEFORE i left the house ….

privilege is simple:
going for a pleasant stroll after dark,
not checking the back of your car as you get in,

~~i don’t know about you guys. but i always wonder if someone is walking too close to me at night, i walk with my keys in my hand, i always pay attention to people … i’m sorry .. men who are acting weird toward me. i walk down the middle of the street so a man can’t jump out from underneath or behind a car. white cargo vans creep me out. i remember all the tips i’ve heard about being abducted or raped or mugged from every talk show i’ve ever heard. and i do this in my really nice, super safe neighborhood.

sleeping soundly,
speaking without interruption,

~~~there have been times when i’ve been in situations and guys just decide they’re going to talk over me and tell a story or take over business or do something because apparently there’s no way that i could …

and not remembering
dreams of rape, that follow you all day, that woke you crying,

is not seeing your stripped, humiliated body
plastered in celebration across every magazine rack,

~~~aside from fitness magazines, when’s the last time you saw three major magazines with guys with their shirts off?

is going to the movies and not seeing yourself
terrorized, defamed, battered, butchered

seeing something else

~~~~uggggh. i can’t watch rape scenes in movies. horror movies?? women being stalked?? think about it. think about how many movies center around women being victims of violence, rape, abuse, etc. and now with those torture movies … very rarely is this the case of men. men are the heroes, the saviors, the guys with guns, blowing shit up, driving the cars. women are usually the opposite, or worse.

privilege is
riding your bicycle across town without being screamed at or
run off the road,

~~~again. please. tell me the last time you were catcalled or burned rubber at or leered at or groped with your eyes. it’s gross. and afterward, it feels creepy. we might laugh it off or act annoyed, but there’s something scary about people in cars — strangers who think they can comment on your body or worse yet, call you a bitch.

not needing an abortion,

~~~~tell me the last time you were terrifed that you were pregnant and weren’t going to know what to do. and it’s scary, because you know you didn’t do it alone.

taking off your shirt
on a hot day, in a crowd,

~~~it’s making sure that on a summer day i’ll be comfortable but not slutty, making sure that something’s not see through, that i don’t give the wrong impression, that i’m not being too risque, that the guys won’t think i’m a whore and that the girls won’t think i am too.

not wishing you could type better just in case, not shaving your legs, having a decent job and expecting to keep it, not feeling the boss’s hand up your crotch,

~~or feeling guilty when you don’t shave them or don’t look as feminine as some girls do. or being caught between feeling uncomfortable with certain talk and jokes and crap that passes for banter at the office, but not wanting to look like a prude or a troublemaker or someone who “can’t take a joke.”

dozing off on late-night busses, privilege
is being the hero in the TV show not the dumb broad,
living where your genitals are totemized not denied,
knowing your doctor won’t rape you

~~~~i know you’ve never had your legs up in stirrups …

privilege is being
smiled at all day by nice helpful women, it is
the way you pass judgment on their appearance with magisterial authority,

~~~here’s the deal. i’m this sort of girl who always hangs with guys. i’ve always been ‘one of the boys.’ and because of this, i’ve always been sort of ignored and let in on all the dirty little secrets. they talk in front of me. they trust me. and for the most part, they have reason to. i don’t tell. but, the way they talk about women’s bodies around me and what they want to do to them and joke this and joke that. it’s a wonder any of them have ever had sex. and before i hear about how women talk about men .. i’ve also been privy to many women’s convos, too. and women who aren’t afraid to talk about sex. but while we might talk about a specific relationship or something we did in bed, if we are having an issue or a problem, the general crass nature with which men dole out judgment on random women doesn’t occur with the same frequency or intensity in women. very rarely am i with women who objectify men and reduce them to a ‘nice ass’ or a ‘nice rack.’ i’m sure you have plenty of exceptions.

the way you face a judge of your own sex in court and
are over-represented in Congress and are not strip searched for a traffic ticket
or used as a dart board by your friendly mechanic,

~~~~it’s funny how there are still some jobs i still expect to be held by men, by mere virtue of societal training. i hope that disappears completely someday.

is seeing your bearded face reflected through the history texts
not only of your high school days but all your life, not being
relegated to a paragraph
every other chapter, the way you occupy
entire volumes of poetry and more than your share of the couch unchallenged,

~~~~i don’t know where i was, but there was this thing i heard where we were asked to name something like 5 famous women writers of the last century or something. maybe 10. and it was terrible. we got stumped so fast. and these were intellectual women who were into women’s studies and stuff. it was embarrassing. but it highlighted just how little we were taught about women in school.

it is your mouthing smug, atrocious insults at women
who blink and change the subject — politely –
is how seldom the rapist’s name appears in the papers
and the way you smirk over your PLAYBOY

~~~~and here’s where i get it. you don’t all sit and mouth smug, atrocious insults at women. but if you don’t, then why does this apply to you? why does it make you mad? why does it make you dismiss this woman with a smug, atrocious insult like calling her a ‘raving lunatic?’ i’ve been in way too many places in way too many conversations with way too many guys who are in positions of power over women who say way incredibly ridiculously outrageously insensitive, crazy, stupid, shit and we just have to eat it lest we lose our jobs, make a scene, get in trouble or some combination of the above. it happens. and if that’s not you, no sweat. right? right.

it’s simple really, privilege
means someone else’s pain, your wealth
is my terror, your uniform
is a woman raped to death here, or in Cambodia or wherever
wherever your obscene privilege
writes your name in my blood, it’s that simple,
you’ve always had it, that’s why it doesn’t
seem to make you sick to your stomach,
you have it, we pay for it, now
do you understand

~~~~and let’s hope this is all of this taken to a way bigger scale than we can imagine. but it’s happening. there are sex slaves (even in america!) and women are raped and left for dead and treated as property or less than human. it happens. i’m sorry if that .. well, i’m not sorry if that hurts your feelings. this poem has stated a lot of facts. they’re not pretty and they’re not fun. and she’s mad about them, that’s true. but what i saw happen is that people who read this wanted to make the stating of these truths be *her* fault somehow. that she now was the cause of some problem, that she was the root of the issue here. which to me continues to prove her point. i hear “what she’s saying can’t be true, she’s full of shit, she’s insane. it’s all a bunch of shit and you can’t make me hear this.” true enough. i can’t make anyone hear anything. but i won’t take my experiences and dull them down to make someone feel better.

again, it’s a poem. it’s written with certain words and phrases for impact. it’s meant to stir emotion and make us feel something. apparently she did her job, because the men here got very uncomfortable VERY fast. it just makes me sad that it still gets such a backlash. i feel like not much has changed in a lot of ways.

so, take this all for what you will. one of the things i’ve loved about this space so far is everyone’s right to agree to disagree and the relative harmony in which we’ve done so. but i couldn’t sit back and pretend that i don’t have some feelings about this. this is really important to me. it’s who i am.


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