Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The man will take you.

The man will take you!
When I was a teenager aunt Margaret spent her Sunday afternoons taxiing us to the many beeches in Wexford town.  I think the beech on this occasion was Curracloe. I remember it because my much younger cousin charged away from our little camp and ran over the sand dune where we were sheltering from the ever present wind and raced towards the ocean battling and shooting the imaginary cylons in his path (the really cool 1970's cylons of course with the great laser eye).  My great aunt May  gacked in dismay and teared after him and finally managed to drag  him back, him fighting a heroic battle against the cylon base star all the way.

I remember this because she grabbed him and said "If you ever run away like that again the man will take you".   Who this man was we never knew.    A man was always going to take us according to May if we sneaked away to play somewhere fun away from prying adult eyes.  Well, my aunt Margaret didn't like this.  I can still picture my great aunt leaning down, holding my squirming warrior cousin by this shoulder and wiggling one finger before his face and then my aunt Margaret marching into the foray:  "For God sake don't be telling him things like that!".  She was outraged because she didn't want my cousin scared of strangers just because they were strangers.  A little weary yes, but not frightened.  (In my family a person who is shy is called 'strange'.  'He's turning strange' would mean a child is starting to get shy.  Don't ask.  I don't understand it either).

It's a fine line between having a child afraid of strangers and having a child who knows not to climb into cars with strange people offering sweets.  But there is a line. And I think some feminists, not all, but some have crossed this line between reasonable caution and unreasonable unhealthy paranoia.

Consider for example the The Harassment Monologues, a website created by outraged feminists following the PriceWaterCooper affair  :-

She describes being yelled at by construction workers who went on to launch a sexually explicit verbal attack. "I was very shocked, and I reacted by striking an aggressive stance, locking eye contract and shouted 'You fucking sick monster!'. I then told my mother about the incident , and she couldn't understand why I was so angry. I was angry because I was shocked and felt violated.

Her mothers reaction to this "sexually explicit verbal attack" on her daughter is interesting.  The daughter was left feeling 'shocked' and 'violated' while her mother was baffled over her reaction.

This give us some reason to think there is nothing inherently violent or offensive in the comments made by the construction workers. While women of an earlier generation may have laughed or joked back or simply ignored the workers, some modern women treat such comments as an assault.

In school I was the kid that everyone loved to tease.  I was the bottom of the pecking order.  I had kids trying to impress their girlfriends by screaming insults at me from the other side of the street.  I had kids I didn't even know from other schools insult me when I was walking home.  And I reacted by taking the longer, less popular route home or by only going out during the night when I could hide in the dark.  So I'm not entirely unsympathetic to these feminists.

But it's your reaction to these things that matter and feminist movements are teaching women to take disproportionate offense over, for example, a wolf-whistle :-

I acknowledge that wolf-whistling is in itself a very tiny blip on the landscape of issues which serve to denote a patriarchal and sexist society; it can be ignored and you can let it go. However, it is the way in which the author presents women’s apparent appreciation of wolf-whistling that worries me. It is that old cliché of women say one thing, they mean another. Women say no, but they really mean yes. And that any male attention is and should be valued by women.

I’m aware that the analogy I am making is a little extreme, but surely the little things condoning that sort of attitude allow it to continue. This builds up and leads to disregarding women’s opinions and thus condone much bigger, obvious issues such as rape.

Some feminists are like my however-well-meaning great aunt. They scream at little children to avoid strangers because a man will take them.  They are so far past the line between healthy caution and harmful paranoia that they cannot even see the line any more; the line is smudged under socially constructed constructs created to re-engineer social constructed constructs.

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