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Censorship pt 3. Community

Censorship pt 3: Community

In January of 2014, I sat cold and  friendless in the center of a group of strangers.I believe I was wearing jeans, but could have been tights.  And I had no one to talk to in this city. I had just moved here with a partner who could chill a freezer and I was really, really trying to open up.  When a man came over to start talking to me, telling me about his newfound sobriety, I welcomed it solely because I needed the community. There are two things harder than moving to Kensington in January in the middle of a polar vortex with just a man who maybe hates you, and that was making friends as a sober adult. When only one minute into this conversation, the strange man  put his hand on my leg, I said get your hand off my leg in a neutral  tone. It was firm, direct, to the point.  He turned to the group and said loudly so everyone could hear “she’s freaking out because I touched her. She’s freaking out on me.” Nobody said a word. Not the women sitting next to me watching the entire thing, not the men nearby, no one. Just me reiterating that I calmly said: “get your hand off my leg, I am not a railing.” And he repeated, “she’s freaking ou cuz I put my hand on her leg!” and walked away. And everyone just watching. 

There was no sudden falling or shift of the weight of his body that would require him to lean on me in such a way. He just reached out and placed his hand on my, I believe thin leggings, as if this was some candlelight dinner. As if I had invited him home.  And the chill of this new city settled in: there’s no one here or knows you or cares about you yet.  When we got into the car of a fellow woman who had offered to give me a ride home, I tried to hide my frustration feeling already so lonely. I wasn’t sure if I trusted her after seeing her fall suddenly meek at the house,  but I did say: “I can’t believe he did that.” I was hoping to vent a little. Share my astonishment that no one stood up for me or no man took him aside to say this was inappropriate.  She replied, “He’s been going through a lot. This is his fifth time around and I think he was doing heroin and vicodin.” To which I replied: “so?” To which she shrugged and started driving, repeating that he had been going through a lot. 

When a man is in trouble, we must let it go. We must support him. Allow him to lean on us to gain control again.

Now this piece can diverge here into two separate pieces: the expectation that men are to be coddled, and the silence of comrades. I have chosen to focus on the latter of the two and return to the idea that men must be supported at all costs later because it wasn’t the first brush with silence. Her excuse may have been novel, his suffering has peaked you see, but the silence I experienced was not. And I wish I didn’t have to write this latter piece. This is the harder of them because I wish that my DMS weren’t full of women thanking me for standing up to someone, or for them, or posting something that has placed a bullseye on my chest. I do this with astounding surrounding silence. Publicly, I am alone. There have been times I have called someone out while privately I have gathered evidence with fervor.  Then publicly, the women who came forward say nothing, or even speak nicely to the person out of fear. It’s hard to write this because it denotes a betrayal. But I have been badly betrayed. I too have been wounded by both of them then.

When one woman is silent, another woman dies.

But how could I ever share the amount of frustration I have felt in circles without hurting my comrades? You can’t. You write in hopes they understand this passage is a place for my sadness. How many times I asked for visibility to be met with silence? Because someone feared the way it would make them look if they shared it? Or so many times I spit back at a street harasser while a friend fell silent? So much trauma we hold for each other.It’s trauma that quiets us. It’s trauma that bonds us. We are taught to be afraid of men at a young age. We are also taught to stick together. Those two things meet in high adrenaline events and lucky I exist. I don’t blame them. But I wish sometimes I had a chorus. I wish that we could start to stand up to men without retaliation.So it’s at this intersection I mention that often those who retaliate against abusers end up dead. My amends to calling my friends out is to share some statistics now. There are some domestic violence and rape stats I pulled: i won’t mark them hare, but naturally they are staggering. 

It’s not women’s fault they don’t stand up for me, it’s still men’s.

We stay silent because we face violence at every turn. But when will the turn come, when we see each other as a mob, as one? When will we begin to feel safe? The complexity of this is that the more quiet befalls us, the more men encroach. The more we excuse the behavior passively, the more men think it’s ok. The more we don’t confront the person head on but whisper about it in our circles, the more they feel excused. Boorish, men are also ignorant. They go hand in hand. I have dedicated my career to teaching men about consent. And sometimes I am met with something that goes like: you’re the first person that’s ever told me that. You’re the first person that ever told me not to _______ or to ask about ________. Yet, I have, in my fluttering about heard many people mention a particular dislike for _____ or a wish for ______. So I am floored at times how we are to achieve liberation as we quickly stuff a thought down our throat before it grows, or how men are to understand one-on-one how to interact with our bodies. 

Surely, I expect them to read media by women, deduce, and listen to others. But I mean as a whole, how can we grow if we don’t communicate and stand up for ourselves?Then again, chicken or the egg? How can we stand up for ourselves when men are threatening to kill us at every change of pace? And more to the beginning point of the story, how do we undo the brainwashing that says men deserve a soft bed to lie on when they are feeling bad? If we are so gaslit by our enemy, then he becomes our friend. 

But then again, I am a friend who has been left in the pen against them knowing all we know about men.

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