As usual I’ve been reading my favorite blogs and they’ve struck home with me this week. You see, when I started writing here at The Den it was simply a place where I could go and speak freely and anonymously about the world as I see it.
I never would have believed that the-world-as-I-see-it would inspire so much hatred and fear but it did. I remember when I first started getting comments; I was excited that someone out there was hearing me. But the first thing I noted was that yes, they were hearing me, but they fucking hated what I was saying. I’m not sure why, but I kept writing, often I look back and wonder why I kept going. Hell, I often look around me and wonder why I’m still writing.
*sigh*, my thoughts are becoming muddled and I’ve lost my direction. Let me try this again.
This week we’ve lost yet another blogger, one more voice silenced in a string of courageous women who have gone before her. When I read the news I shook my head sadly and fought the wave of emotion that swept over me. Sadness and despair took me for a moment. In the short time I’ve been doing this I’ve watched as woman after woman has taken a big breath and decided to start blogs. The circle of radical feminist bloggers is too small, so very, very small, but their spirit and their fight is big. They start blogs, one small voice that has decided to speak out, and then it begins. The trolls invade, the ‘pro-sex’ bloggers take notice, hell sometimes even other radicals argue with them. The point is that oftentimes they will just sort of disappear one day.
I’ve watched them come and go, I’ve watched radical voices crumple and disappear and I feel angry and I feel sad and I feel despair and all of these things I feel at the same time. I’ve come close several times to walking away from this project and goddess knows how many times I’ve read yet another article and shook my head in anguish at the unfairness of it all. So when I read that we’ve lost another voice it hits me like a personal H-bomb exploding in all of its dismal glory and it occurs to me as I shake my head sadly while holding back tears of rage that I will have to update my blogroll once more.
When I began doing this I never could have believed just how big this blog would become. I never would have believed just how many words of support I would have gotten but there’s another side to it as well, a side that radical bloggers everywhere experience. There is the sting of hate from both women and men and gods, don’t ever underestimate that sting.
I don’t know, perhaps it’s just me, maybe I’m speaking in generalities when I have no proof of anything but I think it happens to all of us, or most of us, or a large portion of us. We start blogging, wanting a ‘safe’ space where we can speak. I think in the beginning we all hope to have positive comments directed our way. We all hope that people will show up and say, “Hey! That’s exactly it!” I think we are also looking for confirmation that we’re on the right track, that we’re not freaks, that there are others who believe like we do.
Soon though the trolls come, I think that all blogs are found first by the trolls. I’ve sometimes posited that they have Nextel radios that they communicate with and when a new radical blog opens they call in to each other and report it. Regardless, the trolls seem to be able to sniff out a radical site quicker than fleas can sniff out a new puppy.
The trolls come and we realize that we are being condemned and hated. And then the other radicals show up and I think that we feel relief at first. We finally feel as though we’re not alone. Our blogrolls widen and we march on, the trolls don’t sting quite as badly because we have a circle of supporters and we go to each others blogs and we fight the trolls and we feel like we’re not alone.
Somewhere though, something shifts, perhaps it happens one day when we’re looking at yet another story of a woman being beaten and raped and left for dead in a dumpster, maybe it happens when we decide to stop shaving and we are rebuffed harshly in public and in private. Perhaps some ‘pro-sex’ blog finds us and begins to obsess over us, posting every day about what a big piece of shit we are, or maybe we pick up our first cyber stalker, the impetus changes but I think the effect is the same.
Suddenly that blogroll seems too small and abruptly it’s as if we are transported into a satellite view and we see that all around us there is this vile misogyny and hatred. We find that our co-workers, friends and family refer to us as ‘man haters’ we find that we are but one small person standing on a beach and scooping teaspoons of water out of the ocean one at a time. We look at the vastness of the ocean and it occurs to us:
We will die in the same world that we were born into.
All of our fighting and screaming, all of our defending and begging and frustration, all of our anger and sadness will die, impotent and ineffective for we are battling an army, the likes of which we never could have comprehended. We are, for all intents and purposes, trying to empty oceans with teaspoons.
And then we get it, we’re not fighting because we have any hope of any real change in our lifetimes. Hell, we’re not even fighting because we have any hope of change in our grandchildren’s lifetimes; many of us have given up hope at all and are certain that the situation will never really change. So why are we fighting? We’re fighting because what else can we do?
I know for me there was a moment when my bright eyed optimism failed and I saw the truth of what I’m doing in the harsh light of cynical despair. In the beginning I had hoped for real social change, I had hoped that speaking out; writing about it, trying to raise consciousness would beat back the tsunami that women live with.
I had hoped that a few well crafted posts about “What women have to do to ‘prevent’ rape” outlining how we walk to our cars with keys clutched between our fingers or how we forgo hiking and camping alone or how we always wonder whether or not our new boyfriend really would have stopped the other night after he nagged us for three hours to have sex with him.
I naively assumed that all it would take is to just let people know what was happening. I assumed that it was a matter of speaking out, of letting people hear it.
I didn’t understand how very far off base I really was. I didn’t account for, nor understand, the depths to which misogyny had been embedded in the very fabric of our lives. In short, I didn’t realize that I was trying to do the impossible. I looked at that ocean and thought it to be a lake and I looked around me and saw the other voices on my blogroll and assumed that the entire shore was dotted with them. I didn’t realize that there were only a handful of us and that the lake was an ocean and that the twenty or thirty of us were trying to do something that was impossible.
Gods, when that hit me I was devastated. I vividly remember sobbing huge tears in the shower, collapsing on the floor while the hot water ran in rivulets over my skin. I remember crying until there were no more tears to cry and my skin was pruney and wrinkled from the water. I remember looking down at my hands and understanding, fully and completely that this would be a battle that I would fight until I was old, until my hands really did look like the water soaked hands I was looking at now.
I realized that I would be fighting this battle until I died, an old woman with pruney hands, and I would hand my spoon over to the next young, naive woman and let her continue to try and empty an ocean.
There are days when I understand that this battle will not be won in my lifetime, and the sadness that envelopes me is too much to bear.
I will never walk free down the street, unafraid, unconcerned, as a human being walking amid other human beings.
I will never walk to my car without that niggling fear that we feel, without shifting my bags in my hand or wondering if my bag would be heavy enough to act as an effective weapon.
I will never feel confident enough to camp alone in the woods, unafraid and unconcerned.
I will never experience a day when I can fish at 2:00 am and when a man approaches me I can smile at him with no fear or misgivings in my heart and say, “Hi! How are you doing tonight?”
I will never experience a time when I can, without fear, without reservation, bring a man to my house and not have it even cross my mind that he would rape me.
These are only a scant few things that I will never experience. Other women have more of them, different than mine perhaps, but regardless for me there came a time when I understood completely that I will not change the world. That this world doesn’t wish to change and indeed, that it will actively resist any and all attempts I make to the contrary. No amount of anger, begging, sobbing or pleading will change it for me. It’s too entrenched. It will not happen in my lifetime.
When that realization hit me I was in a pool of despair, sobbing upon my shower floor and then sobbing some more until I was so dehydrated that crying anymore was not physically possible. When I got out of the shower Dubhe was worried and concerned and he said to me, “Oh BB, what you are doing is important” and he said it the way that a man, who has never felt the raw heart stabbing pain in their gut when they read of another woman who has been brutalized at the hands of men, says such things.
Despite his intentions his surety came from that place that men can afford to inhabit. After all, it was very easy for him to tell me to go on when he didn’t, and never would, feel the gut wrenching pain of reading that a woman was dragged to death by her abusive boyfriend, leaving a blood trail a mile long and that the residents were primarily concerned with the removal of the bloodstain.
He would never feel the raw fear, the edge that is felt when we find ourselves face to face with a stranger in the park. He would never feel the rumbling in the guts when your boyfriend gets mad in front of you for the first time and you become painfully aware of each and every single woman you’ve known who has been beaten, raped, groped, assaulted, slapped, hit, abused, fondled, ogled, catcalled, bullied and scared by men.
Of course he could easily tell me to keep going. Of course he could tell me to keep writing. Of course he could have hope when he didn’t feel each and every violation upon his own body. When he wasn’t forced to relive his own attacks each and every single time he wrote. Of course he could be courageous when it wasn’t his people who were being systematically enslaved, degraded, dehumanized, bred to death, outcast, mutilated and murdered.
But I couldn’t be so optimistic. When the death threats start coming and the rape threats start coming and yet another man writes you an email telling you that, “If I ever find out who you are I’ll fucking rape you to death you stupid cunt”,
When even other women wage a war on you, talking about you, screaming about how awful and stupid you are,
When perfect strangers feel entitled to create images of you being raped by animals,
When men feel entitled to stalk you and harass you for the crime of speaking,
When your mother tells you that you’re a ‘man hater’ while simultaneously believing and approving of everything you write,
When men use your story of abuse, rape and degradation as pornography and then write to you telling you that they orgasmed when you described your rape at the hands of men,
When friends, family and coworkers turn from you,
When your children tell you you’re ‘gross’ because you stopped shaving your armpits,
When people set up blogs designed for the sole purpose of telling everyone what an evil person you are,
When you see the influx of trolls coming and telling you that you’re stupid and worthless and crazy,
When you see the search terms that men are using, “Raped sluts”, “Beaten and raped whores”, “Bleeding ass fuck”,
You start to feel not so optimistic.
So, when I find out that we’ve lost another voice I sob silent tears that nobody will ever see but me. But what can I do? I feel torn. I sure as hell can’t tell them to stand back up and fight for a war that we will never win, or at least, one that we will never win in our own lifetimes. I’ve seen too much shit to believe that anymore. What do I do? When we’re fighting a battle we will never win? When society views us with generalized scorn and hatred? When our emotions, feelings, experiences are wiped away with a dismissive wave accompanied by the old refrain, “Well you’ve been abused but you have no right to be wary of all men”, or better yet, “You should let go of your anger, I know plenty of women who have been abused and they’re not angry”. When all of it can be dismissed with a wave of the hand and a pat on the head from some asshole man or some sex-pos woman then we realize that we’re fighting for the sake of fighting.
I cannot look any woman in the eye who has chosen to lay down and stop fighting and tell her to stand back up again. I cannot condemn them for they have reached that moment when they realize that they will be fighting their entire lives, sobbing all the time, begging men to stop, explaining themselves over and over again and they will never understand why they are so hated and maligned, until they die without the freedom of ever having lived without fear.
And when they express this notion they are greeted with such things as, “Well, men have to be afraid too!” or, “You know, you risk your life driving to the store in your car” and so on and so forth until they’ve explained it a dozens of times and they’ve heard analogies comparing rape to getting the flu or being in a car accident.
These are women who have come to understand that our own lifetimes are but drops in the bucket for we are fighting against ideologies that are thousands of years strong. Thousands of years of embedded ownership, oppression and humiliation, an entire society built upon the degradation of females in any and every way possible.
The news that schoolgirls were systematically separated from boys and murdered is not a point of interest. Men, on this very blog, continue to deny that women are even raped. In the face of statistics, studies and so forth they wave it away with a shake of their entitled hands and in so doing they ensure that their undeserved privilege will remain intact.
Some of us, myself included, moderate comments on our blogs to keep out the most vile and hateful filth that would be inflicted upon the women who post with us. But make no mistake, we still see those comments, and we still see the trackbacks and we still see the filth that is spoken of us. And after awhile we grow tired, as so many bloggers before me have done and they decide to lie down and be done with the whole nasty business.
Sometimes they just stop posting, I those ones on my blogroll as long as I can, always hoping and praying that they will come back, but unable to bring myself to beg them to stand with me once more. I will not beg them to subject themselves to the same vile hatred that so many of us experience.
How can I, a woman who feels the despair daily, a woman who has heard the same stuff that is directed at them, a woman who is certain that the screaming and begging and yelling will never bring about real change in my lifetime, ask another woman to stand in the face of it? How can I ask another woman to willing take the abuse that will invariably be meted out to her when I know, only too well, how awful that abuse is?
Just today I received yet another threat against my person in my inbox, another man who hates me and feels that he is entitled to write to me and threaten me with bodily harm. I am reminded sometimes of that scene from The Return of the King, when the forces of Gondor are amassed at the black gates and they’re calling Sauron out. At one point the camera pans up and we see Gondor’s forces standing in the middle of a huge wave of opposing forces. We know, as do the characters, that they have no way of winning, there is no hope.
How can I tell a woman to go into that battle knowing that there is no hope of victory?
In real life there is never a ring of power which will balance the scales. There is never a small hero who emerges to overcome the awesome forces of the opposite side. Indeed, in real life there is a certain failure that radical bloggers learn to deal with, there is knowledge that the oppression and degradation of women will not be overcome in our lifetimes.
So yes, I am deeply troubled when we lose another important voice, it cuts through all of the false bravado, all of the courageous words, and it reminds me that there are real, live women out there who are speaking this truth and dealing with a very real, systematic hatred and wave of violence for nothing more than speaking their minds. Do not be fooled by our tough words and our almost mocking tones, I think it’s safe to say that all of us are affected by the violence. We deal with it differently, but that doesn’t mean that the affect is any less real.
There are times when I am enveloped with a hopelessness so vast and so large that I hope for an apocalypse and no, that’s not an exaggeration. I have often heard bloggers stating that they must take time off, they must have a hiatus from all of it. Gods, I understand that feeling all too well, there are days when you read another story and everything just sort of leaks out of you. Days come when you don’t think you can bear to live another day in this world, when you wonder and daydream of a world where women are safe, where children aren’t prey and where men aren’t monsters.
On those days, when you read another article or see another story or look at another study or statistic you feel your heart sink and you realize that you are completely, 100% stuck. And no matter how loudly you scream, no matter how angry you get, that tomorrow another woman will have experienced the life altering event of rape and that your voice will do little to stop that ocean from consuming yet another of your sisters and it feels as if you simply cannot go on.
You feel as if your voice, your anger, your experiences, thoughts and emotions are impotent and useless. There is no escape from this world save death, no escape from the worry and the fear that men will never experience. There is no way out, no magic portal that we can escape through; we are well and truly stuck.
In those moments everything seems to close around me and my breath sticks in my chest and I need to hide. I need to walk away, to lay down for awhile and hand my spoon to my sister who will not condemn me for my exhaustion. And I shut down the computer and I don’t look at my email and I stop looking at comments and I just hide and pretend that today no woman will be raped. And I spend a day imagining a day in which a woman isn’t killed for the crime of being raped, and I imagine a day in which no woman has to submit to having a man scream “Nice ASS!” to her as she is walking down the street and I imagine that perhaps today is the day where no woman is beaten by her husband.
And then I think to myself, “BB, maybe today is the day that you should pack up your stuff and just go camping for the weekend?” and then I remember that I’m a woman, and to go camping alone and unprotected by a male is fraught with fear and difficulty.
And then I realize that saying such a thing aloud will most likely bring more condemnation my way and I realize that as I’m pondering these things a woman is being beaten so I go to my garden and I understand that as I’m pulling a weed out that a woman is being raped somewhere just because she is female. And so I come into the house and I turn on the radio and I understand that somewhere a woman is being enslaved for the purposes of being used sexually by men and that people would support this practice instead of condemn it. So I decide to turn on the TV and I watch as another pretty white woman is paraded across my television screen as another victim of rape, but of course I understand that I will never see the face of a black woman or a fat woman because they still don’t count as human beings.
And so it goes until I can take no more of it and my anger grows larger than my exhaustion and I pick up the laptop and find myself writing once more.
I’m sorry that this post seems so full of despair and so full of sadness and defeatism. I’m sorry that this isn’t a happy, jolly, optimistic post that promises everyone that if we only keep fighting we can make it stop. I apologize that I have succumbed to my own anger and sadness and despair and spread it onto my blog, the one place I have always tried to show a strong front, but right now I don’t feel very strong. Right now I feel anger but it is a useless anger for the 2000 people who will read this today are but a small drop of water in an endless sea, even with 20,000 or 200,000 thousand or 2 million or even 2 billion we are ineffective because right now, as I am typing this, there are 6,662,822,662 billion people on this earth, and now, …663, 754, 766, and so on. Every second I type the population soars and it continues to do so, it continues to rise; now there are 6,662,822,870, in the scant 30 seconds it took me to type this it has jumped again.
Even if 2 BILLION people agreed with me and fought with me and were busy spooning out this ocean out with their teaspoons we would still be woefully unequipped.
It is in these moments that I feel the most despair, when I think of the bloggers we have lost. When I look at my blogroll and see that there are those who haven’t updated in months and I think, My gods, this will never change.
But for some reason I am compelled to stand once more, as I hear the voices of my sisters screaming and begging and I know their fears and I feel their sobs and I am wrenched from my daydreams of equality and peace and a world in which we’re allowed to live in peace, unfettered and unafraid of the violence of men. I am pulled back to my feet and I continue to write and to speak and to delete the hate mail, rape threats and insulting comments from my screen even as I understand that I cannot delete them from my mind.
This is why bloggers quit. This is why brilliant voices are silenced. This is what happens when we stand back and look at the bigger picture and despair enters our hearts and we look to our sisters with tears in our eyes and say, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I can’t do it. I just can’t do it anymore” and other women will hug those of us who simply can’t continue and we’ll embrace them either physically or spiritually in our writings and we’ll say, “It’s ok my friend. I understand and I’ll take your spoon for you”. And we do this with tears in our eyes and we wonder if perhaps we would be better off if we left with them, if we laid down on the beach and just let the ocean take us as well.
And some of us are able to see the ocean and we feel it lapping at our feet and we decide that even though we cannot empty it, even though we will never know a day when we will see results from what we’re doing, that we can’t stop. We try, gods, there have been days that I have begged to be released from this knowing. This awful, terrifying, horrible knowing. There have been days that I wished, with everything inside of me, that I could reverse that knowing. That I could go back to when I didn’t see it, back to when the ocean was invisible to me, just as the women standing on the beach were invisible.
But I can’t. And I keep trying to lay down but as soon as the waves lap at my feet I realize that I can’t just let it take me. And so I listen to the words of my brave sisters and I look up at them from the sand and I take their words and use them to lift myself back up because damnit, I don’t want to be swallowed whole.
To my sisters, to all the women who write, and speak and talk and fight. To all of you holding your spoons right now and looking at the vastness of what we’re doing. To those of you who have watched others lay down and feel frustration and sadness and who are fighting back tears.
I feel your pain.
Your words are treasured jewels to me. They are the hope that I can cling to and the fire under my ass and damnit, sometimes I hate you for speaking out. Sometimes I hate you for continuing to show me this ocean when all I want to do is lay back and let the waves wash over me. But somehow you always manage to inspire those few remaining words I have and your words and bravery and dedication manage to pull me to my feet once more even though I feel so tired and I’m still so very young.
You are all beautiful. You are all intense and amazing and brilliant. And Heart, while I read your words and see the stories about more women being devoured by the ocean and I grow angry at you for reminding me of it and pulling me to my feet once more, I love you for the inspiration that you give to me.
All of you are wonderful. All of you are incredible. Stormy, Sparkle, Spotted Elephant, Breatheinspirt, Lost Clown, OAG, Sam, all of you and so many more that I can’t name you all, thank you for making me mad. Thank you for enraging me in those moments when all I want to do is run into the ocean and let it consume me. Your words, your stories, your articles are inspiration to me.
There may come a day when I throw it in completely, when I am consumed by misery and sadness and despair and I lay down and I don’t stand back up, sometimes I hope that the day will come soon. Looking at the threads of my life that are spreading before me and knowing that as long as I am in this world, as long as I am alive and breathing and typing that I will be facing the raw hatred and condemnation that I have received thus far makes me terrified for what the remainder of my life holds.
When I feel the pain of another woman cutting deeply into my own soul I look out towards the future and know that there will be so many more moments like this one. So many more times when my heart feels as if it shall bleed all over my keyboard and I think to myself, “I’m sorry my darling sister. I’m so sorry that I couldn’t stop it for you.” And fuck, I’m not looking forward to a lifetime of those moments, yet, there is no other choice for me right now.
No, this post is far from happy. It’s far from optimistic, it’s far from anything even remotely resembling hope. This is a post of desolation and despondency, of fear and anger and the overarching feeling of being entirely helpless yet, perhaps it is also a peek into what others feel on those days that they post one line,
“I need a break.”
Before disappearing for weeks.
P.S.- I wanted to add that I am NOT going to stop writing. This is not a ‘goodbye’ letter but rather a letter of frustration. I’m not ready to lie down just yet 🙂
Also, some of you will have noticed that I opened comments on this post for the express purpose of showing everyone what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ on some blogs. These are the comments that we keep off the blog for obvious reasons. I think they’ll go a very long way towards proving my point once again.