My brother and I have an ongoing email dialogue that runs the gamut, from popular culture to geographical anomalies to educational reform. We both find ourselves at odds with other people a lot, so it's a nice reprieve. Kind of a conversational safe house.
Sample discussion: what's the most offensive word in the English language? Aaron used to say "bitch," although plenty of other hateful terms come to mind without thinking too hard. What makes it so horrible though, is that it's so often culled for the purpose of debasing a woman for expressing anger about something. Like every slur, its job is to discredit. But it's specifically aimed at women who fight back. Compliant women are never called a bitch.
I’ve always said I feel “date rape” is the most offensive term, because it implies that it’s not exactly rape if you knew him. Historically, the victims of rape have been further punished in courts with broken fingers and by being forced to marry their rapists, among other things. Even now a lot of such violent crimes linger to shame their victims forever afterward, in a variety of ways, not the least of which is via whatever public pronouncements are inappropriately made about the victim’s personal life not pertaining to the crime itself. And of course there are many ways to perpetrate insidious psychological abuse, which resembles this aftermath without leaving any of that messy physical evidence in the first place. But in a rape situation, no matter how or whether you knew the guy or what you were wearing or what your sexual habits are (invasive details that erroneously seem relevant to juries), the psychological violence is the true crime.
Why I bring this up: recently my neighbors Ian and Ashley went to an Andrew Vachss reading at Skylight Books and I tagged along. It was my introduction to Andrew Vachss, and an odd one, since he didn’t actually read any of his work but instead discussed current events with the audience. I left thinking this: an eccentric genius! I wonder what his writing’s like? And after going home and reading his lengthy and inspiring bio from start to finish, I think he’s my new hero.
His wife, Alice Vachss, is also a person of undeniably heroic proportions. I love this woman because she wrote an article for the New York Times entitled “All Rape is Real Rape” in which she declares people who downplay acquaintance rape "collaborators." It’s a great article, and it examines the damage done by creating the distinction of date (or acquaintance) rape. But she says something that distresses me:
“Those who cling most tenaciously to the myth of "real" rape dismiss the overwhelming statistics to the contrary as the ravings of lunatic feminists.”
... we’re doing great so far, here – an excellent point, since lots of feminist issues are dismissed thusly ...
Oh, but there she goes, continuing:
“It may well be that feminists have their own agenda, but rape is not a feminist issue—it is a women's issue, and a human one.” In other words, before you go and interpret that statement to mean she identifies with feminists (or, god forbid, is one) let her be clear that, generally speaking, she doesn't take them seriously either.
Like I said, lots of feminist issues are dismissed thusly, as if there was a roving clan of hysterical feminists, and as if every group of people must openly atone for the possibility that a few of them who aren’t to be taken seriously taint the whole group. Can you imagine? You go to the LAPD website and it says “serving the greater Los Angeles community, but please don’t think the cops who beat black people have anything to do with us – we’re loathe to even call ourselves cops. Law enforcement is a police issue, not a cop issue.” But this is what most people who use the word feminist, in conversation or in print, do. They say the equivalent of this: “I’m a woman. I care about things that affect women. But I’m not one of those crazy women.” This sort of apologetic behavior indicates that the speaker / writer has precisely the anti-female bias she’s allegedly trying to eradicate, just in a way so sublimated, she can’t articulate it properly. But it’s very common. Feminism is a dirty word.
So I hereby modify my opinion to this: the worst term in the English language is "feminist." It is simply something you cannot call yourself, without inviting most other people's castigation. The unfortunate truth is that so many people believe feminism to be inclusive of a hysterical, anti-male extreme (which I believe to be a thing of myth, but if it isn't, it no more relates to being feminist than male hatred of women, which is very real and much more acceptable, does) that it's disempowering to identify as a feminist. If you want people to hear you out on a feminist issue, you must first disavow feminists. This is conceptually sick, but I believe it to be the truth.
alright, well ... apartment pictures next time. no apologies for this post.
If you need it to end on a better note, read the Andrew Vachss bio.