Sunday 14 October 2007

Thoughts after an assault.

This post was going to be an update to the last; I still have a lot of exciting porn links to give you all, and those are on their way. However, on Friday night, I was sexually assaulted on the Camden road.

It was four thirty in the morning, and I was coming home from a rave. I was not alone. I was tired, burnt-out from a great night, glassy-eyed and in desperate need of a cup of tea. I was wearing a short, fluffy pink dress which would have fallen squarely into the police-statement ‘asking for it’ category had it not be accessorised by a huge, black man’s army jacket and equally huge, spiky bovver boots. Two minutes’ walk from my front door, a tall,scrawny chap wearing denims and a drunken grin stumbled into the sodium-orange light on the road ahead of us.

After a few minutes’ friendly, if annoyingly exuberant banter, which prevented us from walking on, he suddenly grabbed me hard, and started humping me enthusiastically, shouting that I was ‘his friend, his friend, his best friend.’ I was pressed against his chest and, despite how much I struggled and slapped him, could not break free. My horrified boyfriend, who, although noticeably disabled (he takes his crutch with him on nights out) is really quite built, couldn’t pull him off either. After a few minutes he appeared to lose interest, we kicked him away and walked on hurriedly; he tailed us back along the street and started doing it again. Eventually, we shook the fucker and made it home.

Now, a lot of white, middle-class people these days are of the opinion that feminism, at least in the UK, has run its course. That we’ve achieved everything we need to and should now be quiet and do our homework and take our desk jobs and have babies in our mid-twenties like good little girls. A lot of these same people think that, instead of focussing on problems at home, ‘we’ - which entails, in practice, anyone but us - should be addressing worldwide injustice against women: the epidemic of violent rape in the Congo, the adultery and divorce laws of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, honour killings.

There is, unquestionably, a great deal more work to be done in violent regimes where it is women, children and homosexuals who immediately come off worst (350 gay Iraqis were lynched, tortured or burned to death last year. A huge proportion the asylum seekers who come to Britain from the Carribean are fleeing because their sexuality puts them at risk of assault, torture, rape and murder.). However, there is no question of ‘instead.’ Just because women’s physical safety is more assured in most areas and social divisions of the West than in many other countries does not mean that there isn’t still a great deal of work to do in making the world a better and safer place for women. Neither does it imply that the work we have left to do cannot be instigated on a truly global scale.

In the UK, we have developed a reasonably workable system where women - most notably middle-class women - can function with more equality in a man’s world, so long as they don’t shout about it too much. I for one am not satisfied with this. I want exponentially better childcare rights and provision; I want motherhood and ‘women’s work’ respected as they are in other countries (often, sadly, the same countries in which women suffer higher levels of rape and abuse). I want a higher rape conviction rate; higher than, say, 5%. I want full and immediate access to all elements of reproduction control that are technologically possible, rather than grudging, judging, unpredictable access whose security is constantly being eroded under our noses. I want to live in a culture where women’s bodies - a category into which the body I inhabit falls - are not reduced to objects of national, self-digusted fetishisation. I want people like the drunken bastard who humped me so violently and mindlessly in the street on Friday night to be stripped of the entitlement complex that led him to do so.

There is still a LOT of work to do.

What we are fighting is male-pattern dominance and male-pattern violence. Elements of these underly a leviathan proportion of the human injustice, cruelty and violence in the world. I do not mean to imply only ‘violence against women’, but violence against male and female victims, including strains of anti-woman violence. I do not mean ‘violence as perpetrated by men’: women can sometimes be abusers too, although it is true that most male-pattern violence is male-instigated. Neither do I mean to imply that all men are, at root, violent beasts: I have the misfortune to be a straight girl and to have more male than female close friends, and most of the finest men I know abhor both violence and the pathologies that cause some men to enact violence and abuse.

What I mean, quite simply, is the violence that has infested Western and other societies with the impulse to dominate, to conquer, to control - to hurt. Were I to list all the different manifestations in which this male-pattern violence appears across the world, I’d be here until all of us got bored, and besides, I’ve homework to do. Besides, I’m sure you can think of examples in your own life, in your friends’ and families’ lives, where male violence has obstructed, blighted the lives of or simply scared the bejeezus out of its victims.

Both my boyfriend, who I shall call A., and my best friend (also male) have arrived at their non-violent philosophies as a result of suffering horribly under the clammy hands of male violence. In a similar way, the attack on Friday night was as much an attack on A. as it was on me: our assailant made several drunken comments about what a ‘big man’ my boy was (he’s a jitsu champion, and certainly much more muscled than the attacker); when he saw that A was crippled and did not pose as much of a physical threat, he started sexually assaulting his girlfriend: amongst other things, a simple, primitively violent territory stake: a statementof dominance. That, as much as the attack itself, made me sick to the stomach.

Feminism is a multivalent movement of deep significance that is intrinsically linked to even broader global struggles against cruelty and injustice. Whilst women, children and homosexuals are unfree and abused, all members of society are lessened. The eradication of male-pattern violence and entitlement pathologies and the slow introduction of more traditionally ‘feminine’ principles - tolerance, kindness, listening, sharing, allowing others space, making our voices heard and respected without aggression - into our social philosophies will not just benefit women, but every human being. There is a great deal of work to do, at home and abroad. Take my hand; let’s get started.

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