#MeToo indeed. Stuck with seeing this everywhere. A flower shop in Amman, Jordan? Nothing to do, Ramon would say: this flower shop indeed has nothing to do with the #MeToo movement, or Aziz Ansari, or sexual harassment among the rich and powerful celebrities. But isn’t it funny how stuff pops up? What’s in my mind sometimes manifests outside. Or, I’m thinking about it so much I’ve prepped my mind to see it, wherever it might have been, even if it’s Nothing to Do.
I can’t talk about my #MeToo. Too close to the bone, too like what others have gone through, and too public a forum. But I can share the best reading I’ve seen on the topic: that which 1) captures an essential truth; 2) doesn’t shy away from the hard lessons; 3) faces ambiguity square on and roots out evidence of the system that makes this keep happening.
No, there’s no diabolical overlord – would it just be some guy named Eddy? – who has put this into place. It’s more like a fusion of organic and cultural calcium into the edifice we all live in, and which is festooned with our flesh and our music and our politics and our democratic rigatoni and our blog posts. We don’t stop it or confront it because we don’t see it (see also “the water we swim in”), because we’re not worthy or capable to take on something so big (and yet so intimate), and because we’re actively, purposively, cynically trained to be passive in the face of it. Even if “it” is pain, or if “it” damages our souls.
All the more ironic when “it” is also supposed to be an expression of love. #MeToo
Striking Things I’ve Been Reading About #MeToo
The four links above go to a couple of blogs and a couple of online journals. The blogs (at left: Everywherist and KatyKatiKate, bless you Geraldine DeRuiter and Katie Anthony) grant me the ambiguity to question the things I cannot tell you I believe(d). No blogger or writer or thinker has The Singular Feminist Response to this recently-highly-publicized-but-previously-quite-vibrant viper pit. Pulling in an array of voices is the only way I, personally, am getting through this thing. We’re all trying to reckon, not just with what we think about the various cases, but with our own histories.
There’s a line going around about the Aziz Ansari mess, that says
The woman who says, sarcastically, ‘If what Aziz Ansari did was sexual assault, then we’ve all been sexually assaulted!’ is so close to getting it!
There’s an off switch in the sexual experience for a lot of us. One flick and you’re no longer “there” – you check out. You can throw the switch because it’s painful, because it’s not wanted, because it’s happening too fast, lots of reasons. There’s a standard trope about women turning that switch to “please fuck off” after the second child in a marriage, and never turning it back on. We don’t like sex as much as guys do, right? Guys think about sex 7 billion 457 thousand 889 times per second, right?
But this whole Grace and Aziz Ansari story has let a really deeply planted cat out of a chthonic bag for me. We flip the switch to “go away” or to “do what you have to” because we are still steeped in a social tea that values men’s pleasure, not ours. Our suffering is normal. They tell us that our acquiescence – or not – is the teeter-totter this is all built on (“Whyyyyyyy,” they whine, “didn’t she just leeeeaaavvvveeee?”)
But they’re wrong. There’s a much more insidious binary under there. See, you have on the one hand teenage heterosexual boys learning that their burgeoning sexuality is exciting and fun and natural and something to josh about but generally a really fun conversion to manhood that’s only going to get better when their faces clear up so they can Get More Girls [sic] and scratch that particular itch All the Time! And of course it’s biological so you’re not responsible for it. Nothing that goes wrong with it can be blamed on you, because… testosterone. Or species propagation. Or ‘every guy’s got some woman who makes him crazy.’ Or whatever, there’s always some excuse.
(Never mind that if a WOMAN acts in the least bit unleashed about her biological functions – OMG IT’S A PERIOD! WHAT IF SHE HAS HORMONES??? – we are undermining the fabric of society and must be locked away till it’s over. See also: hiding, shame, and the fun phrase ‘high maintenance’.)
Then there’s us.
My sex ed at home was two questions that were so stiff and awkward you could have picked up noodles with them like they were chopsticks. At school we got the thing about the pads and the little elastic belt thingy, which thank the Goddess did not last much past the advent of 3M adhesives. But over it all, through it all, was shame and hiding, and nothing about an exciting transition to something that my body could do that would give me pleasure the rest of my life. Hell no. We were walking into a minefield. The two questions? “You know you can get pregnant now, right?” and “You know what boys want, right?” and That. Was. That.
(Props to Mom for bringing it up at all – I have it on good authority she got none at all, and still managed to fend for herself, find fulfilling work (and then find it again, repeated as necessary), and raise three feminist kids.)
Despite saying “Yeah,” as quickly and definitively as I could to Mom that day, I had no idea what I was in for. How many years later is it? It’s decades, friends, and at Lili Loofbourow’s piece or the blogs I mentioned above or the chilling Carmen Maria Machado story I am struck with chills; sparks fly in my brain; I want to hyperventilate but there’s not enough air in the room, somehow.
I’m scrabbling a little trying to tie this blog post up in a neat little bow. I don’t know what that would look like but I’m pretty sure I can’t manage it yet.