Monday, November 23, 2015

Why Was I So Angry? (Reflections on Springfield MO, Burnett and GO:61)

As the year begins to wind down, I'm looking back at what all has happened and drafting my end of the year post. A whole lot of crazy stuff has happened, for sure. A lot of people think I'm this raging activist and I swear I'm not. This year, however, I was angrier than I have ever been. Ever, in my whole life. And I'm still angry, it just burns deeper and makes coals that fuel what I do. Today, while time stood still in the waiting room from hell, I identified a core problem that has manifested itself in a thousand smaller problems. And one question I have never really answered was the one everyone asked: why are you so angry?

It wasn't ever about nipples. And for me personally, it was about so many things I had to really dig deep to puzzle it through. Today I had hours to kill today in a waiting room, so I finally had that kind of time. I mean, it wasn't blind rage, I had good reasons to be angry. But I had not taken my time to really work through the whole "tweets of fury" thing and analyze it to understand it thoroughly. This is only from the angle of why was I so angry. There will be "why were you so skeptical" and "why did you punch so hard" posts to come later that will tell it from those perspectives. Because this was only a tiny part of my problems with what went down in our local government and charities putting out unverified information. This is just about why I was so angry that it came off me in waves.

Ultimately, my rage comes back to this: I am furious because people want me to be afraid. On a small scale, I've been threatened this year alone with being raped into making sense, beaten into making sense, and being held against my will while someone coerced me into agreeing with them. On a bigger scale, the world wants me to be powerful but "ladylike" (a word whose definition changes from person to person so I'm encouraged to play it safe and not risk offending anyone), strong but not so strong I make anyone uncomfortable, and intelligent but not show up the wrong people by speaking my mind if I know better. I was supposed to sit in the back row, be quiet and courteous and if I played just right, maybe someone would listen to me if I followed all the subliminal cues and asked nicely.

Ain't nobody got time for that. And I found out the day my city voted against me as a full citizen and learned that Burnett was going to use this new tool to squash a legal protest, that I just gave my last fuck about what someone might think of me. I was going to say what I thought, and own the consequences. There came a point when I committed and decided I would rather go down fighting than stand by and do nothing. We were suddenly lesser people by our own city's law, and that could not go unchallenged. Women pay the same amount of taxes, but now we have to make sure we don't cause "affront or alarm" or we risked having our morals judged and sentenced on a whim. The fact that our rights were even being voted on was sickening to thousands of women who watched and hoped and were eventually let down. They literally created a fashion police to keep women obedient.

This understanding of trying to scare women into obedient submission is the root of a problem that has held us back for... well, since forever, since that conditioning starts in childhood. Then my city passed a law that said making people uncomfortable with my choices in dress was illegal. IF they decided to enforce it. The "if" was supposed to make "the right ones" feel better while "the bad women" had a lingering threat to keep them in line. Then Burnett recommended a half-baked charity that among its many claims stated that women could be ordered up like pizzas. Helpless women, stupid and needing rescued, those defenseless little things. Except they never produced a single woman who vouched for their service or the quality of help received. Still, women's credibility as capable beings took a ding while nearly everyone swallowed this load of bull without question. Though GO:61 has shown themselves to be cowards who consider questions like "how much money has been donated this year?" and "how much of that goes out in direct aid?" too aggressive. Well, no. I disagree. If someone is going to assert that 600 women are for sale like pizzas and that is double from the month before, that person had better be ready to show their math. They refused.

I had a good friend tell me when she spoke to her husband about discrimination she experiences, and he simply dismissed it with "no, you don't." That was it, subject closed. In his superior knowledge, he had the nerve to tell his life partner what her experiences are in a workplace he has never seen. Dismissed without a bit of thought about the possibility that she knew something he didn't about it. Because it was her own fucking story she was telling him, I'm just guessing she had some facts to impart. That kind of dismissal happens all the time. Each one hurts like hell. "I know something." "No, you don't. Go make me a sandwich." RInse and repeat and wonder why we get so emotional. More of that conditioning for you. And this was from a nice guy, I should mention. One of the good ones, so imagine what all the wives of average and subpar husbands deal with.

All of those things happened in a two week span. No. NO. Never, no, no fucking way.

I decided to fight back by refusing to give in. I am not afraid someone is going to scoop me up and take me away. I'm not afraid of some stupid flashing light on my cell phone and would never blame an innocent business for my hysteria. I refuse to be cowed and I will not back down. I'll call a bluff every time, because I have earned that right. I am competent, strong and a fully developed person in my own right. I don't owe the world my best outfit every day and a smile when I don't feel like it. I am held to the same standards as men, and therefore I demand the same rights. When my very own councilman tried to make me worry that my boobs might get me arrested, I had finally hit my limit. So I put it to the test.

I was (partly) right, too. The first thing that hit was a wall of intimidation. Threats by the gazillions flooded my Facebook inbox, where the bulk of this took place. Some came through my site, but the worst were always through Facebook. I didn't take it to heart, I just blocked them if they crossed crazy lines and went on. But I read every single one, because I feel obligated to read every word sent to me. It was hard as hell to not be afraid of that, especially when it was at its peak. But when I decided I wasn't going to be afraid and held it, they quickly ran out of ammo and faded away. And that was it. A flutter, a scream, and dead silence afterwards. Some tried to keep a banter going, but they were weeded out quickly.

So now I know what to do to combat the source of my rage. I'm going to wear whatever I want, say whatever I want, and I goddamn dare someone to try to stop me. Because if my mailbag had any themes in common, it was thanks for giving words to the ideas that many women were thinking, and secondly for standing up and saying "oh hell no." Women I've never met still write to me regularly, taking baby steps in standing up for themselves, and it all started with one little dipshit who can't understand the difference between scripture and law for all citizens of all types. After the ACLU is done with this, it will likely all be rolled back to how it was before. What will have changed is that there are new people paying attention to what goes on around here.

I guess I'll shut up and get back to it. When you find yourself waiting for hours, some people sleep and some people write the mother of all blog posts on their phones. But here's one that I feel I can answer and do it justice. This all happened so fast, and there were so many things I said I'd answer when I could take some time to do it right.