Sunday, April 23, 2006

Why Feminism (Part 10)

Girls Will be Girls

That voice inside my head that used to tell me that I was overreacting never really went away, although now it usually just tells me that it’s far past time to let it go. It was a big deal at the time, but not anymore. It’s not like I was molested or raped, and it feels weird having my story sit alongside the truly horrific ones at le lyons.

But then I stop and remember one silly, but frightening fact: I didn’t stop checking the windows, or underneath my bed, until several months into college.

It wasn’t a gradual stop. One night I was glancing in the closet and under my bed before getting undressed, like I always did, and I finally realized what I was doing. And I never did it again. When my otherwise wonderful self-defense instructor warned us a year later to make sure our blinds were closed before dressing, even though almost no men lived on campus, I gave her a silent “fuck you” and ignored the vast majority of her “how to avoid rape” speech.

I spent my entire teen years checking for monsters under the bed. Monsters that I knew existed. Monsters that were far worse than anything I ever imagined as a child. I refuse to do it again.

I am a feminist in part because my brother, my sweet, adorable little brother, became a monster once - and I needed to know why. It drives me nuts when people say that feminists hate men and think they are born to be evil people because I know that I became a feminist in part because I love my brother so very, very much and I know that he was - and is - capable of not being a monster. He wasn’t one before, and he isn’t one now, but he was one once upon a time.

A part of me can understand that so many people think that the angry, man-hating straw feminist is all that feminists can ever be simply because I remember myself when I first began to identify out loud as a feminist and I was so very angry. I was angry with my brother, my parents, everyone.

But mostly I was just confused and frustrated. My parents love me. My brother loves me. My parents may not be radical feminists, but they are staunch liberals with strong feminist leanings. My brother is far from perfect, but he was, and still is, a loving, caring person. Even at the time he was more of a feminist than most of his classmates. So how did this happen?

Somewhere deep inside, I wasn’t buying that boys will be boys explained it all. I, after all, wasn’t obsessed with Newsies simply because it was about kid power or selling newspapers. I also began masturbating when I hit puberty at age nine and I had my first orgasm by fourteen (and I have a feeling it would have much been earlier if I hadn’t been so fucked up at the time – depression kinda ruins one’s sex drive). Since I’ve never even contemplated doing what he did, I smelled a rat. A big one. I just couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was.

I understood that part of my brother having ADD meant that he has poor impulse control, but mine wasn’t so spectacular either. Besides, there were all kinds of things he did manage to keep from doing, so why not this?

In the end, I submitted my story to le lyons' effort to fight sexual violence not only because I found writing this theraputic, but because all of my efforts to find answers to these questions of "why?" have illuminated the connections between my experiences and those of girls and women who have suffered from more explicit sexual violence.

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