This happened at the end of last semester. It was the first time I have 'gone out' in weeks. I felt I deserved to have a little celebration after I turned in my last final. So I went to one of my friends' house where everyone was gathering to 'pre-drink,' as they call it, before going to the bars. My friend and fellow feminist scholar, Erika, and I immediately began discussing the origins of the marriage ceremony and how marriage is one of the earliest patriarchal institutions. We actually got everyone around us into the discussion, which is rare. It seems that whenever Erika or I bring up anything even remotely intellectual or political we are shushed by our party-going, good-time, undergraduate friends. The discussion was very stimulating until this guy decided to pipe in and say that statistically he was more likely to rape any one of us than a stranger. His point was taken, but some dude joking about rape (and raping me no less!!) does not make me feel like biting my tongue.
This discussion really set the tone of the evening for me. I was not in the mood to get drunk and stupid, I wanted to debate. So when we were walking to North Ave. (Milwaukee), these frat guy/college types asked how us 'girls' were doing, I said "I am not a girl and have not been for over five years." I cannot remember exactly how he responded but I am sure that it ended with me telling him that this 'girl' could and would kick his frat boy ass.
By the time we actually got to the bar I was feeling quite feisty. I was hopped up on booze, Dworkin, and www.iblamethepatriarchy.com and I was ready to kick some ass. Joke-about-rape-guy decided that he was not done with me yet so I brought up this case, which created a much more heated debate than I had anticipated. It seemed pretty damn straight forward to me, this woman was raped and the courts threw it out because she didn't technically ever say 'no.' It is about the most disgusting thing I have ever heard and my high school friend, Jessica, joke-about-rape-guy, and Erkia all seemed to think that the case was in some sort of gray-area. I don't think that there is anything gray about it. This guy is a straight up rapist who took advantage of a woman who was uninformed and thus unable to consent. He knew exactly what he was doing and she had no idea. That is RAPE!
Jessica made the point that I do tend to assume that women are all victims and that does not allow them a proper level of agency. They all thought that it was possible that the woman simply regretted her actions and thus cried 'rape.' Nothing pisses me off more than that line of reasoning, and that is where I get to www.iblamethepatriarchy.com where Twisty proposed that we all assume non-consent until consent it clearly given. This may not seem like a radical notion, but as it stands right now, consent is assumed until someone (*some woman) claims otherwise. This has far-reaching consequences. What if we assume that every woman who says no really means no? How very radical. Anyway, I do not mean to suggest that women have no agency, but I very strongly believe that women cannot give true consent in a society that was structured around keeping them submissive. Anytime we think we have a choice, we need to remember that we live in a white-supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy. This influences every single thing that we do and thus, every choice that we make. There is no such thing as 'free-will.'
This was a rather difficult argument to make to these very drunk people, especially to joke-about-rape-guy who, get this, claimed to be a feminist while simultaneously saying that he thinks that class is more influential than anything else in determining a person's status. Erika and I tend to believe that race, class, and gender cannot be separated and analyzed individually because they work in conjunction: the holy-trinity of feminist theory.
This discussion got very heated and I was not about ready to just say, 'fine, you are trying so I won't be a bitch and call you on your total ignorance.' I am so sick of that 'nice-guy' schtick. He doesn't get it and I cannot explain it to him. Just because he calls himself a feminist does not mean he even remotely gets it. And I am not going to concede or give him credit for anything because he JOKED about raping me!
Erika quickly decided that she needed to get home and I did not want to be left in a bar with these people. I waited for a bus with Erika on North Ave. Now maybe I am an idiot for expecting not to be accosted by strangers on a busy intersection at 1:30 on a Saturday morning. Erika and I were still deep in conversation about the same things we were talking about in a bar when a very drunk dude decided to join us. He just stood there for several moments and finally had the presence of mind to ask us what we were talking about. When we said 'feminism' he said 'oh man, i think that women should stay in the kitchen and pregnant. i am not even joking!' This is just the kind of abuse that I am sick of. That is not a joke to me any more. Every time I say anything even remotely feminist to a guy like that I get that same response. I have probably heard that 'joke' 500 times since I was 16 and it has NEVER been funny. Being hopped up on radical feminist thought, I was not feeling shy. I told this guy what an asshole he was being and how he does not have a clue. Naturally, he put me in my place by calling me an angry bitch. I delicately reminded him that he was the one who had the audacity to join a total stranger's conversation, insult her, and then expect her to laugh it off. Typical. Too many men (and probably women too) think that very same thing and that is exactly why I cannot laugh it off as drunken buffoonery.
What really takes the cake is that very-drunk-dude was with his girlfriend this whole time. Girlfriend kept apologizing for him. Over and over. It is precisely because women like her exist that men like him will never change. This woman was telling me that she 'gets women's rights and all' because (no joke) 'not to be racist at all but black guys always harass me when I am downtown.' As she was saying this, I looked at Erika because I knew what was coming. Whenever anyone says "not to be racist, but..." you know that whatever follows will be the most racist shit you have ever heard. I could just see Erika shut down when this happened. Thank goodness the bus came at that precise moment.
As I was walking home that evening, it occurred to me that I might be in danger. When women are assertive, vocal, unapologetic, and not smiling, they are 'bitches' and they are 'asking for it.' Walking home alone late at night while 'asking for it' was pretty scary so I was happy when Erika called from the bus to tell me that very-drunk-dude sat next to her on the bus to tell her that she was ok but her friend sure was an angry bitch. The funny thing is that I really didn't do anything other than tell this guy to step off when he made the worst, most typical, sexist joke ever. Is that so bad? Does that mean I am deserving of assault? According to a recent study, it does. I just read this on feministing and frankly, it seems pretty damn accurate. I did nothing more than any man would have been expected to do (stand up for himself, not allow himself to be accosted, not smile and take an offensive joke), and I felt that I was in real danger of being physically attacked. I was already verbally assaulted.
That evening really reminded me of why I do what I do. But it also made me feel more isolated than ever because in the real world (i.e. not the women's studies classroom) these ideas are worthy of all sorts of abuse. Sometimes I forget how 'radical' the notion that women are people (not deserving of rape, assault, or verbal abuse) really is in this patriarchal world.