May 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

In my little bubble of existence, the current zeitgeist comprises of big, heavy ideas: feminism, misogyny, privilege, the white male, authority dynamics. Among others.

Not that I don’t think about these issues from time to time, but in the past month, a variety of articles in the cybersphere have had the cumulative effect of sustaining my attention on these topics. And then a horrific event like Isla Vista happens and this whole thing explodes with its hornet’s nest of sociological/political/racial baggage.

Reading the #YESALLWOMEN tweets reminds me, again, how I have been fortunate in my life to have healthy relationships with male figures. Apart from a good dose of physical punishment (pretty common where I’m from), I have been spared the trauma of sexual abuse. While I was raised in a conservative and paternalistic culture, I’ve never had to think twice about my physical safety whether out alone at night or in the company of male friends. But this privilege of safety is also part of the problem: I never learnt how to deal with situations of aggravation. There is the shock when it happens, which leads to paralysis and then, after the fact, silence. There is also a whole load of cultural conditioning going on here as well: what do you expect from a chauvinistic culture that has rigid roles and expectations for each gender? The only thing to do is to suck it up and move on. Even among friends. There was a girlfriend who told me she was raped. She talked about it the way you would talk about the emotional fallout from a breakup. “Yes it’s sad that it happened, yes it sucks, but oh well, what can I do. Life goes on”.

I remember feeling as if the conversation wasn’t really happening – that ‘rape’ only happens to someone else, not someone I know. This pretty much sums up my own reactions to incidents of aggravation/outright discrimination from men: I’ve blocked it out to the point where I don’t know how to talk about it. But this hashtag is doing something – it’s bringing up the memories that I’ve pushed away and showing me the helplessness that still lingers. At being groped at a friend’s wedding. At having a classmate from church shine his flashlight at my chest to check out my underwear. At being told I need to wait at least 5 years before getting promoted because I am a woman. At being regarded as a prostitute (and treated as such) simply because I am travelling in Southeast Asia with a white man. There are probably more incidents that I don’t recall. Likely more.

There is a part of me that says that I’m being too sensitive about these things. This is the voice that wants to ‘preserve the peace’ and not cause ‘unncessary trouble’. It is the voice of my upbringing where the uncomfortable and the embarrassing are ignored in the hope that they will fade away. #YESALLWOMEN is my relief valve, shining the light on the uncomfortable, embracing it, and eventually, moving beyond the helplessness.


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