Saturday, April 9, 2011

Dear Andrea... A letter to Andrea Dworkin on the sixth anniversary of her death

Dear Andrea,

Another year, another set of atrocities, which means--as you knew--actual people suffering and dying for no good reason at all, except because of men's greed, selfishness, and quest to rule and dominate everything on Earth, including the Earth.

In this past twelve months I see reasons for hope and reasons for despair. Usually it's only the latter.

The despair comes from a growing awareness of just how common rape is, and just how little men will do about it, other than to commit it, and protect it, legally and culturally, for other men to commit. What is clearer to me than ever was one piece of analysis of yours, and many of your contemporaries, that rape and control of women in heterosexual prostitution and in heterosexual marriage shows just how similar that system of misogynist exploitation and that institution of misogynist control are, in fact, not in theory. Both demonstrate that, to me, women exist for men, for men to have sex on and against, for men to use in whatever ways they wish to use other human beings, and for men to degrade and dominate, terrorise and traumatise.

What has also come into sharp focus for me this past year is how much in denial most people are, particularly and especially men. Men, it seems, are utterly incapable, as a group, of getting just how cruel and callous to women males are, routinely, regularly, normally, but never naturally or inevitably. I have seen such cruelty and callousness all my life in and from men--also in boys. So this shows that the forces of denial are strong; that even while I know what I know from personal, direct experience, and even while every woman I know has stories to tell of men's horrific behavior towards women, I can still drift away from the full horror of it if some of that pain is kept away from me.

It surely appears that defences manufactured by media and one's own psyche, determine how much we can know and feel about anything at all. If one isn't living in close proximity to war, for example, one gets to think war can be just. Allegedly wise men believe in this concept of "just war".

If one's female friends aren't being battered, raped, or trafficked, one gets to pretend those atrocities aren't so bad or so prevalent, or so whatever one wants to not know is true about them. The truth is the issue. And the truth was what you told. But because most of us, for many different reasons, need or wish to live in denial, with delusions about reality, people have targeted you as so many negative things rather than accept that what you said is true. To reject you as [whatever] is to put the focus on the messenger not the message, and thus functions to enable the defences and the denial, which on a larger social scale means the atrocities get to continue unchallenged and uninterrupted. To accept what you said is true would mean--quite possibly--having to feel something and do something about the misogynist atrocities you so thoroughly and painfully identified.

I have learned that heterosexual marriage--is not a realm of equality at all. And even while white gay men, especially, fight for the right to marry, they will not acknowledge that marriage, historically and presently, is the site of so much racist, anti-immigrant, heterosexist abuse, so much male supremacist tyranny, so much sexual assault by men against women, that one has to question why any oppressed person would want "in". I have gone back and forth here on my blog, due largely to persuasive conversations with friends, about whether or not to support what, in the media, is sexistly called "gay marriage". And the answer today and for the foreseeable future is that I do not. I don't support it any more than I support heterosexual marriage. I don't support it for a very simple reason: it supports practically unfathomably cruel violence against any heterosexually married women, and especially against particularly marginalised groups of women, such as immigrant women. There's nothing holy about this institution at all, as practiced globally. For far too many women it's hell on Earth.

Why there isn't more protest and organised challenge to marriage, to dissolving it, to ending it as a social institution that is about as romanticised and glorified as any patriarchal institution. The media constantly prop it up as wonderful, beautiful, cheerful, and good. Entertainment Tonight informs us of nightly of every celebrity marriage that is heterosexual, and the occasional lesbian or gay marriage--but those are few and far between. And the program, and many other entertainment shows, promote the news of every celebrity pregnancy too.

Marriage and motherhood: what women supposedly exist to partake in and organise their lives and identities around, according to men's misogynist media. The way these two institutions are supported, with violence both internally and externally, ought to call attention to just how much violation and exploitation each requires to exist at all. And if any woman who is famous speaks out about how they both can totally suck, how these two institutions both take too much from women, including their freedom, those women are demonised in and beyond the media. And if any woman wishes to partake in one and refuse the other, she too will be demonised. Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Nadya Suleman have both been targeted for not doing what all women are expected to do: marry a man and fuck him and have "his" children.

Usually, the media wants to portray rape as something that one insane man or wild animalistic groups of males do to girls and women. Corporate media pretends this is how rape happens most of the time. But most of the time it happens to women who are thought to belong to one man: one father, boyfriend, husband, or pimp; or to many men: casual partners, serial boyfriends, or a gaggle of procurers of girls and women who are trapped in systems of prostitution--whether merely grossly exploited, or trafficked and enslaved. That's where rape happens most: at home and in apartments, hotels, and motels. The media makes those rapes invisible.

Why is that? Because to alert us all to the problem of rape as a problem of men's sexual behavior that men consider normal and natural, or, at least, inevitable, would be to implicate men in protecting an atrocity in a much more serious way than to only focus on gang-rapists and rape inside far less isolating and intimate systems of horror such as military warfare. Warfare is public. Prostitution and marriage are largely private "affairs", beyond the media lens which either celebrates or misrepresents them as victimless.

The atrocities of all of them are held secret by the abusers and the abused--for entirely different reasons. We know prostitutes and wives exist; we don't know what men do to each group of human beings behind closed doors. And we'd be horrified if we did; those of us who have experienced it know the horror and the trauma, and often we seek to forget about it as much as possible, until triggered back into those rooms.

The abusers don't want to be held accountable to their gross inhumanity against girls and women. The abused don't want to have to be assaulted all over again by media and men beyond the one who committed the rape he called "sex".

Add to this the particularly patriarchal protection of fathers--fathers who are often enough also boyfriends and husbands of abused children's abused mothers. And add to them the men in the lives of women with children who are not the fathers. What we see is such an alarming rate of incest, child molestation, and rape of girls that to even note that it is double that what happens to boys is only to illicit in the media and in society a response that goes like this: "I didn't know that many boys were being abused." The intentional or unintentional message is this: Fuck the girls. Literally.

The protection of fathers' patriarchal entitlements, power, and privileges to dominate, harass, terrorise, and systematically threaten girls and women is something that you'd only know about from women and girls, and the few boys who will speak out against their fathers' abuses, such as Derrick Jensen. The protection racket among men to ensure that fathers get to beat women and rape girls is far more ugly and vicious than I'd imagined, and is far more institutionalised in custom and criminal justice than I'd realised. It's so much worse than I thought. So many women and girls are being ruled and raped by men who are supposed to love them that it makes me wonder if men know what love it at all. And, in most cases, they sure didn't learn anything about love from their own fathers. Yet the protection of fatherhood as an institution of abuse and atrocity remains stronger than ever, globally--including in industrialised countries. In Japan, for example, men own their children and women who take them away are guilty of theft. Not of rescuing their children from abusive pricks, but of taking the man's property from him. It's not terribly different in many other G8 nations.

I think the part that gets forgotten, honestly, is how the systems all work together against women and girls. Because to be raped is one thing. That's enough trauma and terror. But to charge a man who raped you with rape is an entirely other trauma and form of terrorism--this time public and social, not private and personal.

I've always known, just from my own female family members and friends, that most girls and women do not report to "authorities" the fact of being assaulted by men or boys--ever. Most women I have known personally will likely take the assaults against them to their graves, never outing the perpetrators. I know from my own experience how simultaneously easy and difficult it is to keep traumatic memories locked away. Most of us, it seems, want to think about other things. And why wouldn't we?

What differentiated you from most people I've known, Andrea, is that you refused to not know. You refused to dissociate from the pain and horror of what you know happens to women and girls globally. And you refused to call it anything other than an atrocity. For that, you were--and are--either insulted or ignored. But that's not all. I honestly don't know how you endured all the threats and the terrorism.

I think of you often, Andrea. I usually ask two things: "What would Andrea do? And "How did Andrea do it?" (I find you to be a Jew of far greater insight and wisdom than what has been reported to be true about Jesus. And my readers might keep in mind here that I've only ever known Jesus to be a man, not a god.)

There's quite a personal and political cost to not ignoring and being silent about atrocities that are socially believed to be normal, inevitable occurrences that produce no harm at all. And generally most institutionalised and interperonalised atrocities are seen to exist for some greater good: "man's".

In the West and beyond it, the "greater good" is always the same: the maintenance of patriarchal control and abuse of girls and women. Increasingly there is an elite super-wealthy class who controls so much power institutionally, systemically, and organisationally that they must be challenged and taken down. For "the greatest good" is really only for them--for the few richest, generally whitest, most heterosexually active men.

One quarter of all wealth in the U.S. is now owned by the top 1% of the population. Imagine that. And the vast majority of all of the wealth is owned by the top few percent. What this means is that all economic policies and social policies are controlled by them and are crafted to make them ever richer--and fuck everyone else, a lot. Especially girls around the world who white het rich men travel to abuse, or import to enslave.

At the same time, poor whites and poor people of color are at greater risk of everything that isn't "good": lethal illness, lack of housing, AIDS, lack of health care, exposure to the most toxic pollutants, including radioactive waste from nuclear power plants, but far more than that. Poisons put in our plastics, in our food, and in our waterways. Dumped into our oceans and pushed up into the air.

What gives me hope is there is a new revolutionary spirit emerging--carrying your spirit and the spirit of so many radical feminist women, Indigenous, Black, Brown, Asian, and white women, so many activist women who have been in resistance for decades out of great necessity, like the women of RAWA. And because of those women, the truth is continuing to be told about those rich male fuckers and the other men who think they can rule every girl and woman and have the rest of us do nothing at all to stop them. Feminists are organising in places where, just a few years ago, there didn't seem to be any feminist resistance.

I predict that within the next ten years, through the teens of this century, we will see unprecedented revolution among many people, including women. And, this time, I hope the women win. And I hope the richest men pay dearly for what they do. And that men, across class, race, region, and age, also are held fully to account. They can become humane or they can die: the choice is theirs, as always.

I am thinking of you today, Andrea, as I do most days. Thank you for the honesty and inspiration of your words and work, and thank you for the example of your life lived in devotion to women and girls everywhere. I pray that you stay with me and guide my actions.

Love, Julian

15 comments:

Jessica "Wolverine" Metaneira said...

Thank you for highlighting fathers and their abuse.

My father was a 'nice guy' on the outside and a cancerous sociopath on the inside. My mother found a diary of his detailing how he wanted to rape a pre-teen child. At the contact centre I was forced to go to with him, he would do things like buy cookies for me then eat them himself, throw my toys around then say things like 'Ooh sorry, Teddy's dead. He hit his head when he fell' and threaten me with violence. Yes, he actually threaten to beat me one day when 'no one is around...and no one will believe you if you tell'. Yet the court wanted to enforce custody rights for him. My mother was actually told 'even if you could prove physical abuse, we would still enforce contact'. What? Anyone?

So again, thanks for raising this point.

Julian Real said...

That's horrifying, and about as normal as it gets, tragically for you and so many girls.

I can't/won't detail the atrocities I know of done to girls by their fathers, step-fathers, or surrogate father figures.

I'm seeing a general refusal of dominant media to discuss this or take it at all seriously as anything other than sick in the sense that only very, very few men/fathers would do such a thing.

Many would and many more would like to. That's the truth of it and that's the truth most men will try and shout down. Well, I know, because I know the women who were raised with these normal men. How it is that so many men become sociopaths and sadists is beyond me. Except, well, that they get to be, and the fucking courts won't do jack shit about it. That's really enough of an explanation. That, and not enough people who are in a position to do so take these fuckers out.

Julian Real said...

I'll add: it's not that I think taking out misogynistically abusive men will make those abusers behave drastically differently necessarily. But I do think that it would be socially good if sadistic, sociopathic, and normally abusive woman-hating, child-hating men actually feared for their lives. Whether other men, women, or older children generate that fear is something that is almost beyond imaginable, even while I hope life gets this way for any man who abuses a woman or a girl--or a boy, for that matter.

I'd hope that abuser-men actually fearing for their lives as they sleep, might help matters somewhat. I don't see how it can hurt anyway. I hope the day comes when men who beat, rape, and incest their family members, or who behave like sadists, bullies, tyrants, and terrorists in the home, be put on notice, on a massive cultural scale, that they may not wake to see another day.

Julian Real said...

And, I'm very sorry you had to go through all of that. It's disgusting and infuriating and horrifying and so sad. And anyone who reads what you wrote and doesn't think these sadistic abuser-men should be wiped off the Earth by any and all means necessary, don't have a humane soul, in my opinion.

The chorus of men who will come forth to offer apologies for such abusers can get silenced too, A.S.A.P., as far as I'm concerned.

How did you survive it, Jessica?

Jessica "Wolverine" Metaneira said...

I'm not sure how.

I do have quite a stubborn, assertive and even aggressive personality, and while that makes me hard to be around at times, I suspect it also makes me hard to damage. My standard way of facing a problem was to have my little emotional fit and then get over it. Lol, I still remember one episode from when I was almost 4 years old...I remember my father saying to me 'one day I'll hit you when we're alone'. And I just thought 'you're a huge bully, I don't have to take this from you' and I grabbed the box I'd unloaded some toys out of and hit him over the head with it.

Julian Real said...

That seems to be about the best way to deal with bullies, from all I hear. I never hit anyone--not my thing. But I totally support any girl or woman talking whatever she needs upside some bully-dood's head. Whatever works to get him away and off your case.

Fuck pacifism only for the oppressed. Lorde knows, the oppressors never practice pacifism.

Julian Real said...

I'm glad you made it through. And hope things are going well for you, Jessica.

Jessica "Wolverine" Metaneira said...

Thanks.

By the way, I like your use of 'doods' instead of 'dudes'. Doods is the Dutch word for death...

Julian Real said...

Thank you SO MUCH for telling me that meaning of "doods", Jessica. I'm soooo keeping that spelling and usage around here now!

lauren said...

What a powerful letter.

It's amazing that you can put a positive ending to it. All I can think of is the line from one of her essays, 'I want us to stop saying we're fine'. That is how I feel.
Especially this week.

Julian Real said...

I hope things will be okay, Lauren, this week, I mean.

As for the state of women worldwide, it seems the one thing women collectively are NOT is "fine"!

I wish men would wake the hell up and realise it, and realise it's because of how men treat women interpersonally and institutionally that so many millions of women are very far from "fine".

lauren said...

Thanks, Julian.

I was referring to the man who shot ten girls and one boy at a Brazilian public school. I lived there (Rio de Janeiro) for 8 years.
The entire country was shocked when those two boys killed their classmates at Columbine; they actually changed some of the gun laws in the state of Rio, the very next day to make it harder to buy a gun. Because of what happened here.

I can not begin to imagine what it is like for the girls and mothers and everyone in the neighborhood. Most Brazilian girls have much less freedom to go outside, play sports, even go to school than boys do. I can only wonder what it will be like for them now.

Julian Real said...

How horrible. I hadn't heard a word about it. The gynocide is on-going.

My condolences to the loved ones of all who perished in Rio de Janeiro. I fear also what the chilling effect of this will be for girls of the region. And beyond.

lauren said...

A fifteen yr old boy made two tributes to Andrea Dworkin last night, as he read a poem at Tucson's Youth Take Back the Night. I was standing in the darkness watching him on stage and my ears really perked up - I am so used to women either not knowing who she is, or saying mean things about her work.

I went and complimented him afterwards and he blushed...
If there are going to be boys and men at Take Back the Night, may they all be like this one.

Julian Real said...

That's so wonderful to know, Lauren.

Did you get contact info? I'm wanting to put together a book of men's or male's writings who have been deeply effected by Andrea's work and he sounds like someone who should be in it. Let me know by email, as I obviously wouldn't want his contact info made public. You can email me that--if you have it, to this email address: aradicalprofeminist@gmail.com (but please let him know about me and my blog first, so he can check out what I'm doing here to know better if he wants to connect).