Insidious Softness

I’ve dealt with many forms of rape culture and plenty of types of chauvinism. I have been called a bitch dyke for daring to stick up for myself, I have been raped, I have been cat-called and cow-called and grabbed on the subway. I have heard rape jokes and jokes about how I belong in the kitchen. I have heard generations before me tell me how in their day women knew their place, and I have had a protestor outside of a women’s health clinic spit in my face for the crime of procuring safe birth control.

The thing is, those were easy battles for me. I knew who the enemy was. I could get pissed off, indignant. That’s not true for everyone. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who, when faced with such bold hate and disregard for their rights as a human being, would suffer worse. Not me. They give me crosshairs, and I will fire. It’s not the ones that openly hate me that I worry about because at the end of the day I can look at them and say, “You are a piece of shit bigot who has absolutely no right to talk to me.”

The ones that bother me more than anything are the ones who aren’t really that bold. The ones that get to me, that shake me, aren’t the ones who call me a whore because I’m marching in a Take Back the Night rally. No. They’re the soft spoken male friends with the Birkenstocks and the sensitive voices who ask me if it’s really fair to a man to say no, he has no chance at a relationship with me. It’s the ones who say, “But OG, you didn’t even give him a chance, and really, even if you did feel that way, did you have to say no so cruelly? You could’ve been nicer, let him down easy, said it was just the wrong time.”

It’s the ones who emphasize that, you know, being PC and asking people to walk on eggshells and not tell rape jokes is really just another kind of bigotry. It’s so unfair of me to expect people to treat me and my entire gender with respect. Particularly when that respect means breaking up their crude groove and not tolerating mean spirited comments about my gender.

This insidious softness creeps in through unforeseen chinks in my armor. It slides by until I realize at the age of twenty-nine, I cannot tell a man bluntly, “No, I do not want to date you.” I can’t because countless times I am told I must be soft. I must be gentle. I have to cushion his ego. I have to be nice so that he’ll still like me, because girls who turn guys down hard are bitches. I should make it about me. I should tell him I’m just too fucked up, that I’m not dating, that I don’t date guys of X type, that I’m not ready for a relationship with him, that he’s too good for me.

I’ve been doing that for so long that sometimes I actually believe those things.

The insidious softness that we face is worse than outright hatred and bigotry, to me, because it gently convinces me that I have no right to say no. That I have no right to my agency and liberty as a woman to be free from unwanted touch. It does so with such care and kindness that I don’t know who the enemy is anymore.

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~ by oniongirl13 on May 13, 2011.

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