In case you might have missed it, or don’t follow my other blogs, I am a feminist. I have identified as such since the age of 4, when Sean J. told me boys were better than girls and rather than punching him in the nose, I simply said “Well I’m clearly better than YOU!” and walked away. Such rejection prompted little hearts over Sean’s head, and he somehow managed to get his mother to transfer him into my elementary school classes despite the school’s repeated efforts to keep us separated because the constant arguments interfered especially with my own education. Sadly, Sean’s parents had money and influence mine did not, and thus my early childhood learning disability was a boy named Sean. This was especially true because, since I was not just a girl but a fat Polish girl whose Dad taught for the “trashy” school system, I was automatically to blame for all outbursts Sean caused regardless of how the situation actually conspired. Northwest Indiana, progressive if you’re part of the Taliban.
When at last the family moved somewhere – away from me, which was what was important – my cognitive development grew by astonishing leaps and bounds. Amazing how that worked.
While not conscious, this experience with Sean created a vector of sorts in my life that has repeated over the years. First, I know that at least where I grew up, not only are women not feminists, but the ones that were teachers were very invested in upholding the ideal of female suppression. My kindergarten teacher even had a rule that girls could not play with the toys with wheels on them. That we are somehow distantly related depresses me no end. I figured out early that women were not on my side, and since my household was dominated by women where I was the youngest – my mother actually referred to a pecking order with no thought to how deeply unhealthy that attitude is – I ended up with the outlook that whenever it counts, I’m on my own.
The other aspect of my exposure to spoiled little Sean J. was that every so often throughout my life I’ve attracted some man with misplaced aggression who wants to find a strong woman and put her in her place. Since most woman passively step aside and demur their ways out of this behavior, and because I’m larger than average, I become a favorite target for this particular brand of crazy. All too often, I’m some suppressive asshole’s Big O. Some of these relationships were, thank the gods, sidereal: boyfriends of roommates and the like. However, post-divorce I wound up in three relationships simultaneously that used suppressive/control techniques and at the time I was too lonely and depressed to care even when I did know what was happening. It led to frequent, bizarrely intense interactions: one man was just manipulating me to increase my guilt, another was using the classic withholding strategy, and the last one was on a mission to tell me what to think. While I’ve cleaned out my life of people who pull this shit – women as often as men these days – I’m aware for some reason lately that gender politics are more important than they’ve ever been, and that the recent rising tide of misogyny is probably going to head straight for me.
And part of that is because, most of the time, I like men and I usually prefer their company to what is offered by women.
I bring up this autobiographical wandering because of the recent Jane Doe Girls Gone Wild case, where she actually said “No, I will not take my top off” to the camera crews, only to have a female friend pull her top down anyway. Despite verbally refusing consent and never signing a form – it’s like she just wanted to dance with her friends! – the incident appeared in a video, and a friend of her husband’s found it on a video six years later. A jury determined that if she was present, anywhere near Joe Francis, and female, she knew what was going to happen and deserved what she got.
I can’t say whether the case was worth the 5 million dollars requested – certainly it did damage in her personal life, and it’s pretty clear first that Francis is one of the top ten douchebags in America, and second that this girl was clearly the target of some godawful female competitive syndrome. Not only are the men complicit in what is no more and no less than a sexual assault, but so is the woman who pulled her top down. No word on whether the woman who engaged in the assault and humiliation of Jane Doe is in any way being held accountable.
The attitude that “she was there, she had it coming” is absolutely reprehensible. How would the jury respond if it was someone’s son who had his shorts pulled down in front of a camera? Sure, the incident might seem momentarily funny – until six years later he finds out a buddy of his has a video of it, sold for $10 a pop on late night cable, and it is one of the more popular masturbation materials on the market.
I realize attitudes take the longest to change- certainly men and women have tilted at my attitudes about right and wrong to no avail, and this sense of entitlement to someone else’s body, while deplorable, is clearly sunk in pretty deep. Despite Joe Francis’s own arrogance being sufficient to keep him in jail for extra time, the bastard still walks free and spreads his disease among the vulnerable. And yes, often the girls in the videos are complicit in what happens. But in this case, the girl clearly understood what was going on, made her desires clear – and was ignored. Both Joe Francis and her companion exploited her body, against her clearly expressed wishes. So why are neither of them facing charges, and why is the jury blaming the victim for, essentially, going out in public while female?
This is unacceptable. I want to know what the jury was told, and I want to see more women holding each other accountable for female power politics. Joe Francis is to blame for publishing this girl without her permission and in fact in the face of her denied permission he is even more solidly to blame. But the girl who pulled her top down needs to be charged with criminal sexual assualt, now. Female competitive syndrome is what is allowing misogyny to build up again so strongly in the United States, and I for one do not fancy yet another backslide in my basic right to exist and make my own decisions about my life and my body. This crappy attitude affects all women – when you decide to “get back” at a woman for being prettier/smarter/bitchier, you do ultimately end up hurting several someones you don’t know who never did a damn thing to you.