In most aspects of my life I take great pride in being well informed, curious and generally open to learning about politics, issues and the wider world. I think it’s important that if I want a world to exist that reflects my slightly socialist ( for lack of a better definition) views then I need to know and understand as much as I can about how things work.
I am not a naive person, I realise that the change I hope to see and be a part of will take decades if not centuries to come about. Humans, while resilient can be very slow to evolving their ideas and to expect quick advancements is only setting yourself up for failure. However, I am hopeful. Things are generally better than they were 100 years ago.
No, nothing is perfect and the greatest injustice in the world right now is the undeniable ecumenic inequalities which have huge repercussions on all aspects of society. How can we expect people to care about the community around them when time and again they are neglected, pushed down and kept from any form of success that would see them living secure, and comfortable lives? I spend my nights awake thinking about how to make the world better, how can I help to improve things for people and how can I teach my children to do the same? I research different social philosophies and spend hours debating with people in my life (as well as online) about what needs to be done.
So what is this post about? Am I hear to stand on my soap box and get you all to agree with my ideas? No. This post is unfortunately slightly less inspiring. This post is about my increasing sense of hopelessness. Every few months I find the overwhelming negative press and news cycles too much. Sometimes being informed can actually make you feel completely overwhelmed with the mammoth task at hand and this is how I have been feeling lately.
I, like many people I know, followed the Brett Kavanaugh hearings very closely. Yes I have been a victim of sexual assault and therefore it held some personal interest for me, but I was mostly just curious to see how the situation would play out in light of the #metoo and #timesup movements. It has been incredibly inspiring to see so many survivors of sexual assault and harassment come out publicly and speak about the pain they have endured. It has been wonderful to see the conversations that have been cubically taking place between men and women alike about how we move forward now that the endemic nature of the problem has been demonstrated. So I think I can be forgiven for thinking that when Professor Ford spoke about her experience, we and the senators would listen. Of course I do not think that for a second we should believe her wholeheartedly and immediately condemn him, but I do think we should listen carefully to both of them and I absolutely think that a thorough investigation should have taken place. Instead, Christine was listened to by one side of the aisle and belittled by the other. He on the other hand was belligerent and aggressive with one side of the aisle (not exactly the kind of traits you want in a Supreme Court Judge) and was completely defended by the other side of the aisle without them questioning him at all. This does not make him guilty of what he has been accused of but it does make the Senators guilty of not doing their job and not caring about the message that this sends.
I have a daughter (soon to have two daughters) and she is feisty, strong willed, powerful, kind and full of love. She believes that if she is kind and good the world will be kind and good to her. I believed this once too, but unfortunately life has taught me to think differently.
As a young adult I would go out dancing with my friends. I have never been one to wear high heels and tight dresses, or anything that might have been considered showing myself off. I have no problem with those clothes, if you like them and feel comfortable in them, then wear them. I’m sure you look amazing. I like sweatshirts and jogging bottoms. I like trainers and ponytails. So when I would go out dancing, I would most often be found in baggy jeans, comfy t-shirts and you’d be lucky if my hair was brushed. I just wanted to have fun with my friends, hear some good music and expend some energy jumping manically to Chumbawumba (when I said ‘good’ music I was being generous). Once I started going out I noticed quickly the attention my friends got from boys. They were far more attractive than me and also put in a lot more effort into the way they looked. They were beautiful and it was no wonder that they got attention. I was proud to be associated with them but I was also very aware that for the most part the attention was unwanted. My friends were like me, they just wanted to dance and have fun. They weren’t on the ‘prowl’ they weren’t seeking approval, they wanted to feel good, look good and and go home having had a great night. After seeing the behaviour of the boys in the clubs and their sometimes aggressive attempts to engage my friends in anything other than friendly banter I decided to double down on the comfy clothes hoping that my lacklustre appliance would give the clear signal of ‘back the f**k off’. Unfortunately this proved to not be quite the case. One particular night in my memory sees me at the bar ordering a pint. I never drank too much while out, mainly due to restricted finances and also because I never enjoyed being drunk. Anyway, there I was, ordering myself another over priced, watered-down beer and a guy at the bar struck up a conversation. Now, as I am are you can imagine, I am never shy with my words. I am happy to engage in conversation with pretty much anyone and I couldn’t walk away now, as my beer had not yet been served. So instead of just politely nodding and walking away, I decided to chat. He seemed friendly enough, but I was careful with my body language to not give off any signals that I was interested in anything other than just a chat. I didn’t run my hand through my hair, look at him coquettishly, or make any physical contact with him. I kept myself inside my personal space box and chatted with him like I would any new friend. Eventually my beer was served, I bid him goodbye and headed back to my group of friends. Later that night his friends and mine were all on the dance floor together and so I found myself next to him once more. I acknowledged his presence but again, did all I could to give off friend vibes only. I am not a particularly sexy dancer at the best of times (think your dad at a wedding) but now I was making every effort to not let my hips move at all (so I guess dad robot at a wedding). Anyway, the end of the night came and I made my way out of the club with my friends when all of a sudden the same guy grabbed my elbow and pulled me back towards him.
‘Aren’t you going to say goodbye properly?’ he asked. To which I responded with ‘what?’. ‘Aren’t you going to a least give me a little kiss?’ ‘Umm, no.’ ‘Go on, you’ve been flirting with me all night.’ At which point he smashed his mouth into mine and forced a kiss on me that shocked me to my very core. Had I been flirting with him? I thought I had tried really hard not to. Did he deserve a kiss? Did I owe him one? And this is when it suddenly occurred to me how wrong I had been. The society I was living in told that boy that because I had acknowledged him and smiled, he now had some right to me. He had been taught that a smile from a girl was all he needed as a sign of consent. I had been taught that I had to watch every move I made to not give off the wrong impression and even then I had still been too friendly. We had both been taught wrong.
The Kavanaugh hearings show that in the 13 years since this event, society hasn’t changed that much. The questions put to Professor Ford about how much she had had to drink, how she had acted at the party and what she had worn, show that we still think those things matter. They don’t. Even if I had flirted outrageously with that boy, at the end of the night when he asked for a kiss and I said no, then that is what he should have acted on.
The news at the moment is full of depressing story lines like this. They are painful to read and remind us that for all the good that social movements are having there will be a lot of push back form those that aren’t ready to change. So when I call this post self-preservation it is a reminded to me that I need to protect myself. It is good to be informed and it is great to fight for change but sometimes it’s ok to take a step back. I spent the week of the hearings crying and despairing at the world we’re living in, and right now at 39 weeks pregnant and all the anxiety that comes along with childbirth, I am going to take a break. This post has allowed me to get a few things off my chest and now I am going to surround myself with rainbows and unicorns (metaphorically) until this baby is born and I have the strength to get back to fighting the good fight.