The other night, I was talking to my mum. I can’t remember what we were talking about, but at one point, she said something like, “Yeah, that’s like young girls putting themselves at risk by getting drunk.”
“No,” I said. “No.”
“Yeah…” she looked at me, confused.
“No, don’t say that. That’s not right.”
“Yeah… girls going out, getting drunk… they’re putting themselves at risk.”
I need to try and explain this as clearly as possible, because I’ve had this argument with both my boyfriend and my mum, and I’m guessing many, many more people in my life would agree with them on this issue. And this is really freaking important.
So, let’s look at the logic.
If a female gets drunk, and there is a male around who might mistreat her, then she will be at more risk of being mistreated. Therefore, she should protect herself, and not get drunk.
Makes sense, right?
(I’ll hang here for a sec, in case you want to read those.)
Misogyny/sexism, like racism, is an act of dehumanisation. If there was, theoretically speaking, a country of blue and red people, and the blue people believed that the red people were less than them – less smart, inferior physiology, less human – they would likely subject the red people to inhumane acts. These might range all the way from acts of physical violence, sexual violence, oppression, terrorism, and psychological violence, to everyday, culturally subtle inhumane acts like rudeness, dismissal, objectifying, and small remarks designed to discomfort the listener and reinforce the hierarchy. Maybe the red people would be expected to look pretty, or to do manual labour, or to stay at home, whereas the blue people would be the thinkers and the decision makers.
So, let’s say some of these blue people are quite messed up, when it comes to this power structure. They really don’t see the red people as equal, or even as equally human. And if there was a red person, say at a party, who was drunk, there might be a messed-up blue person who felt entitled to use the red person as they wish. Or maybe a messed-up blue person is angry that the red people are taking jobs from the blue people, so maybe they beat up a drunk red person.
And let’s say this happens a lot. And nobody really knows how to stop the blue people from doing what they’re doing… because, well… that’s just what blue people do. That’s the excuse. That’s just what blue people do.
So the red people tell each other (and the blue people tell them too): Don’t get drunk. You might be mistreated by a red person.
The red people try not to get drunk (and yet, awfully, many sober red people are still harmed by blue people) and if, occasionally, one of them does get drunk, and a blue person harms them, then everyone says: Ah. They shouldn’t have been drunk. Or: Ah. They shouldn’t have been dressed in a minidress. Or: Ah. They shouldn’t have been out that late. Or: Ah. They shouldn’t have walked home alone.
This goes on for decades! Nuts, right? Blue people are terrorising red people for decades, and nobody really does anything about it, except tell the red people to be careful? Yep. That’s nuts. So, this goes on. Nothing really changes. Until one day…
Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat.
The red people refuse to live their lives based on “keeping themselves safe” by tiptoeing around and trying to be careful not to anger the blue people, or get in their way, or be drunk around them. Because it was bullshit. That was never keeping them safe. Holding their heads high and standing up to inhumane treatment will keep them safe. Bonding together as a group – all the red people, acting in defiance, saying, “We’re not going to avoid dark alleyways, we’re not going to wear hessian sacks, we’re not going to avoid alcohol at birthday parties!”
Nothing will ever, ever, ever change if those red people don’t stand up and refuse to be terrorised anymore. If you bow down to the blue people, that’s all they will see you as: less, inferior, subhuman. But if you react like a blue person would, if they were treated that way… Just imagine! They would fight back. They wouldn’t be told to put on more clothes, or to take an early train home. Imagine telling a blue person not to get drunk! They would react indignantly, with anger and defiance, because their rights are being curbed. The red people need to feel and do the same.
So sure, tell your daughter not to get drunk because she might get harmed. Many females will get harmed because you tell her that. Your own daughter will be psychologically harmed because you tell her that. You are telling women to act differently than men would act in these situations, so you are asking them to act inferior, less than, subhuman. You are reinforcing the Way It Is. The terrorisation of women.
Tell your daughter to get smashed, wear a minidress, sleep around, stay out all night, take the last train home… and tell all of your daughters the same, and all of their girlfriends, and tell them to all do it together. Talk to them about politics, financial security, how to ask for a raise; send them on an advanced driving course so they don’t feel like they “drive like a girl”. Tell them to ask What do you mean?, to talk back, to speak up, and to be defiant.
Release your daughter from the old-world version of a woman. Be careful when you say, “My daughter is such a girl,” and “My son is such a boy,” that you are not saying: My daughter will be groped in bars, ignored in class, cat-called on the street, be too embarrassed to run anywhere because she “runs like a girl,” be too embarrassed to throw a ball because she “throws like a girl,” be intimidated on the roads and have a stressful accident because she “drives like a girl”; she will look over her shoulder everywhere she walks at night, and everywhere that she is alone, wondering if the man nearby is about to attack her; she will take a job where she is being paid $49,500 when a man in the same position is being paid $60,000 (yep, the pay gap is 17.5% in Australia). The consequences go on and on.
The other night, I had dinner with some friends, and at 11:00pm I bid them farewell.
“Huh,” said the female. “You’ve got your car here, right?”
“Nah,” I said. “I’m walking home. Fifteen minutes walk.”
“No, don’t be stupid, don’t walk home at this hour. I’ll give you a lift.”
“Nah,” I said.
The male chimed in, “Yeah, no, seriously… I’ll give you a lift.”
That’s the reinforcement we get, every single day. Be less, be inferior, be scared.
This is still a rights movement; we are still asking for equal rights, equal pay, and to be viewed as equal humans.
[Image credit: Melbourne Now]