Wednesday, May 31, 2006

If I'm to be given one label, call me an egalitarian

Since I started speaking out about my rape and rape in general, I've been called a man hater, anti-male and a few derogatory labels I won't repeat here. Yet as I think about why I speak out and blog against rape and other forms of violence and exploitation, hating men isn't even at the bottom of the list.

What's number one?

Preventing harm.

In an ideal world no one would be charged with rape because everyone tempted to rape would resist temptation. I know we'll never reach that ideal world, but we can get closer to it than we are today. Sometimes that means standing up against those who try to block this effort.

So why do some still insist on giving me the label man hater for my effort?

At first I thought they confused my opposition to rape as an opposition to men since men commit most of the rapes. I thought they couldn't have read much of my blog or they would see that I'm also against the exploitation and rape of men and boys.

Then it clicked. The label has never been about me.

It's all about them. To define me as a man hater you have to refuse to truly see and value rape victims as full human beings who didn't deserve what was done to them.

The women who tried to slap that label on me frequently talk about protecting their sons. And if that protection harms girls and women that seems to be an acceptable trade off. Those women who say they are only protecting the men and boys in their family often say they were feminists through college and beyond but finally came to their senses.

These women remind me of parents who fight to get every school levy passed until their last child graduates and who then switch sides to lead the fight against all subsequent school levies.

For these people it is all about them and their self-interests. They were never true to any philosophy about education. Those ex-feminists were never true feminists, they just aligned themselves where they saw potential benefits such as increased pay for women.

Either that or the intrinsic definition some have of what it means to be a man includes a level of violence and self-centeredness I see as criminal.

As a woman, I've experienced the harm that comes when men think of girls and women as something less than them. But my concern has never been limited to the harm that I have felt personally or that I am more likely to feel because of my gender. From as early as I can remember, my mother stressed respect for others and that it was wrong to exploit others just because you can.

So the label feminist has too narrow of a scope.

As I read Newsweek: An Inconvenient Woman about Mary Magdalene, the label of egalitarian popped out at me. It spoke to my responsibility not to see myself as inherently superior to anyone else, not even rapists. It means I can't buy into monster myths.

For those who want to claim superiority, egalitarian is a nasty thing to be. It means you are no better in the eyes of God than the leper and you have no excuse for exploiting people you see as inferior.

This stratification of humanity relates to the view held by some in the Church that Eve caused Adam to sin just as rape victims caused their rapists to lose control. To me this ignores the lesson I learned from the story of Eve, Adam and the apple. And that is that passing the buck for the actions you take is as old as humanity. God didn't like it then and I doubt God approves of it now.

In my comment on Alas: Gender Does NOT Trump Race, I wrote:

The view that any type of oppression/discrimination/hatred trumps another forgets that they are all symptoms of the same problem. And that problem is exploiting groupings of people for our self-interests and then using those same groups as scapegoats.

This underlying system harms even those who aren't oppressed/discriminated against or hated because it creates a toxic environment.

Unfortunately, many see this toxicity as being caused by those who don't quietly let the toxic system hurt them by staying in their proper place.

Many who want to deny racism/sexism/etc are likely scared that the unjust system will turn on them. The last thing they want is to be treated the way they treat those they discriminate against.

We tend to think others mirror our way of thinking so from the emotion put into attacking those who fight against sexism and sexual violence, anti-feminists must be afraid that feminists want to turn the tables on men.

They may feel that violence-against-women legislation does just that, but there's a huge difference between making those who hurt others -- with little risk of punishment -- accountable for their actions and switching who can victimize without fear of punishment.

So if I'm an egalitarian, why aren't I as vocal in all the areas where people are harmed or discriminated against? It's very simple, I'm at zero degrees of separation when it comes to rape and the ripple effects of rape. In other areas, I can be supportive but I don't have the same level of experience and insight.

It would be like an alien trying to communicate how to walk from Los Angeles to New York City without getting a closer look at the Earth than what astronauts can see from the moon. Hey, from up there, the Earth looks like a perfect globe and all you have to do is follow a curved line. That alien would probably grumble that humans don't know how to follow even the simplest of instructions.

My view is often closer than the moon analogy, but I could easily say things as hurtful and as ignorant as many people say about the impact of rape.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:01 AM   3 comments links to this post


At June 02, 2006 8:53 PM, Blogger Siditty said...

In terms of being a man hater, bringing issues to the forefront does not make you a hater of men. I wish more people had the gumption to do what you do. It is sincerely a great effort, and for you to hate men because you are against rape and sexual assault is just plain asinine. I hope one day being a person who wants equal rights for women and people of color, and who thinks sexual crime is bad would not labeled as something so negative.

At June 03, 2006 12:22 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


Thank you. I'm glad I can make a positive difference with my blog.

At June 07, 2006 10:25 AM, Blogger the nut said...

Just wanted to let you know your post was added to the XVI Carnival of Feminists. Thanks for submitting!


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