...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Can we maybe take back just fifteen minutes? Please?

If you go to Lewis & Clark, and most of you who read this do, and you're not blind, then you must have noticed the Take Back the Night fliers in all the bathroom stalls around campus. "Take Back the Night!" the fliers proclaim, explaining the purpose of the event, why such an event is necessary, and--near the bottom of the flier--what Take Back the Night is not. To wit:

Take Back the Night is NOT:
1. An event only for women
2. An accusation against all men
3. A chance for all the man-hating feminists to get together and intimidate men.

Now, I wholeheartedly agree that Take Back the Night isn't just an event for women, and it's not and should not be taken as an accusation against all men. The last sentence, however, makes me so angry that when I first read it I wanted to take a ballpoint pen and scribble over the sentence on the flier until the paper ripped and then stab it a million times with the pen. That's how angry it made me, and after discussing it with both Peggy and Ryan, I think I've pinpointed four distinct reasons why.

1. This whole "man-hating feminist" thing. Man-hating feminists are a myth. An urban legend. There is no such thing as a "feminazi," and the fact that intelligent people throw around that word as though it describes a subset of women...well, again, it makes me want to stab something a million times. Feminists do not hate men.

1a. Corollary to the first point: I don't mean that there's no such thing as an angry feminist. Frankly I don't see how women can seriously examine the structural and personal oppression that has historically been built into American society and not be angry. So I'm not discounting anger, or de-legitimizing it--I'm angry, too, sometimes, at the fact that I feel scared walking alone downtown sometimes, or that my body is vulnerable, and that women have traditionally been treated as chattel and inferior beings and still are, in our own country. But, you know, I don't hate men. In fact, I'm going to be living with three great men next year. Sing it with me: feminists may hate the patriarchy, but they do not hate men.

2. The use of the word "the" in the sentence. Not just "man-hating feminists," but "the man-hating feminists." You know, the ones who are running around campus hating men. But not us! No sir! We're good feminists who won't disturb the status quo in a way that makes anyone uncomfortable. This goes far to illustrate the discomfort that women (and men, even more so) with using the term feminist to describe themselves, making necessary the qualifiers that you often see: "I'm a feminist, but not, you know, like that." As Sars once wrote in a fantastic essay that you should all go read right now, qualifying the term feminist so that guys won't think you don't shave your legs is ridiculous and splinters the movement by making straight-up feminism seem like something to be ashamed of.

3. Take Back the Night is not designed to intimidate men? Sorry, but who are we taking the night back from? The men who rape and abuse women and other men. Okay, women can be and are abusive too, but exactly what is the purpose of taking back the night if you're going to give it right back to the fucking rapists? "Oh, so sorry, Mr. Patriarchy--we didn't mean to intimidate you. You can have most of the night, and we'll just take this little bit. Say, the hours between 9:30 and 11:30? And then you can have the rest? Would that be alright with you?" No. Of course Take Back the Night is designed to intimidate, on at least a symbollic level, some men: the men from whom we're taking back the night!

4. Finally, the fact that this flier was printed up by the fucking Womyn's Center is, in my opinion, mind blowing. I can't believe that no one in that organization found that sentence offensive, or that whoever wrote up the flier felt that it was necessary on the Lewis & Clark College campus to include such a sentence. I mean, if they're going to go to the trouble of spelling "Womyn" with a "y," then you'd think they'd be cognizant enough of feminist issues to not fall back into the "yeah, there are man-hating feminists running around, but not us!" paradigm.


So...what do you all think?