I haven’t written in a while. Been dealing with a lot of “things” as we do. New job, getting healthy, stuff. But I have been watching and listening, as I do. So this “thing” has me really hot and bothered and needing to speak out loud.
Let me start by saying this. I am in no way, not any way, no way ever, defending Miss Ford’s words. Having said this. When someone goes into politics and becomes prominent in the public eye. There is a thing that doesn’t really ever get mentioned. Unfortunately you learn it by experience and it isn’t always pleasant, as Miss Ford is finding out. Whether you like it or not, and I doubt many like it, you end up by default, somewhat muzzled. You have to begin being incredibly careful about how you express your opinions in public venues like Facebook and Twitter. There are all sorts of folks out there in the media, in the blogosphere, on Twitter. If they know your relationship to that politician they can just hardly wait to use your words to go after your loved one. I have learned the hard way that once you put it out there, it’s out there to stay. You can delete it and you can apologize and it’s still gonna be there and you’re still gonna pay. Think very very hard before you press send.
Now to the real issue. Krista Ford is a young and very naive women. She grew up in a privileged and protected world. She has zero concept of what it is like to live in downtown Toronto, alone, without a car, needing to work often long hours and weird times just to barely make the rent. I used to walk home from Bloor and Bay to Dav and Dupont at 4 o’clock in the morning years ago when I worked in a restaurant that was open til 3. Try that on for size Krista. Last 4 or 5 days of the pay period I didn’t even have the money for a bus ticket. That’s called real life. That’s how 99% of the population live. That’s the city you live in.
I belong to a generation where men forced themselves on women in a rather subtle and constant fashion. We did not know that no means no. Wives were raised to believe that whatever their husbands wanted they got. You always acquiesced to the man. Girls gave in to their boyfriends. Date rape was not a term that had even been invented and we sure as hell didn’t say anything if it happened. The police would not be any help at all if there was no violence involved. If you hadn’t been hurt you must have wanted it. The shame and responsibility was all yours. If you got pregnant, Mr. Akin’s opinion notwithstanding, you were generally hidden away in some awful home and the baby taken from you at birth. It was just understood that you couldn’t keep it. What would the neighbours say.
We cluck our tongues righteously these days when we hear about the way raped women are treated in third world countries. Yet I am only 60 years old and I remember all to well when that was standard treatment right here in River City. I had a friend who got “knocked up” when we were 16. She was not allowed to admit it out loud until she was big as a house and the elephant in the room was impossible to deny. Her parents “made” her marry the boy. Another friend got pregnant at 18 and denied it to the bitter end. None of us said a word as her overalls got bigger and bigger. One day she disappeared for about 4 or 5 weeks and when she reappeared there was no baby and life went on.
So don’t tell me we haven’t changed, and changed a lot. Now we have guys like @sol_chrom or @bryck123. These are enlightened and smart young men with profound respect for women. That is a step forward.
As long as there have been men and women, there has been rape. A sad but true statement. I really hate to say it and I know it will make some folks really crazy but as long as we exist there always will be. Having said that, we must work very very hard to make it one of those rare anomalies that can always be called mental illness. It happens as much as it does now because too many men think they somehow have a right to take what they want. They somehow believe that they are reading signals that say the opposite of what is really being said. They do not know how to listen.
In countries like Lebanon and Egypt there are women who practise the art of Belly Dancing. They wear those spare costumes we’ve all seen and they are often seen walking to work in cities like Cairo. They practise an art form that receives respect. It is not assumed that they are “looking for it” because of the way they are dressed. This doesn’t mean there isn’t the occasional pig about but in those societies, men do speak up when other men behave badly towards women. It isn’t acceptable to speak badly about women in mixed company. Before you all start commenting about somewhere like Pakistan, I am talking about Arabic countries. Where men can kiss each other without any fool giggling. Where men are allowed to cry when it’s called for. Where strong emotion is never hidden but expressed with vigour.
We could learn a whole lot about how to raise our sons, from these countries. We live with this North American arrogance that is our worst enemy. We aren’t better than everyone else. Our ways are not the best ways. There are no best ways. We have so little respect for the rest of the world, it sometimes makes me scream. I don’t have a son but if I did there would be non-stop criticism of how I would raise him. I wouldn’t care. I would raise a strong self-aware man. One who would not be afraid to cry. Who would hug and kiss without inhibition. Who would know how to grieve outwardly, be happy out loud when it was warranted, and be angry without explosion when that was what was called for. He would be a man who would have respect for all human beings. It would never occur to him to judge a woman by her clothing and ignore her words. It would never occur to him to come up behind a random woman and take what he wanted. He wouldn’t want that without love and respect.
So what I am saying is that the responsibility for changing this mindset belongs to us all. Krista was so wrong. But attacking her was wrong too. We all created the mindset that allows her to think that way. It is way to easy to say “well Doug Ford is her Dad”. Anyone who knows me knows I am no fan of the Fords but fair is fair. This is a societal problem and it is us as a society that will fix it, working together. Men should call their peers on stupid conversations. But guess what? So should women. Don’t walk away when a joke is told in poor taste. Say politely but loudly that you are offended and you would like it to never happen again. Then walk away. Don’t go on and on. The point gets made very quickly and it’s called shame. If you preach it’s called boring and after a while not only does no one hear you, they begin avoiding you, but the jokes go on.
When I was a 20-year-old, the asshole who’s working in the Bloor and Christie area would probably have gone unabated for literally years. We would never ever have known the total number because too many victims would have said nothing. He will be caught, and likely very soon. I pray that it is before he hurts anyone else. Rape is a thing that I don’t believe you can ever completely recover from. It becomes a fundamental part of you and it colours your reactions to the world for the rest of your life. He is a bastard.
Things have changed enormously since I was 20. Just no where nearly enough. If we give in to anger and begin blaming and confronting and chastising we will never change. We must stay calm and work together. Not men and women but enlightened people, teaching the unenlightened people.