Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Five Things: Updates from Bethany Tech.

I've been in tech for Theatre En Bloc's production of Bethany since Monday, as well as paper teching on Sunday night and spending the rest of the weekend immersed in other lighting design issues. It's going to be a really good show, and I'm happy with my work on it. But, to be honest, the show and the design are not what has been on my mind since I woke up on Saturday morning.

1. Let's call the Isla Vista killings what they were: misogynist extremism. "But if you think for one second, for one solitary second, that demanding tolerance for men as a group, that dismissing the reality of violence against women because not all men kill, not all men rape, if you think that’s more important than demanding justice for those who have been brutalised and murdered by those not all men, then you are part of the problem. You may not have pulled the trigger. You may not have raised your hand to a woman in your life. But you are part of the problem."

2. #NotAllMen: How not to derail discussions of women's issues. "Why is it not helpful to say “not all men are like that”? For lots of reasons. For one, women know this. They already know not every man is a rapist, or a murderer, or violent. They don’t need you to tell them. Second, it’s defensive. When people are defensive, they aren’t listening to the other person; they’re busy thinking of ways to defend themselves. I watched this happen on Twitter, over and again. Third, the people saying it aren’t furthering the conversation, they’re sidetracking it. The discussion isn’t about the men who aren’t a problem.

Unsure of the credit - possibly @jordanbks.
 
3. Pick-up artist site on mass shooting: 'More people will die unless you give men sexual options.' "In response, a website popular with Pick-Up Artists is arguing that “six lives would have been saved” if there were a societal mechanism for men to learn “game” and “masculinity” and that “more people will die unless you give men sexual options.'" The Pick-Up Artist community purports to teach men how to have sex with women. The author of this post, RooshV, considers among his fundamental principles that “Women are sluts if they sleep around, but men are not” and that “A woman’s value is mainly determined by her fertility and beauty,” whereas “A man’s value is mainly determined by his resources, intellect, and character.”

4. Your princess is in another castle: misogyny, entitlement, and nerds. "One of the major plot points of Revenge of the Nerds is Lewis putting on a Darth Vader mask, pretending to be his jock nemesis Stan, and then having sex with Stan’s girlfriend. Initially shocked when she finds out his true identity, she’s so taken by his sexual prowess—“All jocks think about is sports. All nerds think about is sex.”—that the two of them become an item. Classic nerd fantasy, right? Immensely attractive to the young male audience who saw it. And a stock trope, the “bed trick,” that many of the nerds watching probably knew dates back to the legend of King Arthur. It’s also, you know, rape."

5. In the fall of 1995 I was a freshman at the University of New Hampshire.  I lived in a dorm room with a roommate assigned to me by the university. I had never been kissed, never had a boyfriend, never gone on a date. I had never before had an email address either - I wasn't even really sure what to do with one, when I got it - and that semester was my introduction to this thing called the World Wide Web (available, then, at UNH via the stunningly gorgeous Lynx browser). I didn't own a computer, so I either used my roommate's to check email or I walked across campus to one of many "computer clusters" that had banks of monitors with pea-green displays. I was sitting at one of those computers one day, in Kingsbury, when I received a disturbing email. I really, really wish that I had saved it somehow, or saved a printed copy, but all that I can do is tell you what I remember of it. It was from some kind of anonymous email address, maybe the "From:" email was blank, I don't know, but there was no way for me to see who sent it. Basically the sender introduced himself as a guy who was in one of my classes, but wouldn't say which one because he didn't want me to guess who he was just yet. He told me he thought I was pretty, and interesting, and he had followed me several times after class, just to see where I went. He said that he knew that I lived in Scott Hall, and he knew which window was my room.

That was the first email. There were a couple of others, in one of them he said he knew that I had one sister and my family back home had a cat, and he even told me their names (my sister's and the cat's). I remember that after the first email I was unsettled, but I didn't do anything about it; after the second, I was terrified, and didn't want to go back to my room. I started crashing at my best friend's dorm. I can't remember if she called the campus police, or if the residence hall director did when I ended up in her apartment a couple of nights later, but eventually I was sitting on her couch talking to a police officer. I had had the good thought to print out all of the emails, and I gave them to her. She took them and within a day or two had traced the emails to the originating student's account. She then called to tell me what they'd found. "Do you know a (name redacted)?" Yes, I did. It was my roommate's boyfriend. He had sent the emails, and they had already talked with him about it. 

It was either that night or the next that I was attending the theater department's infamous production of "The Wizard of Oz" when my roommate and her boyfriend came over to talk to me at intermission, in the middle of the Johnson Theater. He apologized. A lot. He had meant it as a joke, not as actual violence. Nineteen years later I'm still remembering how it was supposed to be funny, that I was being stalked, and that hahaha we are supposed to now go back to being "friends," being normal. Thankfully I don't think the relationship between him and my roommate lasted much longer than that, she had a different boyfriend by the end of the semester (what he did to me was far more insidious and scarring, but wasn't about assault or misogyny in any way). And while pretending to stalk me was definitely not ok, the other side of his joke - wanting me to think that someone had taken an interest in me at a time when that hadn't yet happened - was also cruel.

There are awful stories out there that aren't mine. My stalker turned out to be fairly innocuous. There are people I'm close to who have been in truly abusive relationships, or who have been raped and won't themselves even admit it was rape. But that is my #YesAllWomen story, and it was my first encounter with the idea that violence against women wasn't "technically" stalking, or "technically" assault, or "technically" rape. It was meant to be taken lightly, as a joke. Thankfully, I was surrounded by awesome women who took it as seriously as it could have been - my best friend, the residence hall director, and the police officer that came over to talk to me. I don't know that, had I had the opportunity to confide this in a male friend or even male police officer, the response would have been so quick. I can actually very clearly imagine two of the men who were in my life at that point telling me to calm down about it and not worry so much. And that is why many, if not most, women go to great lengths to structure their lives around the possibility of violence from men - it's normal, it's common, it's not taken seriously. We know that it's up to us to not become victims.

(This week, former UNH student (and theater major) Seth Mazzaglia is on trial for a far more violent crime: the murder (and possible sexual assault) of fellow student Lizzi Marriot. The idea that this is going on in my college town, and that the guy was a major in my old theater department, is hard to take.)
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