Banter in the Garden
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Tea and Strumpets
Trigger warning for sexual violence.
Last night, I went to the wonderful show A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and a Prayer, put on in support of Wellington Rape Crisis. It was moving and tearful, but in a supportive and empathetic space. I cried, darlings. A lot.
One of the monologues, written by Eve Ensler, talked about being angry. So angry you could spit. So angry you scream and rant and lose all sense of propriety and ruin a party. So angry at the violence and mutilation and shame and distress that you can’t understand why everyone isn’t so angry.
That was me last year. Angry, raging frustrated. Furious. Willing to temper my anger with humour, because that’s who I am. But angry nonetheless.
This year, I am not. I’d like to be angry. I miss the fury. I miss my high atop the Mountain Of Righteous Anger attitude, that got me through the first SlutWalk. Not the March itself, but the comments and posts telling is why what we were doing was pointless, unnecessary, dangerous. Why we were wrong, and our shorts skirts are an invitation to rape.
This year, I am not angry. I am scared. I’ve been scared all my life. This is what I thought about when Jan Logie, playing Eve Ensler asked “How can you not be angry?”
I’m scared of the violence done to our bodies. Of all the little ways we are beaten down, diminished, destroyed. The ways we are taught out bodies are public property. Not wholly our own. That our chastity is our most important virtue.
I’m scared of the half-formed memory. The one that tells me not to think about it, because I don’t want to know, to remember. That knowing, remembering might be something I can’t bear.
What I do remember is being scared of strangers. The first time my mother taught me not to talk to strangers, and illustrated it with the story of a girl from out neighbourhood who had been brutally raped and then murdered. My mother isn’t crazy, she didn’t put it like that, but it was my first taste of that amorphous fear that all women live with. I was so scared, when my uncle tried to pick me up from school one day, I wouldn’t get in the car with him. So scared, I cried when the priest at my family’s church shook my hand.
I’m scared for the girl I was at 17, at my first taste of actual violence. For the man who broke my ribs. I didn’t tell that story for a decade, so scared I was that I’d be blamed. I provoked him, I asked for it, I deserved it. Scared to tell the story because after so long, I wouldn’t be believed. That people who knew me then wouldn’t believe me, that I’d hidden it too well. And that they’d tell other people they didn’t believe me. (They did, and I was angry. But it taught me an important lesson. Don’t tell.)
I’m scared of the street harassment and the casual violence of being yelled at from a parked car. Of being reminded that being a woman in public is dangerous. That I don’t have the right to walk down the street free from fear. Free from being accosted, from being thrown against a wall and attacked. I’m scared for the women I know for whom the statistics aren’t one in three, they’re eight in ten, because they have the misfortune to have been born brown and in another country.
I’m scared of all the times I had sex I didn’t want to have. Of being coerced into fucking someone, cajoled. Not wanting to be a prude, or having a reputation as a Good Time Girl to maintain. Of being too drunk to say no, too stoned to move, too high to know better.
I’m scared of the man who is harassing me now. Who thinks that because he was allowed to touch my body once, that’s an open invitation. That because I opened my legs for him, I’ll do it again and again. And that my desire not to makes me a whore, a worthless nonentity who he can treat how he likes. That he can hurt, scare, torment. I’m scared of his anger, and of my own. I’m scared of walking home, being in my house, sleeping. And I’m scared, again, of talking to people about it.
I’m scared for those one in three women, for those one in five men, for those one in two transgender people. I’m scared, until I remember I’m one of them. I’m scared, but I will march, again. Because it’s important. I hope you will too.