Tag Archives: violence

F*cked Over by Gender Roles: Not Just For Women

18 Apr

Here are two paragraphs:

#1 Christine is an employee of Boring Company. She has a low-level but crucial job. She is good at it, but unreliable. Her hours are irregular and she sometimes disappears with no notice for weeks on end. Everyone at Boring knows she has a longtime, live-in boyfriend that she complains a lot about and they break up and get back together every month or so. When they break up, he kicks her out of the house and she needs to sleep at a friend’s or in the office. She sometimes comes to work with a black eye, scrapes, and bruises. People say they are from her boyfriend. Usually she doesn’t comment and when she does, she says she walked into a door.

Imagine this response from the bosses at Boring:

“Yeah, don’t bother Christine too much this week. She’s fighting with her boyfriend again, heh. Men,” shake of the head. “So she might be out the next few days on a bender. I might have to bail her out again – you just can’t trust some people with money. Anyway, fill in for her job for a little while.”

And this response from her coworkers at Boring:

“God, I hate it when Christine takes off for days just because she’s fighting with her boyfriend. It’s so unprofessional. ”

#2 Chris is an employee of Boring Company. He has a low-level but crucial job. He is good at it, but unreliable. His hours are irregular and he sometimes disappears with no notice for weeks on end. Everyone at Boring knows he has a longtime, live-in girlfriend that he complains a lot about and they break up and get back together every month or so. When they break up, she kicks him out of the house and he needs to sleep at a friend’s or in the office. He sometimes comes in with a black eye, scrapes, and bruises. People say they are from his girlfriend. Usually he doesn’t comment and when he does, he says he walked into a door.

Imagine this response from the bosses at Boring:

“Yeah, don’t bother Chris too much this week. He’s fighting with his girlfriend again, heh. Women,” shake of the head. “So he might be out the next few days on a bender. I might have to bail him out again – you just can’t trust some people with money. Anyway, fill in for his job for a little while.”

And this response from his coworkers at Boring:

“God, I hate it when Chris takes off for days just because he’s fighting with his girlfriend. It’s so unprofessional. ”

[For maximal bonus points:

“I mean, she/he seems like her/his boy/girlfriend is abusing her/him. That would make it really hard to function.”

“Yeah, I guess. I switch between feeling bad for her/him and just being really annoyed. She/he’s lucky to even have a job in this economy and it drive me nuts to see her/him blowing it.”]

On Violence

23 Mar

I sort of wanted my thoughts on violence to be a paragraph or two in another post on feminism and/or raising kids, but I think it might warrant its own space. I am a huge advocate of not just learning about violence but learning violence in a controlled space. Particularly for women. I would also like to note that I believe that the responsibility for violence rests squarely with the aggressor, but until we live in a world where irrational violence never happens I’m going to advocate everyone taking the necessary steps to feel safe. My stance on this is pretty deeply rooted in personal experience and I’m hesitant to speak for other people on something this sensitive, so let’s open with that.

[I’m also, on reflection, not sure if this deserves a trigger warning or not, but to be on the safe side – contains descriptions of violence.]

I started taking Tae Kwon Do when I was six or so. I don’t remember the exact impetus. Certainly I was an aggressive, rambunctious kid and I went to a school where it wasn’t unusual for kids to get into fistfights now and then. I definitely had no hope of keeping my mouth shut enough to stay out of trouble, so that might have had something to do with it. My dad was no stranger to fisticuffs himself, having grown up in rough neighborhoods where fighting the local bully daily until you beat him was de rigueur. He always wanted me to be able to defend myself, particularly as a girl, and I definitely idolized him for his stories.

My mother was less enthusiastic about the whole thing than my father and neither parent wanted me to be a little thug, so there were rules: 1) You absolutely never hit anyone first; 2) If someone hits you, tell them to stop, walk away, and if necessary tell a teacher. You must try all three of these things first; and 3) If you’ve tried all of these and this person is still hitting you, you are not in trouble for hitting them back.

It might seem surprising, given that I followed these rules pretty religiously, that number 3 was usually triggered once or twice a year until I was in 9th grade. All I really have to say about that is that public schools in DC are crap-funded and you’d be amazed how ineffectual and apathetic teachers can be under those circumstances. Also, there was no rule against being a loudmouth, and I was. The ritual when one of these incidents happened was my dad running through the checklist with me (Did you tell him to stop? Yes! Did you tell a teacher? Yes. Really? Ask Ms. Brown! I did!) and when I passed the test asking, Did you win? Not always, but I got a high five when I did.*

So I got into fights and, separately, I started learning martial arts. My teacher was a tiny, scowling Scottish man who was improbably gifted with children. We did not backtalk him or goof off in class, and somehow we all liked him. Now, I should say right away that martial arts and real violence are very different things. In some ways it’s odd that I’m advocating Tae Kwon Do as a way of learning violence, when I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve employed it in an actual fight. ** But here are the things I got out of Tae Kwon Do*** that helped me handle violence:

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