Monday, April 16, 2007

The Box

So of course the Duke lacrosse thing has been all over the place. I don't have anything to say about the charges or their merit, but I do have something to say about the fact that every damned time I hear about it, the first gleeful word to jump out of the reporter's mouth is "stripper."

I mentioned this to Sweetie, who responded that it's a vital element of the story that she's a stripper. I agree that it is important in that it explains the logistics of how she came to be at the party, and in that her status as a sex worker certainly affected how those upstanding college men viewed her. So fine. The news media might have a reason to mention that she's a stripper. But why, my friends, why does it have to be part of the headline? Why does this story have to use the word "stripper" five times? Why does it have to say things like this:
"At the height of the uproar over the charges, even [Durham District Attorney Mike] Nifong conceded that there was no scientific or eyewitness testimony implicating the students. There was only the word of a woman who removed her clothes for money and entertained strangers in hotel rooms."
Of course, I know the answer: Clearly, if the only way you can make enough money to support yourself and your children is in the sex trade, then you are at best unreliable, and you're probably a lying slut who was asking for it.

I guess she could have gotten a job at Wal-Mart.

I avoid the nastier quarters of the blogosphere like the plague they are, but I can only imagine what kinds of horrifyingly violent fantasies have been perpetrated against this poor woman. I picture it like a Mad-Lib: "That [___adj.___] [___noun___] needs to have the [___noun___] [___verb___]ed out of her! A little taste of my [___adj.___] [___noun___] will teach her a lesson. She'll be [___verb___]ing for [___noun___]." I certainly don't mean to suggest that only sex workers would have this kind of violent hatred directed at them. Any person of any sex, gender, or color who accuses someone higher up the totem pole of sexualized violence is opening him- or herself up to all manner of abuse, usually in the form of threats of more sexualized violence. "You like to accuse your betters of rape? Well, maybe a little rape will shut you up." What I mean to suggest is that every time they say "stripper" where they could say "woman" or "person" or even "mother," they're ripping away one more shred of her shredded humanity. Sex workers are disposable, and they're disposing of her piece by piece.

But that's not really what I wanted to talk about today. This morning I was listening to Kevin and Bean (I know, I know), and they had a segment where they invited calls from people who had had neighbors who had committed hideous crimes. One person talked about a woman who had chopped her husband into bits and then burned her house down around herself; another regaled the greater Los Angeles area with the story of a crippled foreigner who'd hacked up a twelve-year-old boy with a machete. Good mornin'! One man, though, called to say that he had lived next door to the Simi Valley rapist. Something the caller said kinda got to me, and almost made me cry. He said that this guy had "raped like forty people." After being pelted with the word "stripper" all week, after Anna Nicole Smith was carved up like joints for a feast, after all the slings and arrows hurled day in and day out by the Man tryin' to keep us down, I was touched--really and actually touched--when this caller referred to these rape victims as people. "He raped like forty people." I checked, and it turns about that he actually raped about a dozen people (but who's counting), and that all his victims were women, but just for a moment, this anonymous KROQ listener made them not just women but actual people. That's all we want. We don't want to be "equal." That doesn't even make sense. It suggests that you superior men should deign to raise us silly lil' wimmins to your exalted level. I don't want to be equal; I am equal. What I want is to stop being defined by the fact that I happen to have a fucking uterus, and to be defined instead by the fact that I am a human person.

The fact that I have a uterus is one of the least interesting things about me. Half the mammals on the planet have uterii; why should I be pigeonholed by this animal thing? If I have to be put in a box, why can't it be the box of the super-smart, or the moderately lazy, or the easily riled? Why the uterus box? Why not the slovenly box, or the generous box, or the cranky-in-the-morning box? Now, there are plenty of sub-divisions in the uterus box; I guess I'm in the uppity-unfuckable corner of the uterus box. I guess I'm sending you a postcard.

Just the other day, I heard someone use the expression "lady doctor." The fact that the doctor was a "lady" had nothing to do with the story; only the fact that she was a doctor was relevant. But there she was, in that box. That box has a lot of stuff written on the side. It's a list that starts with the word "Female," and goes on say things like "baby source" and "feminine intuition" and "penis receptacle." Doctor, yes, but mostly lady. And if you're a sex worker, don't expect ever to be anything else.

But for one bright, shining moment on a ridiculous frat-boy friendly morning show, one guy, wittingly or not, took those women out of the box. Just for that moment, the fact that they were women wasn't relevant. It was the fact that they were people that mattered.

'Course, I don't think it mattered to their rapist.

1 comment:

Yeny said...

Hi Bitey, I'm new to your blog, but I just wanted to comment on this post which struck me because as much as I'd like to think that the man on the radio really did see the women as people instead of 'just women' I believe that it has more to do with the fact that the crime of rape is not viewed as a hate crime perpetrated against women by men(which it should be), thus society at large treats this crime as something which happens to people regardless of gender, committed by psychopaths (whose gender is not the most significant factor).

By creating these false premises when dealing with rape it becomes a crime that has nothing to do with the patriarchal society we live in, and nothing to do with the sexist mentality that means that no matter what a woman achieves, the most important thing about her is that she has a vagina. I believe rape has absolutely everything to do with the patriarchal society in which we live. Denying the root cause means that no real action is taken to combat rape.