Sunday, June 1, 2014

Yes, all women

Say what you will about me, but friends for me were few and far between in my life for the longest time. As a result of that, the ones I have now I treasure deeply, and value their time and investment in my life. Each of them brings something to the proverbial table in life's conversation, and learning to value that perspective is something that has enriched my life greatly.

Today, one friend of mine, over the course of a conversation, took a very alien topic to me and made it very personal over the course of a few sentences. 

On an academic level, I've always known that women's right is an incomplete battle, one with a lot of work still to do. By some measures I am a feminist myself, though as others use the word, I am not. Regardless of semantics, I have always held that respect is born of character, not race, or gender, or creed. I judge all people as individuals, and try to respect all equally. 

I also know I live in an imperfect world. A world where handguns and self-defense training are prudent investments for some. I live in a world where the ink on the american constitution is truly powerless unless backed up by the threat of force, or force itself. The police offices of the 21st century possesses as much firepower on his person as twenty infantrymen during the American revolution, and in some cases marshal arts training on a par with 1940s era elite military units. Police and private security forces have at their disposal technology and equipment today for surveillance and intelligence that would have been deemed speculative science fiction by major world powers only fifty years ago. 

As news comes out about the shooting in Isla Vista, California, the sick extent of my world's "imperfection" was shone in a hard, glaring light to me. As the shooter's mindset and motivation have come to light, I am struck by the fact that had someone penned a story a year ago about a man who went on a hate-filled, misogynistic shooting spree of this type, the story would have most likely been written off  as over-the-top. Yet now, we have a shooter who is almost a caricature  of a villain; too over-the-top to be believable, too self-absorbed to be real. And now we have 7 dead bodies as silent witnesses to how very real he was.

The thought of someone like this living within three zip codes of me would cause me to loose sleep, and I'm not even in his target demographic. 

And now to come full circle and tie back into my earlier statement...

My friend, a women of exceptional intelligence, formidable determination, and breathtaking ferocity, told me that her life was lived under the almost constant fear of falling victim to sexual and gender based violence.

"We have no idea if the stranger slowing down their car beside us is some harmless guy who just needs to make a turn, or someone who's about to jump out and assault us."

"We don't know if that guy asking us to hold the elevator is going to try to grope us once the doors close." 

"We don't know if the guy offering to buy us a drink is going to try and slip something into it."

There was more, of course, but these words hit home for me.

Having worked close personal security before, I do know what it is to look at every corner like it is masking an ambush, and ever car like it has an armed squad, or a crazed knife wielding psycho hidden in it. That being said, I also know that feeling with a chambered 9mm pistol, and a lot of training to my name. I face that threat with backup close at hand, and the knowledge that people were checking on me regularly. Not to mention the fact that I naturally stand over six foot and can strike hard enough to collapse a rib cage with my knees or elbows if needed.

To know that fear every waking hour of my life, without the benefits of training, armament, or ally would be a nightmare. And yet my friend just told me that that very nightmare is her "normal" right now.

The epiphany here is not that such things are possible, or that people like this exist, or still exist. Sadly, that facet of reality is not new to me. The moment of hard realization for me was understanding on an emotional level that people close to me, people in my neighborhood, people I know and interact with daily, are afraid in ways they should not need to be.

And that... more than anything else, changes how I approatch this very ugly fact of our american existence.

I wanted to do a more detailed breakdown of this issue, but the more I tried, the more it became a rambling dialogue that went nowhere. This is not a topic that is going to be solved, answered, or even adequately addressed in a blog post, let alone mine. so, suffice it to say, my responses here are... limited in their scope.

#yesallwomen - Okay... I hear you. No, I'll never know your fear or apprehension about just being who you are, but that doesn't preclude me from  helping, or offering my skills to the conversation. God blessed me with a 6' 4" frame, a sharp mind, and a level head. I'm the person that other parents trust to watch their adolescent daughters. I'm the guy who will going down swinging (or shooting, if it comes to that) before watching another person fall victim. There are people who will listen to me when I speak. I may not be able to change the world, but I'd sure as hell like to help. 

As a counter point, I ask this: please don't lecture me. I've already gotten that from a few, and I don't need any more of it. I'm not mad, I'm not offended and I totaly understand where it is coming from. But going forward, we're on the same side, I agree things need to change, and I'm willing to help where I can. I'm willing to listen to facts, and take in new information. But please, lecturing me is not going to help anyone, so save the energy for something more productive.

#notallmen- Men, I hate to say it... but get over yourselves. Yes, not all men are rapists, I think the vast and wide majority of women do get that, and had that fact in mind long before the twitter campaign got going. it was a valid post the first... oh... ten times. But now, it's been hijacked by trolls, thugs and a few others in th social media universe. Just like the Crucifix was used by the KKK and the swastika was hijacked by the Third Reich, I honestly believe #notallmen  had noble origins, but not any more. The ship is sinking, guys, time to jump and swim while you can.  This is  not a hashtag you want to hang you hat on.

#allmencan - This one is on the ropes, it could be a good focus for men to unit behind change, or it could get hijacked by trolls. I don't know. The important thing here is that men can, and need to be part of the solution. Presently, for better or for worse men control the legislatures of all 50 states and the federal government, are the majority of law enforcement and emergency services, and control the majority of the economy. What we each do with that information is... well, up to each of us. But so long as #allmencan remains a flag for men to rally behind in order to promote women's rights, I'll consider it a positive thing. 

This is not a fight I can ever lead, by its very nature, the point of this spear needs to be the women who most need to see these changes. 

But that doesn't preclude me from helping where I can.

Its going to mean reminding friends of mine that there is a difference between admiring a girl and ogling her to the point of being obtrusive.

Its going to mean telling men that "bitch" jokes aren't funny.
Its going to mean that we need to advance the idea that sex is something that is done with, not to someone else.

Its going to mean merit over gender.

Trust rather than protection. 

Human worth over machismo. 
Its going to mean fighting the good fight, and probably loosing a few battles along the way. 

Its about making sure we build a culture that encourages the strongest of us (in any sense of the word) to protect the rest, rather than dominat them. 

Be without fear in the face of your enemies.Be brave and upright that God may love thee.Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death.Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong – that is your oath.-The Knight’s Oath,  William Monahan, "Kingdom of heaven (2005)".