Whoa…I just read something extraordinary: “We are not your weapons—we are women.” I found this article on the Crunk Feminist Collective‘s blog, and had to keep reading when the journalist admitted she was raped in Haiti after vowing to refute news reports that Haitian men were brutalizing women in that country. Her impulse was to protect the image of “brothers” who are so often maligned…but how do you defend behavior that is indefensible? I was already thinking about misplaced loyalty with the Gaiman fan freakout in response to Debbie Reese’s valid, reasoned critique (read the follow-up here). But this woman amazes me…after being raped, she still refers to Haitian men as “brothers.” That’s a kind of enlightenment I haven’t yet attained. While watching Frontline this week, I could barely sit still because I was so disgusted by the behavior of men in that report on “bacha bazi.” Yet it was thanks to two brave men that that report even made it out of Afghanistan…how do you stay open when fear and pain make you want to shut down and retreat? My alter-ego, Annihilator Blink Woman, has been resurfacing as of late…one blink and you’re GONE! But I don’t live in a comic book. So I have to focus on ways we can change destructive behavior. That brave journalist, Amanda Kijera, admits she’s “grateful” for the traumatic experience that only draws her closer to her fellow rape survivors; she gives this reasoned response to the rape of black women by black men throughout the world:
Truly, I have witnessed as a journalist and human rights advocate the many injustices inflicted upon Black men in this world. The pain, trauma and rage born of exploitation are terrors that I have grappled with every day of my life. They make one want to strike back, to fight rabidly for what is left of their personal dignity in the wake of such things. Black men have every right to the anger they feel in response to their position in the global hierarchy, but their anger is misdirected.
Women are not the source of their oppression; oppressive policies and the as-yet unaddressed white patriarchy which still dominates the global stage are. Because women–and particularly women of color–are forced to bear the brunt of the Black male response to the Black male plight, the international community and those nations who have benefitted from the oppression of colonized peoples have a responsibility to provide women with the protection that they need.
I agree with her, but would’ve been a little tougher on those “brothers” who seem to think they’re justified in raping out of rage and powerlessness. I don’t know. There’s a lot of injustice in the world, but NOTHING excuses rape. Nothing. As I think about taking on a new job, I’ve been remembering moments when I faltered in the classroom—those moments when several of my students stood up and admitted they’d been raped, and I wondered what more I should be doing to keep them safe. The challenge of teaching is being able to accept that you can’t control everything that happens outside the classroom. But while you’re IN the classroom, you can speak out, reveal, expose, analyze…I do miss that. And you can teach others about the value of critical thinking and reading and writing…Sarah Park posted this link to a great commentary by Robert Jensen on “Holding Ourselves Accountable.” You should read his response to a man who suggested that talking about injustice only makes things worse…
You suggest that that I “perpetuate and even exacerbate the divisiveness” but I think that misunderstands the nature of the problem. The divisiveness comes from the injustice, not from naming the injustice. People in the United States are divided by the inequality inherent in patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism. Naming those systems and the inequality they produce isn’t divisive but rather an attempt to understand the systems so that we can change them. Just as we need accountability we also need analysis to make it possible to move toward justice. How can problems be solved if causes are not identified and critiqued? (my emphasis)
All those folks who piled on Debbie need to read that article instead of suggesting she “move on” or “let it go.”