Sunday, March 3, 2013

Passing On Glenn Beck & When The People You Love Want You To Shut Up

So last weekend, a few of us in the Voices and Faces Project were contacted to see if we would be interested in appearing on Glenn Beck's show to discuss the University of Colorado suggestion that rape victims deter attackers by claiming they're menstruating, peeing on themselves, or vomiting on themselves. Glenn Beck's producer also mentioned they wanted to discuss women's safety issues pertaining to gun ownership.

The group of us who were asked ended up getting in a really great discussion about whether this might be worth doing or not. Almost all of us are fairly liberal in our politics and we were aware that going on Glenn Beck wasn't without enormous risk. But behind that was also an acknowledgment that we might be able to reach more survivors that we otherwise never would if we didn't go on. That if one survivor saw that show and said, "I'm not alone," it might be worth the risk.

I ultimately opted out of this for many reasons, the biggest of which was being concerned with the level of exposure that my kids might experience. I've never been shy about my politics at home. My kids are aware of my activism. But they didn't sign on for it, and at the end of the day, I wasn't willing to risk fall-out that might come to them. (Side note: if you would like a very succinct discussion about why guns can't solve violence against women, this is worth reading)

I'm still not sure passing on Glenn Beck was the right choice. But in my gut, I knew I wasn't comfortable and that was enough for my "no" at the time. Interestingly, it is this level of "being comfortable" that I have been grappling with in several different areas of my life lately.

Because over the past few months, I've made people that I care about uncomfortable. I've said things that have made them squirm or cringe. And I don't regret saying those things, but I do wonder about them. I do wonder if I will systematically isolate everyone in my life because I fight fiercely for something I believe in and I'm not that concerned with people being "comfortable". In my mind, we should be uncomfortable about rape. I've always thought this.

But then, I had dinner with a friend of mine and he said something that sort of stopped me in my tracks. We were discussing the Oscars and he mentioned the New Yorker piece about sexism. And he pointed out that while it had incredibly valid points, the hostility and anger of the piece perpetuated feelings that feminists don't have a sense of humor and didn't allow for education or a possible dialogue to start. Because if we're always angry, then people are going to shut down in listening to us because they feel attacked and ultimately, we're going to shoot ourselves in the foot before we actually can make headway or convert people to understanding the insipidness of rape culture.

It led to a very good discussion because frankly, I'm that girl. A lot. I'm the angry one who thinks it's appalling that "We saw your boobs" was part of the Oscars. But in being that girl, am I also the girl that no one will listen to? Or at least no one who isn't already on my side.

I think we all have a part to play in changing culture and making the world better. And maybe my part is the "in your face" sort of angry girl who gets mad about stuff. Maybe people like me need to exist so that the softer people are willing to say something instead of nothing at all. I don't know. Maybe it's not the part I should play. Maybe I need to work harder on allowing people their safe boxes of comfort so they can move a little bit and peek their head out to see that things aren't always that great on their ow without me dumping them out of their safe places.

I have no answers, of course. I rarely do. Just something I have been thinking about and wondering if there are times when my silence would be more prudent.


Anonymous said...

Hmm. I don't know. I think we all can make people uncomfortable around certain issues in our lives.

You made the choice that was best for you at the time it was happening. It was well-reasoned, and I think sensible. Of course you will still question it. That is the nature of almost any big decision.

Sometimes, when information is life or death, as in rape, violence toward women, etc., there have to be people who speak out in terms that make people think and feel things they may not have considered.

The fact that you are concerned about the balance of that signals to me that you are not "out of bounds" or "Systematically isolating" everyone around you.

I think you're a great, kind thinker.


Mimi said...

I think you are very considered, and even though you may sometimes be that angry person, I wouldn't think you always are. You are willing to look at your decisions and reactions.
I "get" what you are saying about hostility and anger turning people away. But we have to be emotional about sexism, and most especially about rape. I mean, if women are not emotional (angry) about rape, how will things change?
We need emotional, energetic women to keep on working on changing things!

erica and christy said...

I don't think it would have been worth the risk. People hear and see and seek out what they want to.

Case-in-point I no longer watch much TV (exceptions being cartoons in the background and Castle. well, also Walking Dead, Dexter and True Blood, but those are on DVD) and have no idea who Seth McFarlane is, let alone what he said on the Oscars (other than that I just read that article).


roxanne s. sukhan said...

I think if speaking out makes someone uncomfortable, that's their problem. There need to be people who speak out against misogyny and rape/violence against women.

As for Glenn Beck, I'm inclined to think you made the right choice.

Carrie Mesrobian said...

Glenn Beck does not deserve to breathe the same air as you.

And I totally get what you're saying about the whole humor/rage gap. I want people to listen to me, not dismiss me. But there are things that just make me so MAD.

Jessie Humphries said...

This is a very heavy post! Quite philosophical yet humble. A moment of reflection never hurt anyone, right? I don't have any answers (for myself let alone anyone else) but it seems to me that you are trying really hard to do whats right for yourself and your family. The trying part matters.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Crazy as it might sound, Christa, you've never struck me as an angry person, even when you're talking about rape issues. And I appreciate you making people, including me, uncomfortable. It's important. And I don't feel like you've used anger to do that (not that I've seen, anyway). I mean, I have seen people who are angry (the haters of haters, for instance), but I've never put you in that category. So, keep pressing on. I think you're on the right track.