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.