Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You Stay Home. I'm Sick of It.

Back when I was in high school, I read Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire and I absolutely loved it. It's been written about and written about: Why do women like vampires? Since Byron since Varney since Dracula in all his horrible and sexy incarnations since Louis and Lestat since Angel and Spike since sparkly Edward. Women like vampires. And the women who kill them: Sonja Blue, Anita Blake and, of course, Buffy. I've had a lot of thoughts about this for a very long time. Here are some of them.

Look. We all do it. We're all in the same boat. We all grew up in the same culture hearing the same things and being told the same received wisdom more or less. What I mean is that there are certain kernels of acceptable truth that have made a home in most of our heads. The thing is, so many of those ideas are default settings, just things we've heard over and over so many times we cannot picture the world behaving in any other way. Which brings me to Natalee Holloway, who I've been thinking a lot about recently. And, yes, this has to do with vampires so bear with me.

After Holloway's disappearance and presumed murder, there was a lot of talk about the safety of young girls in terms of travel. There was (and is) lots of talk about how the world is just too dangerous and girls should not be permitted to travel abroad without parents, and how they must be properly supervised. And we're not speaking of children: we're talking about women 17, 18, 19 years old. I hear this sort of talk and my insides constrict. As women, we're told to be frightened. But if we say we are too vociferously, we're told we're being unfair, or cowardly. If we're not afraid, and something happens (and by "something", we usually mean rape), she's often told she should have known better, and that it's her fault, that she was stupid. It's unwinnable.

So, back to vampires. When I first read Anne Rice's books when I was a girl, one thing that she wrote about was the freedom of suddenly being the most dangerous thing on the street. Louis walked along the night-time docks in New Orleans, Lestat's mother traveled the world, finally possessing the freedom she had always dreamed of as a pre-Revolutionary Frenchwoman constrained by what was possible. This seemed so exciting to me. To be honest, it still does. Look. I know the world is often times a dangerous place for all people, but women are in the terrible situation of not being the ones causing the problems, but being blamed for the outcome more often than not when things go awry.

Boys, if you are in a not very safe neighborhood late at night and your iphone gets jacked, likely someone will say that maybe it wasn't the greatest idea to flash it around. But, it is also unlikely that too many people will say that since you did so, the thief has a right to it and should not be punished in any way. In fact, you are the one who should be punished! But the case is not the same for women. At all. Again, totally unwinnable. That's, I think the reason fictional vampirism seems so attractive to so many women. Maybe we can suddenly win, or at least control the game.

Or at least it's a reason.

I initially wrote this post (everything above this paragraph) before hearing the news this afternoon that CBS Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, Lara Logan had “suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating” in Egypt on the 11th, the day Mubarek stepped down. There's no word of who is responsible for this attack, and does it matter? When I read the news on the WaPo website, the first comment referred to Logan as a "blonde bimbo". Most of the rest said she shouldn't have been there in the first place and this is what happens when you send a blonde white women to report from Egypt.

Look. Logan is the senior foreign correspondent at CBS news, to be specific, she's a war reporter. She's been reporting from Afghanistan and Iraq for years. She's a big girl and a stone cold pro. It was Logan's decision to be there. She is brave and brilliant. When I read about this, something inside me shattered. The news from Washington has been unwatchable recently. I have so many people blocked from my feed on facebook, I hardly know why I even bother to log on. Not because I disagree with them or don't like them, just that I can't stand the constant reminder that my body isn't my own and that I am a second class citizen in this world. As a facebook friend wrote today, "I am so sick of being a woman. I would like to be the one imposing my belief systems on another gender."

It's become exhausting. I'm tired of it. I spent half of today trying to figure out what a world looked like in which the default was set a different way. In which the default assumption was that I was smart and strong and capable. In which the things I enjoyed weren't considered slightly embarrassing. In which being "one of the girls" was considered something to which the opposite gender would like to aspire. In which men had to learn how to moderate their behavior and speech in order to be taken seriously, to be assertive but not too intimidating. There was a recent HuffPo piece that I can't find right now that was written by some fucking man advising women how to behave in the workplace. No talk that maybe the men they were speaking with perhaps moderate their behavior and maybe everyone should work together on functioning in their workplace. Then I hear that this is the way the world is and that one must adjust oneself to it. I'm just completely tired of it. I'm ready for the world to adjust itself to me.

Lara Logan is brave and strong and smart. She's attractive and blonde. None of these things make her responsible for her attack. She was rescued by a crowd of women and soldiers. She is in a hospital in New York. She has two children. She is a warrior. Hearing people say she should have stayed home makes me want to put my fist through a wall. Why? Because it's dangerous? Because she was attacked because of her femaleness? Why don't people say that about male reporters when they're shot and killed? That it's too dangerous, that men should stay home? She hasn't been defiled. She was assaulted. There's a difference.

So, what do we do, if we cannot become vampires or vampire slayers? I have some suggestions to try out. Maybe we should start making boys stay home for once, because boy-people seem to be the ones who are causing the problems. Maybe constant chaperoning of young men would be fair. But, wait - I can hear the cries already - that's not fair. I didn't do anything, my son wouldn't do anything, my best friend wouldn't do anything wrong! Well, maybe not. But, look at it this way. The freedom of women to roam the planet at will has been constrained for thousands of years. Just because we were born girls. That's not fair. Nothing is fair.

Just look at it from our point of view for like two minutes. Why should the girls be hampered and constrained? Why not the boys? Let's all imagine a world where rambunctious girls do their best to sneak boys out of their dormitories after dark. Twelve Dancing Princes instead of Princesses.

Just think about it for two minutes.