Those are the obvious and blatant cases of rape, sexual assault, general based violence and then there are the lesser obvious ones. The ones which are accepted as “how men are (with respect to women).” These include, but are not limited to: speaking over women, telling them that they are “being illogical and emotional” (especially when her viewpoint opposes theirs) and (especially when it starts to show that the woman may have a point) “you are always ranting.”
Now I am unsure whether or not the meaning of the word rant has changed but I found a definition online which says: speak or shout at length in a wild, impassioned way (google).
Last month, after seeing a wonderful performance by Chinese Canadian artist Amy Jenine Wong, who now resides in Boston Village, Belize with her partner, a Belizean, Johnathan Canton, I began to question everything. Her piece was an evaluation of commerce and Chinese culture in Belize. Though Chinese have been in Belize since the early 1950s, or so I was taught in Primary School, we still have this custom of calling Asians “chiney” (even if they are not Chinese, important to note that this does not extend to Indians, Pakistanis or Bangladeshis). The right to use that word comes under the “talking Kriol banner” for some, though it is, in my humble opinion, a very racist term.
But I have ran away from my original point. Amy’s work Good Day Shop was part of LAB, a concept I have developed and participated in for the past four years, which is a collaboration with Image Factory Art Foundation and artists who apply to participate. Her performance which you can see here (www.imagefactorybelize.com/LAB4) forced me to question the use of the word. A few days later, I posted “The word is Chinese, not chiney” on facebook, what occurred in the hours following still has me in disbelief.
It showed me two things, the social media bravado which exists and the lack of feminism which is so sorely, desperately needed in Belize.
Truth is the simple post comprised of 6 words, obviously struck a chord. Many, as what happens with most things, brought their own experience to the post, and their own stories. Two men, ironically both distant relatives, decided that I needed to be schooled and put back in my corner.
I was told that I was: “irrational, always include the personal, therefore my arguments could NEVER be logical, always ranting, need to learn about what I am talking about before I post,” and finally, “oh you’re pulling the gender card.”
Not surprised by the response but definitely fed up with it, (I had seen it and even encountered it before), I decided to post screenshots of some of their responses, from the now 100+ comment thread, with the caption “attacker.”
What happened next seems Kafkaesque to me still. One man told or threatened (depends on who you ask) that “if he had attacked me, I would be crying in a corner,” along with some extra words which I will not repeat. The other man responded by messenger saying “we should talk sometime, as I did not attack you” (yea right, like I would make time to talk to him).
Stranger still was that hordes of women, flew to the defence of both men, (these I called apologists) and proceeded to either unfriend me (thank God, they saved me the trouble of doing it myself), justify the men’s words and try to show me where I need to “be accepting of opinions which are not my own” (ironic, right?) and or remained silent while one of the men, proceeded to haze me, (I was told for maybe two weeks after the event) and the one single Belizean feminist who rose to my defence.
The silent ones are those who worry me far more, than the ones who spoke up. Far more dangerous than the ones who see nothing wrong with covertly, supposedly, sexist behaviour. The silent ones are the ones who allow these behaviours to continue, as if these kinds of behaviour are acceptable.
Certainly, with the rise of misogyny of late, feminism has been sullied and misconstrued and even viewed as a dirty word. There has also been the rise of social media feminists, where their ‘activism’ only resides online for likes and shares, when the real battles are presented online, and opportunities to shine a light on what feminism is and how it can look, they fade into the ‘offline.’
I have been offline since July 23, (away from facebook still, and recently back on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr) for various reasons, but this one, the cyber bulling and the lack of feminism online, being the main one. Who can feel secure when people are more concerned with preserving friendships than standing up for what is right and just? There are no protection from cyber bulling laws or infrastructure put in place, so I am keeping my distance, until I feel safe enough to return to facebook.
During my time of cyber bulling and hazing I would truly like to thank Lisa M. Shoman, for not just being a feminist in theory or online, but one in practise and in real life.
Feminism is not the ‘man hating, irrational amazonic warriors’ that some misinformed entities are painting the entire philosophy to look like. I strongly encourage men and women to research feminism, its origins, movements and wider philosophy.
So I end this with a quote from bell hooks, because yes, I was also accused of adopting a US agenda because I foster thoughts which are not inherently Belizean? I hope that those misguided persons are not suggesting that patriarchy and misogyny are common Belizean practises. If that is so, we have so very much to do.
“ The process begins with the individual woman’s acceptance that American women, without exception, are socialized to be racist, classist and sexist, in varying degrees, and that labelling ourselves feminists does not change the fact that we must consciously work to rid ourselves of the legacy of negative socialization.” ~ bell hooks