author – activist – faculty – mom
Part of being female in most societies today is to be seen as an object, interchangeable, individually unimportant. In our society, we are labeled fuckable (a compliment?) or not fuckable (an insult?). Part of what has driven me as an artist is a desire to escape that sorting pile of women to be used and thrown away and women to be sent to the trash without a second look. I have a longing to be important, memorable, significant. Of course, I also have goals and dreams and activist visions for my work. These are deeply held truths about what I want in the world, as well. But this desire for recognition is an underlying personal agenda in my creative aspirations that has its roots in trying to escape oppression.
Last week, I talked about how I had expected to age out of sexual objectification and harassment. The alleged sexual assault on Shailja Patel has shattered my sense of safety from attack as I age. And I know that women of all ages are assaulted, although younger women and girls are much more frequent targets. But age isn’t really the only factor. This notion of age is also about power and experience. Part of me has been hoping that over time, as I get older, I can accomplish my way out of being targeted by male domination. If I can only get enough money or enough clout or enough recognition or enough prestige or enough accolades, I will be safe and free from the limits that sexism places on our lives and the vulnerability to all aspects of male domination.
Shailja is an internationally recognized writer for God’s sake! But if she could be a target than any of us could. And isn’t that the point? Male domination teaches us that whatever else we may achieve, women will always be second class citizens; we will have to work twice as hard for half as much and do it all backwards an in high heels. My misguided fantasy was that I could achieve my way out of subjugation as a woman. Wrong again. But the gift is that I have a clearer perspective now. There can be no compromise. No kinder, gentler response. Sexism and male domination need to end. For everyone. Period.