Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hurt by Women and Girls: One Man's Account

Often times when talking about the issues that plague people we have a tendency to hold up the experiences of those who fit a nice little mold of what those who are harmed are "supposed" to be. We hold these experiences up as the template or the default of what that given issue is all about. The problem with that is when encountered with those who don't fit that nice mold things can get ugly. A person whose experience goes against the established norm can be shunned, pushed away, ignored, and have their lives dismissed. When this happens stories can be lost, cast aside, or pushed to the wayside altogether. This is one such story.

Living life on the far outskirts of traditional periphery, you notice the brilliant symphony of patterns in their streaks and curves, painting a vibrant collage of images teeming with life. At least, that’s how routines and personalities of the common man appear to me with my way of processing information.

But there’s the gritty, grimy side of set patterns; mentalities that knaw away at your resolve, uphold an ostracising status quo. If you’ve been through the brunt of it, the wounds aren’t quick to heal. Worse, you begin to wonder if there is a place out there for your situation.

Looking back on my childhood and teenage years, I was the unfortunate victim of nasty attitudes and abuse from boys and girls, men and women. United with the common goal of making life a living hell, something to survive day-to-day instead of take pleasure in, stripping their emperor’s clothes free and enforcing the goose-stepping conformity that befits the dark side of society.

For nineteen years, there was no escape. I had very little in terms of support to count on, no shelter from the hurt thanks not only to a harsh outside world but a dysfunctional personal safety net already worn and rotting. This nearly drove me to suicide at one point and I was only fourteen when those thoughts took wing in my mind.

Luckily, I had come to terms with most of the abuse. The unfortunate side-effect is I have to live with the wounds and any triggers associated to them, deal with the melodrama.

But I made a grievous error and only considered what one gender inflicted on me while ignoring damage the other dealt in equal measure.

That’s when it all began: Thirty-Two years old, severe anger and sadness bubbling to the top of the pot when recounting what the girls and women accomplished in cutting me down to size. I learned it was a mistake to file it all away and work through the shallow attitudes of those boys and men with no consideration for how the girls and women contributed to it independently.

These include the following experiences:

-At age six, I was diagnosed autistic. In order to be official I had to undergo a series of tests for the mind, hearing and co-ordination at a local general hospital. These came in the form of games tailored to measure and gauge “Normative” criteria. My mother and father would drop me off, leave me in the hands of various counsellors and support workers. Needless to say, it was not a good experience. They screamed at me, put me down for breaking rules, some even grabbing my arms and forcing “normal” motions out of them when I refused to participate in their chosen game or pick something up like a “Normal Boy”. One support worker once burst into the room during a hearing exercise I was doing wrong and became unhinged while I sat and quivered in the chair, shaking; a scared little six year old child. These counsellors and support workers were women.

- In Elementary School, on three occasions, I was attacked by a move of kids outside the rear exit doors. Some were my age, others older. They’d scream and shout into my ear, crowding me in an effort to disorientate my senses. I was lead around in a few directions until groups of hands reached forward and took hold of my pants. I tried to fight them off, but in vain as they yanked my pants down to the ankles then dispersed in gleeful amusement at their handiwork. Girls participated in the deed alongside the boys. I never told anyone about these incidents, not even my mom and dad for it was drilled into them, and me, that my “behaviour” was a problem in need of correction. So who’d believe an autistic “Behaviour Challenged” little boy like me?

-There was a group of girls in elementary school whom took pleasure in teasing me just to get a major reaction. When they succeeded in reducing me to an emotional cripple, they’d sneer and snicker.

-In high school, the young women called me “Weirdo” and “Retard”, mixing amongst the young men’s slurs directed my way in the halls.

-One high school girl, as I was working on a story during spare time in computer class, picked up what had been printed from the printer and read it aloud in a mocking tone. She then ripped it out (properly, though) and wrapped the contents around my body, calling me “Retard” and inducing giggles from others around my station.

-A young man, with his “Clique” of girls and boys, started taunting me while waiting for the school bus to arrive outside after classes were done for the day. Another young woman stood up for me but turned around and criticised me for not using harsh language to repel them. When I told her about my aversion to it, she wouldn’t hear it and joined in the clique and their heckling before leaving me alone at last.

-In high school computer class, we were asked to start a story of our own design then pass it around our station on disk for others to continue. I used a scene from one of my stories I had been working on. When it was returned to me, all my characters were turned into sex-starved, foul-language spewing maniacs engaged in an orgy, including a seven year old girl named Cynthia. So, child rape was ‘amusing’ to them. Again, girls did it with the boys.

-But the biggest experience I recall was having a crush on a girl who sat next to me in computer class. She was struggling with her assignments, getting nowhere. Me being the natural, kind-hearted Samaritan I was decided to assist her. We soon formed a comadre, working together on tasks that stumped us. She was appreciative of the gesture and our relationship soon allowed leeway to whatever was on our minds: life, background, anything went in terms of conversation. It didn’t matter that she had a boyfriend. Friendship was enough for me to accept. Until one day when she tried to force me into a game of “Show me your underwear” she initiated with the others. I refused but she still insisted I do it, goading me on. Again, I refused repeatedly, causing her to lurch forward in an attempt to pull my underwear up herself. I howled in protest, fighting her off. She stopped, sneered, and then laughed with the others.

-Days later, after her betrayal, I considered our friendship over. Walking the halls, I was suddenly thrust up against a row of lockers. Standing in front of me was my former crush’s boyfriend, his hand firmly on my shirt. He told me if I ever spoke to her again, he’d kick my ass. My former crush stood beside him, grinning the whole time.

Just the mere act of typing these horrid events out brings me right back to those times, front row and center. They are as fresh as they were years ago.

I now realized how much damage I accumulated in mind and soul thanks to these cruel females. But support was hard to find.

There were no articles or stories on how girls and women could hurt and bully boys and men. Everything was centered on boys bullying boys, girls bullying girls, and boys bullying girls. Never any examination of what girls and women could accomplish in the cruelty department towards the opposite sex.

Save for one online called “Boys Don’t Tell on Sugar-and-Spice-But-Not-So-Nice Girl Bullies”

In it, men in their late ages recount tales of bullying from girls that left an undeniable impression on them. From what the records say, the torment and harassment was no different from whenever a boy or gangs of boys had a similar appetite for exerting their power.

While very cathartic reading material, the information is severely dated and stuck in the late 90s to early 21st Century. Already the antiquity tarnished its relevance to my current situation.

When you’re a man like me hurt by girls and women as a child, it’s a lonely road with nary a reassuring passerby in sight. Society just can’t seem to wrap its mind around the notion of a girl or a woman hurting a boy or a man. They jump through all sorts of hoops to justify their behaviour -- Mental Illness, influence, they didn’t know any better -- while tarring any boy or man inflicting similar harms.

Doesn’t help that the repeated, popular narratives tend to reinforce what happened to me as irrelevant and my pain refutable compared to the majority of victims.

It happened to me with certain Feminists. These feminists told me, with no scruples, how my privileged status negated whatever I suffered since I benefited from institutionalised sexism as a pure, white male. They put me out to pasture, in the cold, minimising and invalidating the raw trauma and feelings it called up with sentences like “It’s worse for women”, “You’re an anomaly. Boys bully girls and other boys. That’s a fact.” as the less polite charged me with failing to check my privilege.

The only people who supported me when breaking my story out into the mainstream (on the internet, really) were the followers of Glenn Sacks and an assortment of male victims of female abuse at other sites, particularly Jacob Taylor of Toy Soldiers and some at Feminist Critics. I feared not fitting in because my abuse wasn’t of a similar nature compared to their injuries. They still welcomed me and I, in turn, found a commonality of being ignored and ostracised due to the gender of the attacker in our dealings with the mainstream.

As for feminists themselves, the good news is there were some I encountered currently who considered my experiences and didn’t treat me like an oppressor. They left all “Privilege” talk in the closet and validated what happened by telling me “Girls and Women can hurt just like any abusive boy or man.” To them, I was a survivor of serious abuse regardless of the perpetrators but felt it a bitter pill to swallow because their views were labelled “Anti-feminist” or “Sympathetic to MRAs” by the rest.

I’ve waxed enough on this so back to the subject at hand.

There was another consequence of these injuries. To this day, I’m anxious and afraid of assertive women. More of the feared capabilities of assertive women to hurt since I’ve experienced the same hard lined attitudes flouncing me badly as a helpless young man.

Stories in popular culture of strong female protagonists I’m careful to avoid if they’re developed at the expense of the supporting male characters. The latter are either made to be buffoons, ignorant, stupid, or couldn’t lead their way out of a paper bag. For the ones who are as strong as the female protagonist, they’re quickly rendered weak doormats by her aggressiveness, unable to defend themselves or fight back like I couldn’t.

For example, take Pixar’s new animated movie Brave coming out next year. Same formula: Strong, independent female protagonist, buffoonish and simpleton men where their masculinity is exaggerated for a cheap laugh or they’re the fodder for comic relief as the female protagonist is shown to be competent at everything as the men struggle to lift a weapon. It hurt me so much to see an animation company I believed in for their well-rounded characters of both genders and attention to story sell out with such a trite “grrl power” narrative.

As of now, I’m uncertain whether I’ll or not to see the movie as a whole when it reaches theatres.

Whatever your position is in gender debate and equality, you must understand that stories like mine count. You can’t dismiss them. And I don’t care who has it worse or not, dubious statistics included.

I exist and deserve to be heard and supported in equal measure. Casting it all off because of stereotypical notions about girls and women incapable of harm and how it would take away from all those supports that exist out there for females in need lends credence to the isolation men like me don’t deserve to be put through. Life should be about pleasure, not an endurance test everyday where all that matters is survival of the fittest and a tightening of the bootstraps.

With such ignorance still in existence it feels, to me, like humanity never progressed beyond the high school cafeteria. All around, assorted cliques join together at different tables. You sit alone since no will bother to acknowledge you even when you strain to appeal to their sensibilities or they give you the cold shoulder because you’re “Different”.

Switch them with the popular narratives mentioned earlier about bullying and abuse. They’re all talking about their experiences at different tables as related to the subject at hand. You go around sharing your tale of woe only to receive incredulous looks and sniggers of amusement.

Dejected, you sit back at your table in solitude as others pass you by with turned up noses.

The only solace is your tears streaking down, tumbling in slow motion into the food you’re eating. Tasting it reminds you of your humanity because you can taste your sadness, bon appetite.

Please don’t paint over me so I blend into the background where no one can see. The vibrancy is as valid as the everyday patterns I absorb with relish in everyday life.

This is a story that should not dismissed simply because the victim was the "wrong gender". Bullying is something that harms kids of nearly every single walk of life so to go around acting as if some variations of bullying aren't as bad as others is just wrong. First and foremost such attitudes leave a child with limited to no support (thus denying them the opportunity to properly heal and go from victim to survivor). Secondly leaves the bully with a free pass telling them that as long as they do bully certain kids they don't have to worry about being punished (and yes for a girl/woman to get such a pass on bullying, harassing, and probably abusing boys/men is an example of female privilege, don't waste time trying to twist it into the girl/women bully being the victim of sexism). All that does is feed poisonous attitudes that will come back to haunt all of us later.

(You'll notice that I turned off comments. I did so by request. If you absolutely must comment then by all means go to the original posting of this at Good Men Project, the link I gave near the beginning of this post.)