Saturday 21 January 2017

A crack in the wall

I've been on a lot of marches, organised a few too.  I used to get very affected by the crowd feeling, overwhelmed, which isn't a problem when it's happy but was harder when it was angry or even negative.  I've built a wall (yes, a wall) now that I'm a parent that means I don't react as once I did, especially when my children are around.  I push it all away behind the wall, muttering "later, later", but Later rarely comes.

Today Later came a little for me, after the Auckland Women's March, when I came across a sexist arse in Aotea Square.  It was the Mansplainiest of Mansplaining.  A man with a megaphone yelling at those leaving the march, mostly women, about how good women have it, and how wrong we all are.

Because the problem isn't the disproportionate impact of poverty on women and other marginalised groups, or the over the odds rate of incarceration for indigenous people in colonised countries world-wide, or the economic inequality and injustice that in our own city manifests in people begging on the streets and children (usually with their mothers) living in cars.  The problem isn't the greed of some, the complicity of others, the oppression that is sexism, racism, discrimination on the basis of sexual identity, body parts at birth, income level, skin colour,religion, and the downright meanness of many.  No the problem is that women are stupid.

The problem is not that women are stupid.

At first I felt not much, as I had on the march - intellectually pleased by the turnout and seeing friends and family, proud of my kids with the signs they made, assessing in the back of my mind how this was playing out as a protest given my own experiences.  I was ok to walk on by, and to then feel bad about doing that because I knew I probably shouldn't.

But then this chap was just so earnest, and so misrepresented feminism and the issues and the arguments, and maybe I've been listening to the soundtrack of That Bloody Women too much lately but I yelled at him.  And then I went closer to him and yelled at him some more.*

I was shaking with anger and knew I needed to walk away.  A few bystanders clapped as I went back to the stroller and someone else yelled at him too.  He kept going, certain in his righteousness, with his red capped mates no doubt pleased he'd got a reaction.

I've seen this before, this supreme arrogance, and it has always got under my skin.  I'm reasonably articulate, it's been a large part of my jobs for years, but I can never find the words to move people like this one.  Not in the moment anyway.  Maybe he'll read this and maybe it'll have an impact but I sincerely doubt it.

Because whenever I've seen this before I've also seen in their eyes the dismissal of whatever I say.  Which, when you've lived a bit longer and had a few things happen to you and people you love, becomes what we used to call on the feminist blogs a few years back "denial of lived experience".

It's a dismissal, a denial, a calling untrue, of what has actually happened to you in your life, what you have actually seen and experienced.  So callous, so ruthless, a simple "no, that's not possible".  Or, more often the more sly refutation of "then why didn't you...".  All of it, all of it, saying what you know is true must not be.

That gets to me, down in my bones, in my very gut.  I can remember starkly a few other times; the argument in a politics tutorial where someone ended up telling me that a child of my acquaintance was choosing to be poor; the pleas to those who would observe a social justice march, walk alongside rather than join in, to come on board, met with sneers that told me I was dirt and my hopes ridiculous;  the shutters coming down on the eyes and the turning away when I was hurting and a peer didn't want to see it; the constituent who insisted on the unimpeachable veracity of information I knew intimately was completely untrue.

And when I got back to the stroller, and the two kids I had with me, my wall had a big crack in it.  Bits were leaking out.  And I couldn't do that right then, couldn't leak everywhere.  One of my children was oblivious, but the other was a bit confused and upset: "I don't like it when you yell at people Mummy."  "It doesn't happen very often though, does it?"   "No, but I don't like it."

A quick fix job on the wall then, rushing to squeegee up all the leaked rage and frustration, squeezing it back over the top to deal with Later.  Mortar of forgetfulness, brick of fake cheerfulness for the kinders.  I've done it before, I imagine most parents do, I'll do it again no doubt.  The wall was solid again.

Maybe it's more like a dam than a wall, maybe.  I shall work on finding a turbine for that anger to power, a positive outlet that creates energy rather than flooding the whole valley.  Maybe this is that.


*  And mis-spoke and said I was paid worse, when I meant I was treated worse, as unlike most jobs in Aotearoa NZ, the pay for my role is transparent and set independently by the Remuneration Authority, that's the bit I'm kicking myself for most, damnit.

I'm not doing comments on my posts these days.  I'm easy to find on social media if you desperately want to tell me what you think, under my name, Julie Fairey.