Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Chrissie Hynde's "recklessness"

The other day when I was on my way to my son's school I caught part of Chrissie Hynde's NPR interview with David Greene in which Greene decided to focus on the chapter in Hynde's new book, Reckless: My Life as a Pretender, in which she discusses how her drug use resulted in her getting sexually assaulted.

The upshot of the interview, or at least what I heard, is that Hynde viewed this experience as something she walked into by doing drugs and getting high with dangerous people. She didn't want to label it rape, and she resisted other people telling her how she should think of it, and, as a result, she's gotten all sorts of garbage on social media for it. Essentially, she's making the argument that what women do, where they go, and what they have on make a difference to their safety, and no one wants to hear that. No one.

I found it interesting and even sort of funny that, when pressured by Greene to frame her experience differently she told him (and the audience): "Just don't buy the fucking book, then, if I've offended someone. Don't listen to my records." She also compared the social media response to a lynch mob. It's funny because Hynde apparently lived a pretty raucous life, and the audience isn't offended by any of the mistakes she made and acknowledges, but rather by her old-fashioned view that people are entitled to tell their own stories according to their own values and be left alone if they refuse to go along with what the current narrative says about things.

Sadly, that's not the way things work anymore. You have to say what they want you to say, or at the very least they'll take you apart online. They'll probably come for your livelihood as well.

It's been over five years now since I said something along the lines of what Hynde said in the online community I was in. I commented on a blog piece about frat parties and women's safety and wrote:

"I am SO tired of women thinking that since the Sexual Revolution, sex is now roped off and controlled, bureaucratized, no longer subject to natural law or the lusts of man (and woman).

"Men do not go to frat parties or bars during meat market rush to talk Plato and sample the culinary repast. They go to 1) get drunk and 2) get laid. Do women not know that? Come on, they have to know that. If you go to these venues scantily dressed, intend to flirt a lot, get all kinds of validating male attention, and go home on an ego high, you are a tease. You get something, they get nothing. Again, they don’t care what your thoughts on Plato are. Men accept the possibility of failure, but still it’s a set-up. They provide the booze and atmosphere, and hopefully you provide the ____.

"If you walked into a bordello and got drunk, would you expect to wake up with your panties still on? No. Why are you getting drunk if you’re inserting yourself into an unstable situation?"

I've had a lot of time to reflect on this incident, and, you know what I think? It was ridiculous. I was quoted and reviled on numerous blogs, Twitter, and even in newspapers. I received threats - physical threats - I was psychoanalyzed to death, and ultimately I quit the position I was in within that community. It wasn't because they fired me. It was because I felt that after 10 years of reading, commenting, and volunteering within that community, if this was the response I got when I said something people didn't agree with, I didn't want to interact with those people ever again. At the time I was volunteering like 20 hours a week of my time and generating a great deal of free content. I thought that people would care more about me as a person instead of words I wrote on one blog piece. I was wrong.

And, you know what? I could have been a lot less angry in that post. I could have skipped the sarcasm, and I didn't have to double down after. I suppose I could have apologized and gotten "educated," and I probably could have stayed in that community. That's not what I wanted. It's quite possible this was my way out of a commitment I'd grown tired of. Considering how little drama I create in real life and online, that seems as decent an explanation as anything else.

Why did I write it then? I wrote it because I really did not want to see any more girls get assaulted. That's it. I didn't write it to corral women and pen them back up. I didn't write it so that rape victims would feel worse about themselves. I didn't have a political agenda, and nothing I did or wrote made any difference at all except that it served as a rallying cry to circle the wagons and reaffirm what the right stand on women and sexual assault was within that community.

Twenty-one years ago I went and lived abroad. I've talked about this before, but within the last year, I've been examining my behavior more and trying to figure out some of my own thoughts and responses. The place I lived in, post-Soviet Russia, was not a safe place. It wasn't the most dangerous place in the world either, but things were destabilizing quickly at the time, and the experiences I had while living there and traveling through the area have had long-term effects.

I have night terrors practically every night. I wake up two or three nights a week - sometimes more, sometimes less - screaming. Sometimes I wake up everyone in the house. I find myself pawing through my purse in the middle of the night looking for my documents, checking to see if I still have them.

I don't feel safe traveling. I don't feel safe anywhere near anyone in a government issue uniform. I have an almost unbearable time flying, not because of the flying itself, but because people take your things, and pat you down, even strip search you. If I have to fly anywhere it takes me a long, long time after to feel safe again. I know what it's like to be in a place where you have no rights, protections, or legal recourse and to feel grateful when you come home alive.

None of this really has anything to do with rape at fraternity houses or drunkenness, but it does have to do with vulnerability and naivete. When I went to Russia, I assumed it would be okay. It wasn't. From a safety standpoint this was a dumb choice for me to make. I'm old enough now with enough experience to see and admit that. And I'd like to spare other people from decades of nightmares and fear.

I still don't understand why the shaming frenzy is necessary when people talk about the dangers out there for women and how to avoid them. Is it pride at work? Does it strike a personal chord in so many people? Why does everything have to be shouted down? Why can't we say women are vulnerable to predation; please avoid doing these things for your own safety?

I took some souvenirs home with me from my experiences abroad, but it's not the matrioshka dolls or the now historical currency that I examine the most, it's why two decades later I still wake up screaming all the time. It seems like we're doing nothing practical or worthwhile about stopping that from happening to more girls and women, and we can't even talk about our options anymore. How is this better?



12 comments:

  1. Grerp,

    It's not better but what is that people are too invested in the free love of the 60's. They are loathe to admit in a lot of ways that their parents were right and they are wrong. Everyone is like this to some extent. However, for a society to survive and thrive it must be, more or less, Christian or Western conservative values. Those were burned in in greater frequency in the 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and 00's. All of them in various ways so society functions on the fumes of the culture of the 50's. Individuals act as if there still is a lot of the safety and social structures of the 50's which are gone. That is society, and women, shame when given advice that used to be common sense.

    Hmmm.....how much more social damage can a society take before it collapes is a riddle that we all, unfortuantely, will learn the answer to.

    Anon.

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  2. Wonderfully written ...I completely agree. probably one of the many reasons 3 of my sisters refuse to speak to me ever again. Oh well , speak truth .Karen

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  3. Grerp. A wonderful surprise to have you appear on my reader. Your posts, this one included, have the virtue of common sense. Not that any person's view of sensible is an infallible guide. But it's a starting point. Somehow our culture has strayed to the point where people expressing views such as yours must be punished, and preferably silenced. Feels at times as though ghosts of some of the more deranged Bolsheviks were the real winners of the Cold War. At least in a cultural sense. At any rate, glad you wrote.

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  4. I don't know why "our side" always has to police our "tone". The "other side" certainly doesn't. Trust me, being nicer in your phrasing won't protect you from these harpies.

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  5. what ever happened to reasoned discourse? i always seem able to talk to people about anything, even if i disagree with them, with out getting angry or name calling. it seems like the left has lost the ability to communicate in a calm, rational manner. Too bad for them. Their loss.

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  6. This sounds like ahhh ... awful, awful experience with these ... ahhh ... men ... white, heterosexual men ... so naive ... don't you know all white, heterosexual men[and boys] are rapey.

    Chrissie ... Chrissie ... Chrissie, why won't you just conform to our formula politically-correct clichés of YOUR experience? Don't you understand how this is done?!

    Such a tough interview!

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  7. I am sorry to hear about your experience in Russia.
    Feeling safe is indeed important for a woman.

    After horrible experiences abroad myself, I still struggle with trust, and forgiveness. As Christians though, we recognise that we see only part of others people's stories and we seek to distinguish because the people we (have) love(d) and truste(d) and the pain they have inflicted us.
    We recognize that we all err (them and us) and that we are all in need of understanding & redemption. We pray that their hearts will be open to God's truth. And of course we pray for ourselves, for the courage to get on with our lives and feel God's redeeming touch every single day.

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  10. Thank you for your message.

    I cannot tell whether your traumatic experience in Russia had to do with actual events there or were you living with high anxiety with what could happen ... knowing how powerless you were in an unpredictable world.

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