Monday, 29 August 2011

A Mans' Prison, A Womans' World

Trigger Warning: Rape discussion, street harassment

This is the post I was going to make last week. It seems kind of odd to go back to it now, because it was so fresh in my mind then, but I hope it's still poignant. It's about an observation my partner and I made while watching a movie that really got me thinking.

The other night, my partner and I watched a film titled I Love You Phillip Morris. Now, before I get into this, let me first say that we both didn't enjoy the film, and I cannot in good conscience recommend it to anyone as safe viewing. I'll link to the IMDB content advisory for those that are interested, but be advised that it does not list all of the potentially problematic scenes. Jim Carrey, is as per usual, a plastic-faced ass unable to convey any convincing emotion. His performance is made worse due to being cast opposite Ewan McGregor, who manages to outshine Carrey in every scene, showing emotion and vulnerability. This movie is supposed to be at it's core a love story, about the love of two men. However, it was written by a bunch of (I assume) straight dudes, who can only portray a homosexual relationship in heterosexual dominant/submissive terms. Carreys' character is unfeeling, brash, manipulative and is the top in every interaction, while McGregors' is effeminate, almost to the point of parody. While I could go on about how insulting this movie is to potential gay male viewers and how it is neither "romantic" nor "comedy", that's not the point of this post.

There's a scene, early in the movie, I guess, where Carreys' character is arrested and sent to jail. Once inside, he takes the "long walk" to his cell. This scene is shot from his perspective and as he walks along, the gruff male inmates on either side of him leer at him, look him up and down, assess him. My partner turned to me at this point and said "Dudes are scary."

How could I not agree?

She said that particular scene demonstrated how she, and countless other women I have no doubt, feel every time they walk down the street in the presence of men. And it is this metaphor perhaps, that would be more effective than any other in making straight douchebros understand the terror and danger that women face in todays' society. The leers. The jeers. The up-and-downs. The assessments. The catcalls. The very real threat of violence, of rape, of murder from any or all of these men, simply because you are currently in their line of sight. Every straight dude inherently fears prison. There's enough media out there showing graphic, violent male-on-male prison rape that it's been drilled into everyones' head like an equation: Go to prison = get raped.

Is this the case in reality? I'm not sure. Somehow Googling stats on "prison rape" makes me nervous about what the search might turn up. But, that's not the point. The point is, that nary a straight, white, heterosexual male makes the connection between the "long walk" scene that is repeated ad nausea in so much of his media and the street harassment he sees and most likely takes part in every day. If you're not familiar with the term street harassment, then this might be a good place to learn about it. Whatever you call it, one must remember that it doesn't take place exclusively in the streets. It happens on the bus or the train, at the office or the supermarket, the gym or the laundromat. There are men who make women uncomfortable at best in public places to announce their superiority and their belief in womens' subjugation, and they are everywhere. The "long walk" scene is a scene that most women have to play out several times every goddamn day.

Street harassment in any and all of its' forms makes women feel afraid of going out in public, which is what a patriarchy desires more than almost anything else. It's an insidious form of control, to keep women scared and in the home, becoming the property of their men, unable to leave autonomously or without escort for fear of rape or battery or death or some horrible combination of all three. This is the state of affairs that the white, "liberal" male ally will find intolerable and unjust in places like Saudi Arabia, while ignoring that much the same happens to women here in the "civilized western world" on a daily basis.

If you're reading this and you think I'm full of shit, think about it for a second. Think about a "long walk" prison scene you've watched. Now think about what if it was you taking that walk. Now, think about what if you had to take that walk several times every day, but the guards aren't there to pull the prisoners off you if they attack, and the prisoners aren't wearing uniforms so you can easily identify them and they can act in groups and perhaps they're your boss, or your landlord or your roommate. Think about it, all day every day, being looked at, being sized up, being undressed, being five seconds away from being potentially raped at all times. How would it feel? Would you feel scared? Hopeless? Helpless? Depressed? Suicidal? Do you think you know anyone else that feels that way? Have you ever made anyone else feel that way? And, if you have, will you acknowledge it and change your behavior? Because no one deserves to live in that kind of world. No one deserves to take the "long walk" over and over again, especially when they've committed no crime, save for not being a man in the patriarchy.

If the whole world is ones' prison, does one dream of escape? Where does one escape to? It is my sincerest wish that one day everyone is able to walk the streets without fear and without being harassed. Until such day though, ask the dudes you know if they're familiar with the "long walk" scene. Then ask them how they'd feel. Hopefully one of them gets it.

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