The froth clears: what i really meant

Hmmm. First the wild thrashing about, trying to put some shape around my ideas: then a bit more clarity. So, for those confused by my last post, I think this is much clearer.

Some of the feedback, and some of my writing aligns links to a problem I have written about extensively, which is to do with seeing discrimination in terms of protected characteristics, and the tendency of this approach to create “hierarchies of victimhood and oppression”.

That said, the last post was about something much more fundamental. The best way to describe it, i think, is a journey from purely liberal/libertarian, in which everyone has the same rights and is free to use them to a more nuanced understanding of what power asymmetry means.

Of course, i always understood the latter intellectually: it is just that there is intellectual understanding – and “knowing” something through experience.

I think, maybe, what has changed is that thinking in more blokish terms, i used to take every encounter as disconnect from the rest of my experience. Someone has a go at me. I deal with it. Sorted. Move on.

The difference, which i think equates much more closely with the more typical lived female existence, is that the weekend incident cannot, for me, be disconnected from all else. My constant life experience nowadays is one of low level wariness: the knowledge that the next person who looks at me funny, no matter how safe i have been for weeks, months even, could turn round and have a go.

The bloke at the leisure centre probably honestly did not see his words as that big a deal. If i had been any other bloke, i’d probably have shrugged, and gone: yeah, yeah. So what?

Even if he’d hit me, it would have been a one-off. (Am I discounting male-male violence. Not exactly: just that I think now, as I always have done, that that often signifies something different from male-female violence)

What he couldn’t get is how wary i was before. How much his outburst turned the entire day into one marked by fear, added several hours of dealing with police and officials and, as the weekend and the point i have to return to the centre draws close, makes me far far more nervous about my “right” to walk out in public.

No. No-one is going to have a go. There will be a police officer on hand. But i will walk through a crowd in which some people will be glaring, or talking about me the moment my back is turned. You can get how horrid that feels.

So-o…that, for me, reveals an asymmetry i hadn’t previously got. A woman can say she’ll thump a man: a man can say he’ll thump a woman: in liberal analysis, those two are equivalent. In my new existence, the two really aren’t.

The first is shrugged off in moments: the second confirms an already present set of fears and concerns.

Thinking is still evolving here…but i am beginning to see that this is a very new direction for me.

(er…and I will, of course, thump the first person who says: “told you so” 🙂 )



3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Jennie Kermode said,

    This is precisely why I have supported hate crime legislation. Where there is that power asymmetry, there is an additional aspect to crimes of aggression: that intimidation, of an individual or a community, which is absent in other types of situation.

    I’m wondering, though, if there might be a hormonal aspect to this change you’ve experiences as well as factors stemming from your experience of loss of privilege. I always used to deal with aggression directed against me in pretty much the way you describe, finding it easy to separate incidents; it strikes me that I found myself unable to keep on doing that right around the time I went on feminising hormones. Now that my testosterone is higher I find it easier again. I wonder if it is actually more difficult for men to relate to that feeling of ongoing distress even if they have been on the receiving end of similar treatment.

    • 2

      janefae said,

      Hmmm. I’m not against scrapping hate crime legislation per se. Its the protected characteristic approach i am questioning…and the more i think about it, the more i think it isn’t needed.

      As the system operates now, there is something of a rapid reaction where a member of a group with particular protected characteristic is attacked. In fact, that works in tow different ways. In the area of gender, you are protected if you are got at on grounds of gender. It is technically gender-neutral, but tends to be called on far more by women than men.

      Trans protection isn’t that way: it protects those defined as trans. It doesn’t provide a reciprocal protection for a cis individual who is attacked specifically for their cis status. I know: unlikely. But then, that’s the point.

      What i have long advocated is a rights-based approach to discrimination, which says, basically, no-one should be discriminated against (or attacked) on the basis of who they are. The model would be that already operative for gender. Both men and women have this protection: but since women come in for more stick than men, employment and service-wise, they will always be in more need of legal support, and be greater users of it.

      Same with orientation: the law as is protects those attacked or discriminated against for being gay; but it would also protect someone attacked specifically for being straight. Again, the frequency of cases reflects the distribution of discrimination in society today.

      On that approach, i can’t see it as much of a problem to allow the law to extend out to things like religion, sexuality or ginger-hairness. The vast majority of the ginger-haired wouldn’t be discriminated against but…if one was, they’d have legal back-up.

      This approach would also provide protection for those whose trans-ness is, for now, restricted to dressing and intersex. You could proliferate the protected characteristics further, and create a new law for intersex. Or, just conceivably, if medical opinion were to assert that intersex was a gender of its own, then it would be covered by existing gender dicsrimination laws.


      • 3

        Jennie Kermode said,

        I’m in London just now with borrowed internet so can’t check my usual sources, but as I recall Scottish hate crime law covers anyone discriminated against on account of their gender identity; it’s very inclusive. It also covers religion.

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