Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Last night some featury not-quite-coherent bit of news surfaced on my radar, alleging staggering statistics of on-campus rapes among Columbia freshman.   So I read a little further, with my own prejudices and skepticism, and learned the alleged perps are not predatory intruders but matriculating Columbia athletes and students.

As a mother, I know freshmen don't have the best judgment.  They are prone to the excessive drinking and partying that is part of the 'independence' declaration of college life.  Suddenly kids are forced to  set curfews and boundaries and I remember occasionally wishing I could blame my mother when I lacked the courage to say no to one thing or another.  Sex?  Pretty much a passionate 2-thumbs up, but another generational can of worms back then.  It wasn't until I was a young adult, pursuing a career, that I really encountered tough boundary issues and power ploys.

My son at the age of 19 was accused on Facebook of being a 'deadbeat dad'.  This by another sophomore who had skipped a day or 2 of the pill and wanted him to pay for her over-the-counter pregnancy test.  She used to call my house at least once a week in a coke-induced panic-- her apartment was on fire, someone was trying to break in-- -anything to require his presence at 3 AM, and to spend the night.  It was like gender-reversed rape when he'd arrive, exhausted and emotionally bullied by her threats and schemes.

In no way would I ever suggest that any of these Columbia women had not been assaulted; what does confuse me, in most of the cases I read--- is where is their head, their thinking, their 'sisterhood'?  I grew   up in an era where pervy uncles and drunk friends of our parents would cross lines and make suggestions.  Pediatricians touched us inappropriately and told us 'the boys are going to love this' when you get a little older.  Our bosses and mentors in our first jobs pressed their suited groins against us and groped us under the desk.  Did we tell our mothers?  Our teachers?  We did not.  But we told each other.  Our friends, our cousins--- whomever-- we told each other-- we confided, we confessed, we exchanged  humiliations and nightmares.  And we grew collectively stronger.  Once we shared our fears, we could look at them and decide what we could do.  We developed a collective jury of our intimate female peers.

We all knew who liked rough sex, we all knew who kissed and told and who disrespected our preferences.  And we knew what to do about it.  Of course there was always a girl among us who was attacked or assaulted without warning.  But we backed her.  We went to the police if we had to; we held each other's hands for abortions, we raised money and protected each other.  We navigated the free-love era with our hearts and brains and one another.  We learned to give love and take love, to try things and not fear them, and to trust our instincts.  I'm not sure, in this Kardashian age, where my son and his girlfriends had seen the Paris Hilton tape a year or two after Bambi,  that there is the sense of a 'net' among women.

Mothers in 21st-century New York City are pretty protective.  We interview and interrogate and hover.  No one is going to touch our baby with impropriety.  Doctors are required to have a female PA present during exams.  We have discussed sex so much our kids don't want to know what we knew.  They want to do it and have it and they want to act like rappers and ho's when they feel like it.  For all the soft porn and T & A & P everywhere we look, sex and love seem just a little cheap.  Girls are desperate and often date the B list.  Women my age are lonely and court guys they wouldn't have given a light at a bar in 1985.   Most guys who take advantage of women do so because no one stops them.  No one confronts them.  Not a tribune of Columbia administrators, but the girl they dissed and her girlfriends.  In my day, that guy wouldn't have lived to tell the tale without a beating from someone…and he wouldn't have dared repeat his offense.  Not in the same geographic hub.  For all the face booking and internet gossip and instagram posting,  how the f--  is the sisterhood failing women?

I am about to do a 'women-in-rock' fundraiser for anti-violence and domestic abuse.  We conscious warriors who have often waded through catcalls and ass-pinching to play our music with pride. We swam upstream to survive the sexist prejudices in a male-dominated musical world.  We support each other, we share, we talk, we rock and we are loud.  My message to the Columbia freshman-- stop blaming the administration for failing you, and start showing up for each other.  Use your brain and instincts and avoid men who are assholes.  An ounce of prevention, etc… protect your assets and stop spreading yourselves so thin.  You are not victims-- you are smart enough to manage your life.  You have a goddam voice and you can arm yourself with a few lessons in self defense.  Be generous with your sisters and see where you are and get out while you are safe.  And don't be afraid to love the ones who love and deserve your righteous body.  That is our legacy and our just dessert.  Amen.

1 comment:

Ludovica said...

It is very interesting to hear of this network of confiding friends. This has never been my experience. I have certainly never experienced anything like that level of camaraderie with any other woman, certainly not in the real world, although I have been fortunate to have a few female confidantes online in recent times. I was raped in my own home by a neighbour's brother when I was newly divorced. I didn't want anyone to know how stupid I had been to let him shelter from the rain while he waited for his brother. I didn't tell anyone at all for years, and then when I did, I felt ashamed and foolish all over again. I managed to persuade myself it never happened. The experiences you had are awesome.. That level of community and involvement is something I have never known, nor do I feel that other women I know have experienced anything similar. Maybe it's a university thing? Maybe an American thing? I can only guess but as far as I have always seen it, we are pretty much alone with whatever happens. Maybe it's my essential disconnectedness, but I really haven't seen a lot of that community spirit between many women ever. Small groups will be all-in-all to each other for a short while certainly, but the older I get the more animosityand competitive edge I see between women in general and have long been aware of unpleasant undercurrents even between the apparently closest of women friends. It seems to me like the longest enduring friendships of my life, where I am most at ease are those I have had with men, specifically my friends John and Del whom I have known since 1980 and 83 respectively.. but of course, that is very different from a conspiratorial sisterhood. Maybe I am just made wrong?