Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Just A Little Sorrowed Talk

The day I left school to sit my GCSE exams, I remember the last song I heard on the radio before leaving the house. It was "Ordinary World" by Duran Duran, which had come out three years earlier, and I remembered these lines above anything else:

Here beside the news of holy war and holy need
Ours is just a little sorrowed talk

My grandmother shut me up when I whined in a pithier manner: "Worse things happen at sea", which is a really good way of putting a girl off cruises for life. And there are some monumentally appalling things happening in the world, things that I cannot even bear to watch on the evening news anymore. I teach students who have been through so much: refugees and asylum seekers, torture victims with PTSD, whose life stories have made me weep. I get it. And yet, awful things still happen to the rest of us, which is something that Richard Dawkins doesn't seem to get.

For women all over the world, life is lived with a little hint of fear. This is summed up nicely in a post from a couple of years ago, entitled "Schrödinger's Rapist" - in summary: men, until we open the box, you exist in two states - someone who will rape us and someone who will not rape us. The vast majority of you are, thankfully, the latter, and you are wonderful. We don't particularly want to open the box and find out you're the former. Certainly not on a deserted tube carriage, or working late at night at the office, or in an elevator on our way to our hotel room. The odds of you being "someone who will rape us" become much greater in our minds if you do not take no for an answer.

For those of you late to all this, and wondering why I'm rabbiting on, read the "Open letter to Professor Dawkins from victims of sexual assault", posted at Almost Diamonds. Because looking at the "relative awfulness", so to speak, of an uncomfortable come-on in an elevator versus female genital mutilation is flawed at best, downright insulting to victims everywhere.

I signed the letter. This is why. I don't feel as able to write eloquently about it all anymore, so it's just as well all the gory details are permanently online. I spoke about it to a couple of students who had been through a similar experience, and who wanted support and reassurance - it was comfort to know someone else who "got it", but my heart aches for those girls, and all the others whose stories I've read in the comment list at Almost Diamonds.

I wish we didn't have these scars.

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