Warning: Post contains discussion of sexual assault and trauma. Sexual assault survivors might wish to avoid it. Comments moderation is on.
The trial of a gang of men who groomed and raped underage girls in Manchester has concluded. The facts that all the men involved were South Asian, usually Pakistani, and that all the girls were white British have not gone unreported.
Possibly not hearing the horrifying implication of his remark, a South Asian man who spoke up against the rapists said, "Asian girls are not available to them so they look to Western girls."
Yeah, 13 year old Asian girls are not available to them. Neither should 13 year old European girls be.
But that's not what he meant. What he meant was what he said next: "They [these South Asian men] think they're [white British women are] easy. They think they're tarts just there to be used."
As the rapists were plying their young victims with vodka, obviously they didn't think they were THAT easy. But, again, that's not exactly what Mr Shafiq meant.
What he meant was that the kind of South Asian man who will rape 13 year old white girls with this pals thinks that white women are promiscuous sluts who don't deserve respect.
Sexual Revolution, meet Racist Misogyny.
"He won't respect you," said countless generations of Western parents, and then--quite rapidly, basically c. 1980--many Western parents stopped saying that. The simultaneous eruption of the Sexual and Feminist revolutions meant that men were supposed to respect women no matter what. And, indeed, countless Western men were delighted that countless Western women were no longer so prudent with their bodies and were willing to share without all the bother and responsibility of marriage. Or payment. And, to their credit, most Western men do seem to understand that they should at least look respectful of women, no matter what the women dress or act like.
The rest of the men in the world did not get the memo. And, hey, not all Westerners did either. I grew up in Toronto, and it was not exactly a secret that some Italian and Portuguese immigrants were yelling at their daughters not to dress and act like those "putanas, Canadian girls." They had left Italy or Portugal in the 1950s or 1960s, and so it never dawned on them that "Canadian girls" (i.e. Canadian girls of every ethnic group but theirs) in the 1980s were dressing and acting no differently than Italian and Portuguese girls back home.
Being a "white woman" and "one of those putanas, Canadian girls", I am not exactly a stranger to racist misogyny, the belief that women outside one's one racial or ethnic group are sluttier and less deserving of basic human kindness and respect than the women of one's own.
Women of every race have had to put up with this crap. I can only speak to my own experience as "a white girl", and I will tentatively add that "white girls" have the added burden of being easy targets for those who resent being fish-out-of-water in countries in which they were not born or in which their ancestors did not originate. We also--and believe me, this makes me ill--carry some kind of "status symbol" value, as women of colour quite justly, I think, resent.
Then there's the whole, disgusting "revenge against the men on the bodies of 'their' women" horror that is such a part of pogroms and war. Nobody tells me the worst, but I have heard some "Fleeing from the Russians" stories that made my hair stand on end.
But you aren't in war zones, dear readers, so let's just shudder and leave that aside. Let's look at our current circumstances: most of us reside in countries where men and women of different races and cultures live and work side-by-side. This includes Poland, although whoever said Edinburgh was the least multicultural capital city he ever saw, had never seen Warsaw.
Now, most women are by nature kind, motherly creatures who want to make strangers feel welcome. And in the West we have been told a million zillion times that we are equal in dignity to men and we have been treated more-or-less equal in dignity to men, so it doesn't often occur to us that strangers might not see us that way. For this reason, it is sometimes better to err on the side of reserve.
I have just erased an illustrative anecdote. Maybe I will publish it later.
It is very sad that what to you and me and most of the men we know is just a happy smile and basic friendliness is evidence of utter slutdom to other men, but that is the way it is. So look out.
Conversely, there are men who will interpret our natural modesty and womanly reserve as racial hatred for them and will say so. Now, this is one of the most important things I can tell you, so listen to your Auntie Seraphic when she says, Some men will say ANYTHING if they think it will get them sex. Really. Anything.
If you are trying to discourage a man's attentions and he says, "What, are you racist or something?", either scream at him, if that is your personality type, or leave. Leave at once. A Cameroonian refugee named Simon Mol managed to infect over a dozen Polish girls with HIV. Apparently this charmer used to tell Polish girls it proved they were racists if they didn't sleep with him. (Male Polish student, uneasily: "How is it that you know about Simon Mol?")
The irony of this is that it isn't prudent women who are racists; it is the men who wish to sexually exploit women who are often racists. Men who wish to sexually exploit women go after targets they think are easiest (i.e. most vulnerable) or somehow "deserve" or welcome it, which very often means "the Other." Think of the men who flock to Thailand in droves. Disgusting.
It is terribly difficult to talk about race, particularly when you are white and therefore belong to a supposedly "dominant" group, which is actually, in terms of the whole wide world, a small minority. In Edinburgh, remarks about female safety in light of South Asian racist misogyny take place on the walls of the ladies' toilets in pubs, the safest bulletin board of womankind.
It is also terribly difficult because one of the racist libels used by men to punish vulnerable men of different races is "They want to rape our women." This has been used as an excuse to beat, jail and kill innocent black men in the USA.
However, it is an unfortunate fact that sometimes men do target women for reasons that are as racial as they are sexual and violent, and it certainly doesn't help women to be ignorant of this. And it also doesn't help a woman to think that it is better to risk rape than to be called a racist by some jerk she barely knows or doesn't know at all.
I don't know if there really is any such thing as "race" or if it just a social construct. But I do know that men of any race are bigger and stronger than women, and if they wanted to, most of them could simply kill most of us with their bare hands.
They have been trained not to, of course, and they almost never want to. But the fact remains that they could. So at the end of the day, when all the gentility of civilization has been stripped away, what we have are two human beings, one of who could rape and kill the other just from sheer strength, even though God has always told him not to, just because he is a man and she is a woman.*
As far as I am concerned, this reality trumps every other consideration--race, handicap, age, whatever. If you feel threatened, cross the street. Get off the elevator. Get out of the cab. Leave the room. Lock the door. Yell. Trust your instincts and don't second guess because you are afraid of being called a racist.
*Update: There is some debate about whether or not a woman should physically fight a would-be rapist. The police officer who came to my high school to talk to us about it said to fight, bite, scratch, scream, pee on the man, do whatever necessary to discourage him. For the police officer the most important thing was that we were never dragged into a car. Once you were in the car, he said, you were dead.
My own thought is that rapists tend to go for those they think look most vulnerable, e.g. elderly women, women with Down Syndrome, teenage girls, the intoxicated, the quiet and shy, the fish-out-of-water. And therefore, in scary situations, it is good to be loud and rude and ready to bite, kick, scratch and slap. In a word, to look strong. But never hit a stranger except as a last and desperate resort. Your first priority should be to get away.
Update 2: The lid is certainly off Pandora's box now. Racist misogyny is simply not acceptable, and it is a crime or cowardice to put up with it.