I haven’t written much lately. Part of it is end-of-semester hullabaloo and work load, and part of it is that there are things going on in the world that I wanted to say something about, but my own head was full of my own personal work (outer and inner) and I just couldn’t come up with words. However, they have collided nicely and I have something to say now.
Last night was Beltane Eve; I went out yesterday and picked wild flowers for my altar.
Last night I had some pretty intense dreams. One was mostly about my personal stuff (being not just the Smartest Kid in the Class, but an OMG Alien Freak Genius as a child and how that leads to me low-balling myself as an adult, if you must know) but the other has wider applicability.
In the dream, I was walking through a touristy town (sort of a cross between the Renaissance Faire, an Old West park, and the French Quarter…there were dirt roads and wooden cabins but real bars) and I was nineteen or twenty and wearing a Highwaymen t-shirt. I went to one bar, listened to the house band playing, and wandered off. I came back after other people had left and started talking to the drummer. I asked him how he liked my t-shirt and he said “Kris Kristofferson” in a derisive tone. I started telling him that my older brothers liked that music, and would fix cars and listen to it. Then I noticed that everyone was gone. He said, “The monsters are coming. I need someone to watch the bar for me. You’ll be safe here.” I could see the monsters he was talking about, skulking down the street, yet was still dubious until he said, “You don’t have anywhere else to go” and started showing me a bedroom upstairs with lots of electronics (a computer hooked up to a big screen TV and other gadgetry) which he was disappointed did not impress me. He was planning to leave and come back, and I suspected he was lying to me about when it would actually be safe to leave. In the dream, I was too naive to know that he was trying to come on to me* until he tried to kiss me but knew his behavior was otherwise manipulative and weird. I planned to wait until he was gone, find out for myself when the monsters would be gone, and leave before he came back. In the way of dreams, time jumped to afterwards and he saw me on the street later and got angry that I’d left his bar unattended. I knew this was another manipulation but didn’t say anything.
I was myself at the age I am now, wearing the same t-shirt. I walked into the scene and found myself saying to my younger self, “There are no monsters. He’s lying to you. There are no monsters.” I felt a strong realization that this was about how women including me are manipulated through fear.
A few observations:
- The obvious “monster” in the dream is stranger rape, when the real danger statistically is being raped by someone you know. I don’t mean that stranger rape never happens. I do mean that it is a distraction, a boogeyman that blinds people to the greater problem. This can be said of every way in which women are made to fear things that are extremely unlikely in order to get them to agree to give up their freedom and make themselves easy victims to far more common threats.
- My dream was about women in particular, but it is absolutely applicable to people in general in various ways. For example, the way middle-class and poor white people are manipulated through fears of black and brown people to do things that serve the interests of the oligarchs rather than their own, or those who have any kind of privilege are manipulated to see an even playing field as the game being rigged against them. Or the way LGBT people can be manipulated into trying to look and act “respectable” in order to be treated like human beings and rejecting their own who won’t accede. Or the way African American clothing choices and crime statistics are raised (sometimes by African Americans) in discussions of police violence, as if that was worth serious consideration. Or…I’m sure you can think of other examples.
- I was being manipulated not only as a sexual object, but as a kind of scapegoat…being made responsible for something that wasn’t mine, I didn’t agree to look after, and from which I would derive no benefit (only the wholly illusionary benefit of “safety.”) And when I made the supremely logical choice of walking away, the person trying to manipulate me got angry at me. In this scenario, the bar is the patriarchy…but it could be so many other things as well.
- In the dream, I saw the monsters myself even though they were lies. Your very perceptions can be manipulated. Think about this the next time you find yourself arguing for the reality of some nebulous threat that just happens to serve the purpose of making people comply.
- There are no monsters.
- There are no monsters.
- You are being lied to.
- There are no monsters. Except maybe the guy who is trying to make you afraid.**
*This is a dead-accurate rendition of me at nineteen.
**I expect this post is apt to rile some people up. They will want to come and tell me I am wrong. Usually I am game for that, but in this case the material is so personal and I am so much still in its umbra that I request that people think twice and be kind. We can argue some other time, preferably over beer.