I have thought about it for some time because it's not an easy decision. But I decided to share my story and experiences also here. It's my Sunday's speech at Women Deliver 2019 Mobilization Canada Women Deliver:
Speaking about my story is a new situation for me. In everyday life, I’m usually on the other side. I am the one listening. Listening to the stories of survivors of rape, sexual assault, and harassment. And supporting them. As the #MeToo movement unfolded in Poland, I talked to hundreds of survivors. I wrote many articles and a book about rape culture. So now it’s a little bit strange to be on the other side.
I’m a publicist and a literary critic – so I get insults pretty often. I read that I am a stupid cunt, that I write about gender equality because I need sex or because I’m probably very ugly. I don’t care much about it, I get used to them – I just don’t want to live in a world where we have to get used to the hate speech.
Last year I had a difficult situation. A well-known Polish publisher who also published my texts in a few books had been insulting women (very often writers) on Facebook for some time because of their gender, appearance, and age. He published their photos with comments that he wouldn’t like to have sex with them, that they look unintelligent or that they are “decaying sth” because of their age.
I wrote about that on Facebook and quoted his sexist comments. After that, he sent me threats in a private message. It was during my job interview to the Amazon warehouse. I started trembling. After the interview, I instantly reported his threats to the police.
But the worst happened later. Literary environment supported him. They stated that I’m too strong to be afraid – because I fight against sexual violence which means that I’m aggressive and radical. They blamed me.
After that, I would see his face in every man on the street. When I would ride the bus and someone raised their hand to push the button to open the bus door, I escaped because I was convinced that he wanted to hit me. When I met my friends, the first thing I did there, was looking around if there is nobody from the literary environment to evaluate me if I behave like a “real” victim.
It was terrible. Every my move, every word could be the “reason” why I wasn’t a “good” victim. When I laugh, I felt guilty. When I danced, I felt guilty. When I drank alcohol, I felt guilty.
Because this is not how the “real” victim behaves.
During #MeToo survivors very often told me about reactions like that. I supported them, and help them understand that they are not the guilty ones. But now – no matter how much I knew about it – I felt the same way. I wrote a book about it but I still felt guilty. It didn’t help that I knew that it’s not reasonable. I just felt it. This is how victim stigma works. And how strong and internalized it is.
And I had enough of it. That’s why I started posting photos from everyday situations in my life with a question: “What should the victim look like to be believed?”. Every photo is one “reason” to blame woman: “Can she laugh/party/be happy?” with a photo of me laughing, partying, being happy. I used the hashtag #canshe. I made it in Polish and in English. All cycle has 50 photos. I had been publishing them for a few months. I did it to fight against blaming survivors when they are strong, depressed or happy.
I wasn’t happy when I saw that the case in the police was closed. But I wasn’t surprised. Most of the cases related to violence against women in Poland is closed. I couldn't submit an appeal because I was exhausted by work in an Amazon warehouse, in the cultural magazines, publishing house, and at the university. I didn't have time and conditions for an appeal. Like most women in Poland: we work too much. We are one of the longest working hours for people in Europe. To report a perpetrator, you need time, money (for a lawyer) and conditions. Most women don't have it. That's why during #MeToo we have to fight for the better work conditions for women and more free time – and thanks to that we'll be able to fight with perpetrators together, all of us, not only those who have the privilege of time and money.
The case was canceled. But I felt strong. More angry and ready to fight than afraid. This cycle gave me and other people power to fight. Women said that it made them stronger. It showed them that the problem is not in them, but in society. We talk and support each other. It’s mainly invisible, very exhausting – it’s unpaid care work which state doesn’t provide us.
It was a few months ago. Lately, in Poland we had another case with rape – it was very loud, related to celebrities. And in media we could read all those arguments who stigmatize survivors: she does it for a career, she has naked photos, so she’s guilty, etc. The main argument “against her” was that after the rape she accompanied him in a taxi. I wrote about the nonsense of these arguments on Instagram. And after that girls started writing to me how they reacted after the rape. Some of them ate breakfast with the rapist. Some – went shopping with him. Some – kissed him and said “goodbye”. Some stayed in this relationship. I published all of them – mainly anonymously – on Instagram stories. It is more than 400 relations in this cycle, and still more and more. Women spoke up about their rape experiences.
However survivors respond to rape and threats is ok. It is the rapes and threats that are not ok, that are unacceptable.
I would really like to live a world where instead of teaching us how to avoid violence, we would be taught how to fight with the system that normalizes violence like rain that we have to be prepared for and always have an umbrella with us. The perpetrator is not rain, violence is not a normal weather condition – and we finally need to change the world that states that.
Thank you Tamara Anne Windau-Melmer and Sumit Galhotra for the possibility to tell my story.
Opublikowano: 2019-06-05 21:58:15