L’infiltration « queer » est démodée, maintenant des hommes, pur boeuf, réclament de participer à nos marches TBTN !! A lire les arguties psychologisantes qu’avancent désormais les organisatrices au lieu d’argumenter politiquement sur la non-mixité !
En France par contre, l’infiltration queer sex-positiv bât son plein ; voici deux tracts édifiants sur leur rhétorique : action politique réduite à des actes de nommination de soi (identités politiques vidées de leur sens, jugements moraux ou insulte) ou d’adversaires(jugements moraux et insultes) ; solidarité identitaire fédérée aussi bien par des insultes que par des attitudes ou choix vestimentaires, que par des séquelles de violences politiques ; le tout formant un inventaire irréaliste ; absence totale de dénonciation des violences sexuelles, ou sinon, noyées comme dans la soupe, à côté de l’obligation de jouer à la poupée et accusation des hétérosexuelles.
Pour contraste, voici « Reclaim the Night Speech » prononcé le 30 octobre 2011, par Allecto.
This is a speech I gave at Reclaim the Night Perth, 28th October 2011.
Women are a colonised people. Under male supremacy, our original selves are forcibly buried and we are reshaped, our Selves conditioned for use and abuse by the men who occupy us. And this is a truly encompassing occupation. They not only occupy our time and energy, they infiltrate and invade, they alter what it is we believe about ourselves, they construct our identities from birth into being for them.
Under male supremacy, rape and sexual violence is the fabric of the culture in which we live. Women’s purpose is shaped according to what men value about us. We are valued in accordance with our fuckability, our submissiveness, our conformity to their value system which posits women as whores. We are vulnerable, we are penetrable, we are for use and abuse, we are colonised and we are for men.
Men construct the world around this value system. They buy and sell women and girls as sex and call it prostitution. They create degraded images of women being hurt and fucked and raped and call it pornography. Women and girls survive this occupation. We see ourselves starving and trussed up in shop windows, on the sides of buses, on newsstands and in the grocery store. And we survive this. We see little girls wearing Playboy bracelets, young women and girls being branded by the sex industry, stamped as whores, stamped as being owned. And we are still surviving this.
Tonight we are reclaiming more than the night. We are reclaiming ourselves. We are saying, loudly and clearly, “no woman is a whore”. And we are standing with every woman who has been beaten, every woman who has been raped and we are reclaiming ourselves. Men have shaped our realities for far too long, it is time we take back what is ours.
see that no matter what you have done i am still here. and it has made me dangerous, and wise. and brother, you cannot whore, perfume, and suppress me anymore. i have my own business in this skin and on this planet. Gail Murray
Pour rappel, les deux magnifiques allocutions de Andrea Dworkin.
The Night and Danger
The Night and Danger was written as a Take Back the Night speech. In New Haven, Connecticut, 2000 women marched. Street prostitutes joined the March and old women in old age homes came out on balconies with lit candles. In Old Dominion, Virginia, blacks and whites, women and men, gays and straights, in the hundreds, joined together in the first political march ever held in Old Dominion, an oligarchal, conservative stronghold, as the name suggests. People marched fourteen miles, as if they didn’t want to miss a footpath, under threat of losing their jobs and with the threat of police violence. In Calgary, Canada, women were arrested for demonstrating without a permit, the irony that a March is the safest way (arrests notwithstanding) for women to go out at night lost on the police but not on the women. In Los Angeles, California, the tail end of a double line of 2000 women walking on sidewalks was attacked by men in cars. I don’t know how many times I gave this speech, but in giving it I have seen North America and met some of the bravest people around. The Night and Danger has never been published before.
A Take Back the Night March goes right to our emotional core. We women are especially supposed to be afraid of the night. The night promises harm to women. For a woman to walk on the street at night is not only to risk abuse, but also–according to the values of male domination–to ask for it. The woman who transgresses the boundaries of night is an outlaw who breaks an elementary rule of civilized behavior: a decent woman does not go out–certainly not alone, certainly not onlywith other women–at night. A woman out in the night, not on a leash, is thought to be a slut or an uppity bitch who does not know her place. The policemen of the night–rapists and other prowling men–have the right to enforce the laws of the night: to stalk the female and to punish her. We have all been chased, and many of us have been caught. A woman who knows the rules of civilized society knows that she must hide from the night. But even when the woman, like a good girl, locks herself up and in, night threatens to intrude. Outside are the predators who will crawl in the windows, climb down drainpipes, pick the locks, descend from skylights, to bring the night with them. These predators are romanticized in, for instance, vampire movies. The predators become mist and curl through barely visible cracks. They bring with them sex and death. Their victims recoil, resist sex, resist death, until, overcome by the thrill of it all, they spread their legs and bare their necks and fall in love. Once the victim has fully submitted, the night holds no more terror, because the victim is dead. She is very lovely, very feminine, and very dead. This is the essence of so-called romance, which is rape embellished with meaningful looks.
Night is the time of romance. Men, like their adored vampires, go a-courting. Men, like vampires, hunt. Night licenses so-called romance and romance boils down to rape: forced entry into the domicile which is sometimes the home, always the body and what some call the soul. The female is solitary and/or sleeping. The male drinks from her until he is sated or until she is dead. The traditional flowers of courtship are the traditional flowers of the grave, delivered to the victim before the kill. The cadaver is dressed up and made up and laid down and ritually violated and consecrated to an eternity of being used. All distinctions of will and personality are obliterated and we are supposed to believe that the night, not the rapist, does the obliterating.
Men use the night to erase us. It was Casanova, whom men reckon an authority, who wrote that « when the lamp is taken away, all women are alike. » 1The annihilation of a woman’s personality, individuality, will, character, is prerequisite to male sexuality, and so the night is the sacred time of male sexual celebration because it is dark and in the dark it is easier not to see: not to see who she is. Male sexuality, drunk on its intrinsic contempt for all life, but especially for women’s lives, can run wild, hunt down random victims, use the dark for cover, find in the dark solace, sanction, and sanctuary.
Night is magical for men. They look for prostitutes and pick-ups at night. They do their so-called lovemaking at night. They get drunk and roam the streets in packs at night. They fuck their wives at night. They have their fraternity parties at night. They commit their so-called seductions at night. They dress up in white sheets and burn crosses at night. The infamous Crystal Night, when German Nazis firebombed and vandalized and broke the windows of Jewish shops and homes throughout Germany–the Crystal Night, named after the broken glass that covered Germany when the night had ended–the Crystal Night, when the Nazis beat up or killed all the Jews they could find, all the Jews who had not locked themselves in securely enough–the Crystal Night that foreshadowed the slaughter to come–is the emblematic night. The values of the day become the obsessions of the night. Any hated group fears the night, because in the night all the despised are treated as women are treated: as prey, targeted to be beaten or murdered or sexually violated. We fear the night because men become more dangerous in the night.
In the United States, with its distinctly racist character, the very fear of the dark is manipulated, often subliminally, into fear of black, of black men in particular, so that the traditional association between rape and black men that is our national heritage is fortified. In this context, the imagery of black night suggests that black is inherently dangerous. In this context, the association of night, black men, and rape becomes an article of faith. Night, the time of sex, becomes also the time of race–racial fear and racial hatred. The black male, in the South hunted at night to be castrated and/or lynched, becomes in the racist United States the carrier of danger, the carrier of rape. The use of a racially despised type of male as a scapegoat, a symbolic figure embodying the sexuality of all men, is a common male-supremacist strategy. Hitler did the same to the Jewish male. In the urban United States, the prostitute population is disproportionately made up of black women, streetwalkers who inhabit the night, prototypical female figures, again scapegoats, symbols carrying the burden of male-defined female sexuality, of woman as commodity. And so, among the women, night is the time of sex and also of race: racial exploitation and sexual exploitation are fused, indivisible. Night and black: sex and race: the black men are blamed for what all men do; the black women are used as all women are used, but they are singularly and intensely punished by law and social mores; and to untangle this cruel knot, so much a part of each and every night, we will have to take back the night so that it cannot be used to destroy us by race or by sex.
Night means, for all women, a choice: danger or confinement. Confinement is most often dangerous too–battered women are confined, a woman raped in marriage is likely to be raped in her own home. But in confinement, we are promised a lessening of danger, and in confinement we try to avoid danger. The herstory of women has been one of confinement: physical limitation, binding, movement forbidden, action punished. Now, again, everywhere we turn, the feet of women are bound. A woman tied up is the literal emblem of our condition, and everywhere we turn, we see our condition celebrated: women in bondage, tied and bound. Actor George Hamilton, one of the new Count Draculae, asserts that « [e]very woman fantasizes about a dark stranger who manacles her. Women don’t have fantasies about marching with Vanessa Redgrave. » 2 He doesn’t seem to realize that we do have fantasies about Vanessa Redgrave marching with us. The erotic celebration of women in bondage is the religion of our time; and sacred literature and devotional films, like the bound foot, are everywhere. The significance of bondage is that it forbids freedom of movement. Hannah Arendt wrote that « [o]f all the specific liberties which may come into our minds when we hear the word ‘freedom,’ freedom of movement is historically the oldest and also the most elementary. Being able to depart for where we will is the prototypal gesture of being free, as limitation of freedom of movement has from time immemorial been the precondition for enslavement. Freedom of movement is also the indispensable condition for action, and it is in action that men primarily experience freedom in the world. » 3 The truth is that men do experience freedom of movement and freedom in action and that women do not. We must recognize that freedom of movement is a precondition for freedom of anything else. It comes before freedom of speech in importance because without it freedom of speech cannot in fact exist. So when we women struggle for freedom, we must begin at the beginning and fight for freedom of movement, which we have not had and do not now have. In reality, we are not allowed out after dark. In some parts of the world, women are not allowed out at all but we, in this exemplary democracy, are permitted to totter around, half crippled, during the day, and for this, of course, we must be grateful. Especially we must be grateful because jobs and safety depend on the expression of gratitude through cheerful conformity, sweet passivity, and submission artfully designed to meet the particular tastes of the males we must please. We must be grateful–unless we are prepared to resist confinement–to resist being locked in and tied up–to resist being bound and gagged and used and kept and kept in and pinned down and conquered and taken and possessed and decked out like toy dolls that have to be wound up to move at all. We must be grateful–unless we are prepared to resist the images of women tied and bound and humiliated and used. We must be grateful unless we are prepared to demand–no, to take–freedom of movement for ourselves because we know it to be a precondition for every other freedom that we must want if we want freedom at all. We must be grateful–unless we are willing to say with the Three Marias of Portugal: « Enough./It is time to cry: Enough. And to form a barricade with our bodies. » 4
I think that we have been grateful for the small favors of men long enough. I think that we are sick to death of being grateful. lt is as if we are forced to play Russian roulette; each night, a gun is placed against our temples. Each day, we are strangely grateful to be alive. Each day we forget that one night it will be our turn, the random will no longer be random but specific and personal, it will be me or it will be you or it will be someone that we love perhaps more than we love ourselves. Each day we forget that we barter everything we have and get next to nothing in return. Each day we make do, and each night we become captive or outlaw–likely to be hurt either way. It is time to cry « Enough, » but it is not enough to cry « Enough. » We must use our bodies to say « Enough »–we must form a barricade with our bodies, but the barricade must move as the ocean moves and be formidable as the ocean is formidable. We must use our collective strength and passion and endurance to take back this night and every night so that life will be worth living and so that human dignity will be a reality. What we do here tonight is that simple, that difficult, and that important.
1. Giacomo Casanova, History of My Life, trans. Willard R. Trask (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971), Vol. 11, p. 15. 2. Jean Cox Penn and Jill Barber, « The New Draculas Become the Kinkiest Sex Symbols Ever, » Us, Vol. III, No. 7, p. 27. 3. Hannah Arendt, Men In Dark Times (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968), p. 9. 4. Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta, and Maria Velho da Costa, The Three Marias: New Portuguese Letters, trans. Helen R. Lane (New York: Bantam Books, 1976), p. 275.
TAKE BACK THE DAY
I Want a Twenty-Four-Hour Truce During Which There Is
This was a speech given at the Midwest Regional Conference of the National Organization for Changing Men in the fall of 1983 in St Paul, Minnesota. One of the organizers kindly sent me a tape and a transcript of my speech. The magazine of the men’s movement, M., published it. I was teaching in Minneapolis. This was before Catharine MacKinnon and I had proposed or developed the civil rights approach to pornography as a legislative strategy. Lots of people were in the audience who later became key players in the fight for the civil rights bill. I didn’t know them then. It was an audience of about 500 men, with scattered women. I spoke from notes and was actually on my way to Idaho–an eight-hour trip each way (because of bad air connections) to give a one-hour speech on Art–fly out Saturday, come back Sunday, can’t talk more than one hour or you’ll miss the only plane leaving that day, you have to run from the podium to the car for the two-hour drive to the plane. Why would a militant feminist under this kind of pressure stop off on her way to the airport to say hi to 500 men? In a sense, this was a feminist dream-come-true. What would you say to 500 men if you could? This is what I said, how I used my chance. The men reacted with considerable love and support and also with considerable anger. Both. I hurried out to get my plane, the first hurdle for getting to Idaho. Only one man in the 500 threatened me physically. He was stopped by a woman bodyguard (and friend) who had accompanied me.
I have thought a great deal about how a feminist, like myself, addresses an audience primarily of political men who say that they are antisexist. And I thought a lot about whether there should be a qualitative difference in the kind of speech I address to you. And then I found myself incapable of pretending that I really believe that that qualitative difference exists. I have watched the men’s movement for many years. I am close with some of the people who participate in it. I can’t come here as a friend even though I might very much want to. What I would like to do is to scream: and in that scream I would have the screams of the raped, and the sobs of the battered; and even worse, in the center of that scream I would have the deafening sound of women’s silence, that silence into which we are born because we are women and in which most of us die.
And if there would be a plea or a question or a human address in that scream, it would be this: why are you so slow? Why are you so slow to understand the simplest things; not the complicated ideological things. You understand those. The simple things. The cliches. Simply that women are human to precisely the degree and quality that you are.
And also: that we do not have time. We women. We don’t have forever. Some of us don’t have another week or another day to take time for you to discuss whatever it is that will enable you to go out into those streets and do something. We are very close to death. All women are. And we are very close to rape and we are very close to beating. And we are inside a system of humiliation from which there is no escape for us. We use statistics not to try to quantify the injuries, but to convince the world that those injuries even exist. Those statistics are not abstractions. It is easy to say, « Ah, the statistics, somebody writes them up one way and somebody writes them up another way. » That’s true. But I hear about the rapes one by one by one by one by one, which is also how they happen. Those statistics are not abstract to me. Every three minutes a woman is being raped. Every eighteen seconds a woman is being beaten. There is nothing abstract about it. It is happening right now as I am speaking.
And it is happening for a simple reason. There is nothing complex and difficult about the reason. Men are doing it, because of the kind of power that men have over women. That power is real, concrete, exercised from one body to another body, exercised by someone who feels he has a right to exercise it, exercised in public and exercised in private. It is the sum and substance of women’s oppression.
It is not done 5000 miles away or 3000 miles away. It is done here and it is done now and it is done by the people in this room as well as by other contemporaries: our friends, our neighbors, people that we know. Women don’t have to go to school to learn about power. We just have to be women, walking down the street or trying to get the housework done after having given one’s body in marriage and then having no rights over it.
The power exercised by men day to day in life is power that is institutionalized. It is protected by law. It is protected by religion and religious practice. It is protected by universities, which are strongholds of male supremacy. It is protected by a police force. It is protected by those whom Shelley called « the unacknowledged legislators of the world »: the poets, the artists. Against that power, we have silence.
It is an extraordinary thing to try to understand and confront why it is that men believe–and men do believe–that they have the right to rape. Men may not believe it when asked. Everybody raise your hand who believes you have the right to rape. Not too many hands will go up. It’s in life that men believe they have the right to force sex, which they don’t call rape. And it is an extraordinary thing to try to understand that men really believe that they have the right to hit and to hurt. And it is an equally extraordinary thing to try to understand that men really believe that they have the right to buy a woman’s body for the purpose of having sex: that that is a right. And it is very amazing to try to understand that men believe that the seven-billion-dollar-a-year industry that provides men with cunts is something that men have a right to.
That is the way the power of men is manifest in real life. That is what theory about male supremacy means. It means you can rape. It means you can hit. It means you can hurt. It means you can buy and sell women. It means that there is a class of people there to provide you with what you need. You stay richer than they are, so that they have to sell you sex. Not just on street corners, but in the workplace. That’s another right that you can presume to have: sexual access to any woman in your environment, when you want.
Now, the men’s movement suggests that men don’t want the kind of power I have just described. I’ve actually heard explicit whole sentences to that effect. And yet, everything is a reason not to do something about changing the fact that you do have that power.
Hiding behind guilt, that’s my favorite. I love that one. Oh, it’s horrible, yes, and I’m so sorry. You have the time to feel guilty. We don’t have the time for you to feel guilty. Your guilt is a form of acquiescence in what continues to occur. Your guilt helps keep things the way they are.
I have heard in the last several years a great deal about the suffering of men over sexism. Of course, I have heard a great deal about the suffering of men all my life. Needless to say, I have read Hamlet. I have read King Lear. I am an educated woman. I know that men suffer. This is a new wrinkle. Implicit in the idea that this is a different kind of suffering is the claim, I think, that in part you are actually suffering because of something that you know happens to someone else. That would indeed be new.
But mostly your guilt, your suffering, reduces to: gee, we really feel so bad. Everything makes men feel so bad: what you do, what you don’t do, what you want to do, what you don’t want to want to do but are going to do anyway. I think most of your distress is: gee, we really feel so bad. And I’m sorry that you feel so bad–so uselessly and stupidly bad–because there is a way in which this really is your tragedy. And I don’t mean because you can’t cry. And I don’t mean because there is no real intimacy in your lives. And I don’t mean because the armor that you have to live with as men is stultifying: and I don’t doubt that it is. But I don’t mean any of that.
I mean that there is a relationship between the way that women are raped and your socialization to rape and the war machine that grinds you up and spits you out: the war machine that you go through just like that woman went through Larry Flynt’s meat grinder on the cover of Hustler. You damn well better believe that you’re involved in this tragedy and that it’s your tragedy too. Because you’re turned into little soldier boys from the day that you are born and everything that you learn about how to avoid the humanity of women becomes part of the militarism of the country in which you live and the world in which you live. It is also part of the economy that you frequently claim to protest.
And the problem is that you think it’s out there: and it’s not out there. It’s in you. The pimps and the warmongers speak for you. Rape and war are not so different. And what the pimps and the warmongers do is that they make you so proud of being men who can get it up and give it hard. And they take that acculturated sexuality and they put you in little uniforms and they send you out to kill and to die. Now, I am not going to suggest to you that I think that’s more important than what you do to women, because I don’t.
But I think that if you want to look at what this system does to you, then that is where you should start looking: the sexual politics of aggression; the sexual politics of militarism. I think that men are very afraid of other men. That is something that you sometimes try to address in your small groups, as if if you changed your attitudes towards each other, you wouldn’t be afraid of each other.
But as long as your sexuality has to do with aggression and your sense of entitlement to humanity has to do with being superior to other people, and there is so much contempt and hostility in your attitudes towards women and children, how could you not be afraid of each other? I think that you rightly perceive–without being willing to face it politically–that men are very dangerous: because you are.
The solution of the men’s movement to make men less dangerous to each other by changing the way you touch and feel each other is not a solution. It’s a recreational break.
These conferences are also concerned with homophobia. Homophobia is very important: it is very important to the way male supremacy works. In my opinion, the prohibitions against male homosexuality exist in order to protect male power. Do it to her. That is to say: as long as men rape, it is very important that men be directed to rape women. As long as sex is full of hostility and expresses both power over and contempt for the other person, it is very important that men not be declassed, stigmatized as female, used similarly. The power of men as a class depends on keeping men sexually inviolate and women sexually used by men. Homophobia helps maintain that class power: it also helps keep you as individuals safe from each other, safe from rape. If you want to do something about homophobia, you are going to have to do something about the fact that men rape, and that forced sex is not incidental to male sexuality but is in practice paradigmatic.
Some of you are very concerned about the rise of the Right in this country, as if that is something separate from the issues of feminism or the men’s movement. There is a cartoon I saw that brought it all together nicely. It was a big picture of Ronald Reagan as a cowboy with a big hat and a gun. And it said: « A gun in every holster; a pregnant woman in every home. Make America a man again. » Those are the politics of the Right.
If you are afraid of the ascendancy of fascism in this country–and you would be very foolish not to be right now–then you had better understand that the root issue here has to do with male supremacy and the control of women; sexual access to women; women as reproductive slaves; private ownership of women. That is the program of the Right. That is the morality they talk about. That is what they mean. That is what they want. And the only opposition to them that matters is an opposition to men owning women.
What’s involved in doing something about all of this? The men’s movement seems to stay stuck on two points. The first is that men don’t really feel very good about themselves. How could you? The second is that men come to me or to other feminists and say: « What you’re saying about men isn’t true. It isn’t true of me. I don’t feel that way. I’m opposed to all of this. »
And I say: don’t tell me. Tell the pornographers. Tell the pimps. Tell the warmakers. Tell the rape apologists and the rape celebrationists and the pro-rape ideologues. Tell the novelists who think that rape is wonderful. Tell Larry Flynt. Tell Hugh Hefner. There’s no point in telling me. I’m only a woman. There’s nothing I can do about it. These men presume to speak for you. They are in the public arena saying that they represent you. If they don’t, then you had better let them know.
Then there is the private world of misogyny: what you know about each other; what you say in private life; the exploitation that you see in the private sphere; the relationships called love, based on exploitation. It’s not enough to find some traveling feminist on the road and go up to her and say: « Gee, I hate it. »
Say it to your friends who are doing it. And there are streets out there on which you can say these things loud and dear, so as to affect the actual institutions that maintain these abuses. You don’t like pornography? I wish I could believe it’s true. I will believe it when I see you on the streets. I will believe it when I see an organized political opposition. I will believe it when pimps go out of business because there are no more male consumers.
You want to organize men. You don’t have to search for issues. The issues are part of the fabric of your everyday lives.
I want to talk to you about equality, what equality is and what it means. It isn’t just an idea. It’s not some insipid word that ends up being bullshit. It doesn’t have anything at all to do with all those statements like: « Oh, that happens to men too. » I name an abuse and I hear: « Oh, it happens to men too. » That is not the equality we are struggling for. We could change our strategy and say: well, okay, we want equality; we’ll stick something up the ass of a man every three minutes.
You’ve never heard that from the feminist movement, because for us equality has real dignity and importance–it’s not some dumb word that can be twisted and made to look stupid as if it had no real meaning.
As a way of practicing equality, some vague idea about giving up power is useless. Some men have vague thoughts about a future in which men are going to give up power or an individual man is going to give up some kind of privilege that he has. That is not what equality means either.
Equality is a practice. It is an action. It is a way of life. It is a social practice. It is an economic practice. It is a sexual practice. It can’t exist in a vacuum. You can’t have it in your home if, when the people leave the home, he is in a world of his supremacy based on the existence of his cock and she is in a world of humiliation and degradation because she is perceived to be inferior and because her sexuality is a curse.
This is not to say that the attempt to practice equality in the home doesn’t matter. It matters, but it is not enough. If you love equality, if you believe in it, if it is the way you want to live–not just men and women together in a home, but men and men together in a home and women and women together in a home–if equality is what you want and what you care about, then you have to fight for the institutions that will make it socially real.
It is not just a matter of your attitude. You can’t think it and make it exist. You can’t try sometimes, when it works to your advantage, and throw it out the rest of the time. Equality is a discipline. It is a way of life. It is a political necessity to create equality in institutions. And another thing about equality is that it cannot coexist with rape. It cannot. And it cannot coexist with pornography or with prostitution or with the economic degradation of women on any level, in any way. It cannot coexist, because implicit in all those things is the inferiority of women.
I want to see this men’s movement make a commitment to ending rape because that is the only meaningful commitment to equality. It is astonishing that in all our worlds of feminism and antisexism we never talk seriously about ending rape. Ending it. Stopping it. No more. No more rape. In the back of our minds, are we holding on to its inevitability as the last preserve of the biological? Do we think that it is always going to exist no matter what we do? All of our political actions are lies if we don’t make a commitment to ending the practice of rape. This commitment has to be political. It has to be serious. It has to be systematic. It has to be public. It can’t be self-indulgent.
The things the men’s movement has wanted are things worth having. Intimacy is worth having. Tenderness is worth having. Cooperation is worth having. A real emotional life is worth having. But you can’t have them in a world with rape. Ending homophobia is worth doing. But you can’t do it in a world with rape. Rape stands in the way of each and every one of those things you say you want. And by rape you know what I mean. A judge does not have to walk into this room and say that according to statute such and such these are the elements of proof. We’re talking about any kind of coerced sex, including sex coerced by poverty.
You can’t have equality or tenderness or intimacy as long as there is rape, because rape means terror. It means that part of the population lives in a state of terror and pretends–to please and pacify you–that it doesn’t. So there is no honesty. How can there be? Can you imagine what it is like to live as a woman day in and day out with the threat of rape? Or what it is like to live with the reality? I want to see you use those legendary bodies and that legendary strength and that legendary courage and the tenderness that you say you have in behalf of women; and that means against the rapists, against the pimps, and against the pornographers. It means something more than a personal renunciation. It means a systematic, political, active, public attack. And there has been very little of that.
I came here today because I don’t believe that rape is inevitable or natural. If I did, I would have no reason to be here. If I did, my political practice would be different than it is. Have you ever wondered why we are not just in armed combat against you? It’s not because there’s a shortage of kitchen knives in this country. It is because we believe in your humanity, against all the evidence.
We do not want to do the work of helping you to believe in your humanity. We cannot do it anymore. We have always tried. We have been repaid with systematic exploitation and systematic abuse. You are going to have to do this yourselves from now on and you know it.
The shame of men in front of women is, I think, an appropriate response both to what men do do and to what men do not do. I think you should be ashamed. But what you do with that shame is to use it as an excuse to keep doing what you want and to keep not doing anything else; and you’ve got to stop. You’ve got to stop. Your psychology doesn’t matter. How much you hurt doesn’t matter in the end any more than how much we hurt matters. If we sat around and only talked about how much rape hurt us, do you think there would have been one of the changes that you have seen in this country in the last fifteen years? There wouldn’t have been.
It is true that we have to talk to each other. How else, after all, were we supposed to find out that each of us was not the only woman in the world not asking for it to whom rape or battery had ever happened? We couldn’t read it in the newspapers, not then. We couldn’t find a book about it. But you do know and now the question is what are you going to do; and so your shame and your guilt are very much beside the point. They don’t matter to us at all, in any way. They’re not good enough. They don’t do anything.
As a feminist, I carry the rape of all the women I’ve talked to over the last ten years personally with me. As a woman, I carry my own rape with me. Do you remember pictures that you’ve seen of European cities during the plague, when there were wheelbarrows that would go along and people would just pick up corpses and throw them in? Well, that is what it is like knowing about rape. Piles and piles and piles of bodies that have whole lives and human names and human faces.
I speak for many feminists, not only myself, when I tell you that I am tired of what I know and sad beyond any words I have about what has already been done to women up to this point, now, up to 2:24pm on this day, here in this place.
And I want one day of respite, one day off, one day in which no new bodies are piled up, one day in which no new agony is added to the old, and I am asking you to give it to me. And how could I ask you for less–it is so little. And how could you offer me less: it is so little. Even in wars, there are days of truce. Go and organize a truce. Stop your side for one day. I want a twenty-four-hour truce during which there is no rape.
I dare you to try it. I demand that you try it. I don’t mind begging you to try it. What else could you possibly be here to do? What else could this movement possibly mean? What else could matter so much?
And on that day, that day of truce, that day when not one woman is raped, we will begin the real practice of equality, because we can’t begin it before that day. Before that day it means nothing because it is nothing: it is not real; it is not true. But on that day it becomes real. And then, instead of rape we will for the first time in our lives–both men and women–begin to experience freedom.
If you have a conception of freedom that includes the existence of rape, you are wrong. You cannot change what you say you want to change. For myself, I want to experience just one day of real freedom before I die. I leave you here to do that for me and for the women whom you say you love.