Friday, May 8, 2015

Words Beget Violence

‎Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.
Margaret Atwood

Trigger warnings apply to this post, for discussion of violence.

There are a number of topics that I prefer not to talk about. That I circle around, suggesting but not quite saying. Hashtag activism, the personal and political, promoting intercultural dialogue.

As an adult military child, I sometimes read articles about military families and military culture.

Let me begin, again, with a story, a story that leads to history:

I’m going to tell you a story about llamas. It will be like every other story you’ve ever heard about llamas: how they are covered in fine scales; how they eat their young if not raised properly; and how, at the end of their lives, they hurl themselves – lemming-like- over cliffs to drown in the surging sea. They are, at heart, sea creatures, birthed from the sea, married to it like the fishing people who make their livelihood there. [1]
It's from a critical piece by Kameron Hurley, "'We Have Always Fought': Challenging the 'Women, Cattle and Slaves' Narrative" about how we don't see the stories that don't fit our narrative. If every story we hear is about scaly llamas, then we forget about the actual hairy llamas that we have seen.

We saw the "scaly llama" narrative in action this week, on Twitter, with . The hashtag began as a troll from a radio show, with image after image of "scaly llama" feminists: blood running down their pants, hairy armpits... and stereotypes about women who are heavyset, who don't wear makeup.

Twitter is evolving, as users learn how to spot troll accounts, and ignore or subvert hashtags. In the case of , we could dilute the "scaly llama" tweets with images of the real deal. Of ordinary people, who believe that men and women should be equal.

Why do this? Why challenge such obvious falsehoods as "scaly llamas"?

A few weeks ago, there were articles about Dependa-Hunter culture in the modern military. As I read through the bulleted list of things that trigger The Dependapotamus Hunter, I was washed in memories of my family, my mother.

Angie's article, The Dependapotamus Hunter, connected this behavior to the Seven-Stage Hate Model developed by John Schaffer and Joe Navarro for the FBI:

  1. Haters Gather
  2. The Group Defines Itself
  3. The Group Disparages the Target
  4. The Group Taunts the Target
  5. The Group Attacks the Target Without Weapons
  6. The Group Attacks the Target With Weapons
  7. The Group Destroys the Target

I think these Dependa stereotypes were present in the military even then, thirty years ago. Don't stick out, don't ask for special treatment.

I think I was 14. I think it was Freshman year of High School. Before Dear Brother 3 was on the way, before Dad's second promotion review.

My father sat the 4 of us down for a family conference. He began to lecture us about how we were paeons, plebes. How he owned us. That we were worthless, and had to do what he said.

As he talked, I knew that what he was saying wasn't right. And as he started walking away, I kicked his leg. And the beating began.


AM Australia reported this morning that One in 4 young men think violence against women is normal.

Soraya Chemaly reported actual song lyrics, in her article "Stop Minimizing Fraternity Misogyny," and discusses how news reports minimizing or even trivializing the lyrics, disconnect the graphically violent lyrics from any physical violence that might occur.

This month Dr. Joan Johnson-Freese also discussed the Continuum of Harm that connects sexual harrassment to sexual assault. Senator Gillibrand's report on Sexual Assault shows that the scope of violence in military communities is vastly underreported. I have reason to believe that is accurate, but I want to caution that this report is again focused on just sexual assault.

My assaults have been "just" physical.

Several others have made the connection between Zoe Quinn's ex-boyfriend, and intimate partner violence. Most notably in this Boston Magazine article: "Game of Fear: The Story Behind GamerGate." The phenomenon of SWATting tells us that GamerGate has already progressed to stage 5 or 6 of the Seven Stage Hate Model.

This is why Twitter is never "just Twitter." This is why rude, crude, and anti-social speech must be countered, anywhere and everywhere it occurs. It's not about being Politically Correct. It is about preventing unacceptable anti-social behavior, long before it gets started.

It is critical that leadership sets the tone and culture all the way across the height and breadth of any organization.

"The standard you walk past is the standard you accept."