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When Women Aren’t People

Chloe Dykstra’s essay was a shock to me, and then it wasn’t. I didn’t want the manipulative and abusive behavior to come from the person about whom we all knew she was writing. On the heels of one of Arouse’s very own pieces regarding abuse in Hollywood, I didn’t want Chris Hardwick to be one of the good ones we would lose.

So, I waited. I felt physically ill, but I waited for Hardwick’s response before removing ID10T from my podcast playlist.

After reading Hardwick’s response, I wanted to believe him and almost did: “I’m devastated to read that she is now accusing me of conduct that did not occur.” This made me think: did Dykstra sit down and come up with a list of specific behaviors just to make him look bad? What would be the point, and what would she get out of it all these years later?

When I read her allegations, which we have collectively accepted as abusive behaviors, I considered that maybe Hardwick did these things and didn’t realize it was abuse. He could easily admit that he was an idiot, acknowledge Dykstra’s abuse and profusely apologize.

Then it became apparent that he doesn’t get it: “As a husband, a son, and future father, I do not condone any kind of mistreatment of women.”

In this one sentence, Hardwick sets himself up as a man who doesn’t consider women outside of their roles in relation to men. Husband = I have a wife. Son = I have a mother. Future father = I will have a daughter.

According to that statement, women are not autonomous beings. We’re only worth non-abusive treatment if we’re someone’s wife, mother or daughter, and that’s what makes me believe Dykstra even more.

If a woman isn’t viewed as an autonomous human, then any behavior exhibited towards her wouldn’t be abuse. For example: I have a dog. I control when she eats, when she gets to go outside and with whom she interacts. She can’t do these things on her own because she doesn’t have opposable thumbs and can’t get the food out of the container on her own. She can’t open the door, and would probably run wild if left outside to her own devices.

If you were to place these provisions on a human, it would be mentally and emotionally abusive behavior. By saying that he doesn’t condone mistreatment towards women, he first qualifies what a woman is to him.

And because Dykstra is not in any one of these roles towards Hardwick, she is not a person. So if these behaviors did occur, it’s because she was no more than a dog to him – not a person.

Unfortunately, this is common for women. When speaking about rape, assault and abuse, we tell men to “imagine it was your daughter.” When we discuss abortion, we talk about women as if they are no more than hosts for sacred parasites. When a man makes a distasteful remark about women or our anatomy, we say that boys will be boys and brush off the “locker room” talk.

We can’t do that anymore. We need to see women as autonomous humans worthy of being treated fairly because we are humans — not because we’re daughters, mothers, sisters and wives.

So, here’s a way we can change the narrative: treat, talk to and about women in the same way you would want someone to treat, talk to or about yourself.

If you were abused, would you want your abuser to treat your experience as invalid? Would you want your abuser to deny your personhood?

My guess is no.

We have a long road ahead, apparently, before women are on an equal playing field as men, but I think the best foot forward is to change how we communicate. We need to see women, and talk about women, for who we are – human fucking beings.

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