Advice to All The Other Alices
Young, vulnerable, scarlet, curious, loving, ingenious: Little Red Riding Hood. Experienced, dangerous, charismatic, cunning, ravenous: Big Bad Wolf.
"The village is where your family is, little girl. Your rules, your laws, your proper cloak and your housework. The forest is where you run free, grow brave, grow tall, and sometimes come back with blood on your hands. Don't go into the woods at night! You may live and learn and run wild with a torn cap and the days stretching ahead of you!"
The truest female agency of Little Red Riding Hood comes from being reborn from a predator's belly, entering as a child but coming out as a woman. Like love and more often like lust, you find your hard-won epiphanies in the heat and the the blood of a brand new idea, casting aside your sheltered innocence and plunging in.
Little Red journeyed out into the deep dark trees.
Not to meet the Wolf, or be saved by the Huntsman,
but to see her grandmother.
Grandmother, who already lived among
the deep dark trees and unseen forces.
Grandmother, who had found her own girlhood
and womanhood at a crossroads and set down roots there.
Grandmother, who abandoned the safety and patriarchy
of the village.
Grandmother, who was saved then by her clever, strong
It must run in the family.
I originally wrote this as an email reply to a male friend who commented on an Indonesian mini-skirt ban that "The feminists were right. We are all rape machines." It shook me. This was a decent person, how could he be so...wrong? I commented back, sometimes more weakly than others. I got a stress headache. I waylaid my fiance for several hours about sexual politics and the gender-loaded notion of the criminality of rape in modern America. I couldn't sleep. I wrote this at work the following morning, then called my mother.
It was then that I decided to post this publicly to expunge all this rage and stress about misconceptions of feminism, in special regard to rape. Because there has been a lot of feminist content up here about sexuality, innocence, sexual perception, etc. for the Little Red Riding Hood collab, I thought maybe this would be the best place for it.
I don't want to demonize the man who originally wrote the two sentences. In fact, it is because I don't want to paint him as an anti-women, awful person that I think it is important. I want to indicate he is probably not the only well-meaning man who feels that rape and sexual crime should be an ungendered issue...and how even though that would be ideal, at the moment, that is not a reality.
You have probably moved past this already, but I had a few things I wanted to tell you. It is not about one-upmanship or the idea that you're incapable of understanding; I know in my heart that these things are more imporant than that.
First and foremost, feminists don't believe men are rape machines. No feminist principles support that. You would be hard-pressed to find any feminists making that claim. In fact, the idea that men are incapable of controlling themselves comes overwhelmingly from men, and even more overwhelmingly from moralistic men. This is the case in Indonesia, such a decree being made by a male religious leader, and is the case in other places where such laws exist. It is not used to attack men in cases of rape, it is used to protect them. Even in the most progressive communities, it is still not an unstandard practice not to arrest an accused rapist until a victim has explained why they were out at night or why they chose to wear certain attire, despite the irrelevance of those factors in a criminal case.
The counter-movement by feminists (in context, Dear Friend made note that he thought that slogans like "Tell men not to rape" were a waste of time by summarily pointing fingers) is to educate men, because although it is an uncomfortable statistic to hear if you are a decent man, about 98% of sexual offenders in prison are male. That is a cause for question. That is a cause for exploration. Obviously young men are being taught something about sexuality, about responsibility, and about the roles of femininity and masculinity that are hurtful to them. Archaic ideas echoed in media, family legacies of abuse, and a culture that still poorly juggles tradition with modernity. They are being told they are not responsible for controlling their urges while women are being told they must be always at the ready, lest they be attacked for going shopping at night or going on a blind date.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but statements like "The feminists were right. We are all rape machines." are exactly the reason why slogans like "Teach men not to rape" are surging. Because there is a widespread misunderstanding about responsibility, and who is causing it. When female rapists are truly anamolous, we have to take a look at - and take a stand against - rape culture.
You can be offended. You should be. But understand that you should be offended by the men making other men seem like bears - not the women who have been systematically told to fear them since the moment they hit puberty yet still expect better than that.
Oh let it collapse and sway above
the way I fall into your arms below.
It is so difficult to look back. For anyone, really, but especially for George.
George has to hotwire his own brain and plug a cord into his heart to get most of the memories just right. Otherwise, they come in hazy shades of purple and green. They are grainy, the voices are wrong, and the production quality is low overall. His favorite memories, however, are easy to find, like imprints on a television screen that plays the same channels again and again:
There was a birthday party for a tree, something so hard and cold like his own little body but possessing that glowing, growing quality of life. George, though mechanized from each ear port down to his smooth titanium feet, possessed that glowing, growing quality too. His friends told him so, and in emotional moments of song, the pocket where his digital heart was grew warm and comfortable.
There was the day at school, when all the little children wanted to hold him and press his shiny red button and told him that they loved him. That pure, unconditional, and immediate love that only children - and tiny robots - can emit.
Then, of course, there was the wedding. His best friend got married, and she made him a bowtie out of PVC and gave him a real, fresh daisy to wear above his chest buttons. He had never stood so tall and proud at eight inches, three centimeters.
So on a bright autumn afternoon, sitting with his friend and looking out the window, he unplugged the cord from the wall. He closed up his ears. He smiled, miniscule sparks coming out of his crinkled dimples.
"Don't you want to remember it again, George?" she asked him.
"I already can," he said. "The tree. The small hands. The wedding song. It is always on repeat."
The teddy bear rode his wild, blue Wamagoo across the oceans.
He set up camp upon his his wily, roaring Wamagoo with lanterns and warm blankets.
He guided the gargantuan, lost Wamagoo as far away as he could
from your closet, Little One.