These days my phone sends me only two kinds of news alerts — reports of mass shootings and reports of new allegations of sexual harassment or assault. (We know a good deal about the effects of media conglomeration on the quality and quantity of news reporting. It would be interesting to study the effects of smart phone news alerts on people’s awareness of current events, but that’s another topic for another hour.) I find these both distressing, of course, but primarily they make me very, very tired.
That The Onion has been able to recycle the same story about mass shootings for years now is a marker of the kind of outrage most of my friends feel about this country’s inability to address the problem of gun violence. I know many fine people who are hard at work on this problem, and I wish them luck but have little faith in the possibility of any change. Any form of restriction on gun ownership or gun type will never fly on the right; stop and frisk (which my former prosecutor friend assures me is an extremely effective tactic for preventing gun violence) will never fly on the left. I am unaware of a third path, unless there is a fundamental shift in human nature. I have not encountered anything new on the subject (see again that recycled Onion story) and think it unlikely that I will, and I am very tired of reading the same things over and over again.
A friend in college once said that I was unshockable, and this may be true, as so far the repeated news alerts about yet another man groping a woman or a girl (or raping her, or masturbating in front of her, or making any sort of unwanted sexual advances) have left me perhaps a little more deflated each time, but not shocked. I am instead very tired — tired of having to read the details of an incident which, if it has not happened to me, has undoubtedly happened to someone I know — and even more tired of reading men’s responses to it.
I do not particularly wish to congratulate or thank men for their apologies, or for their writing about realizing the error of their ways, or for admitting their wrongdoing and pledging to do better, or their musings on what it means to be a man, or their exhortations to other men, or their admissions of the times they participated in locker room talk, or whatever else it is they are posting about in these times (for truthfully, I have stopped reading). No apology is likely to be sufficient to either the woman who was harassed or assaulted, or to those of us who have been similarly harassed or assaulted. I did not think I would ever find myself quoting my driver’s ed teacher, but I am tempted to yell “Don’t be sorry; just don’t do it!” each time I run across another apology.
I don’t mean that the apologies are insincere or that they should not be made — I merely mean that they should not be made with the expectation of absolution or congratulations or even acknowledgment. I am tired and I do not wish to spend my limited energy thanking men for their honesty or congratulating them for their self-awareness or otherwise performing what they now call emotional labor on their behalf.
I think a lot about how I am raising a white son and whether it is possible to do so and create a decent human being in this society.
I think a lot about how the worst sexual assault is never likely to show up as a news alert on my phone, because it happens within families and cannot be spoken of for fear of reprisal or of upsetting the delicate net that holds us together.
I think a lot about how we have heard — or are listening to and reporting on — primarily to the accounts of white women, and whether I would see as many news alerts and social media posts and apologies if the reports were made by women of color, who surely experience such things at an equal if not greater rate.
I think a great deal about the abuse perpetrated upon bisexual and transgender youth and how improbable it is that their stories will ever become mainstream news alerts or popular hashtags.
I think about these things, but I have not had much to say, because, as I have said, I am very tired, and that is why I have not commented on your musings or liked your posts or engaged in your discussions. It is not that I am giving up: I will continue to fight against poverty, hunger, injustice, and oppression, against “hypocrisy, porcous pomposity, greed, lust, vulgarity, cruelty, trickery, sham, and all possible nitwittery.” But I will do so largely outside the echo chamber of news alerts and hashtags and social media posts.
I hope that anyone reading this can find a way to do the same.