In First Person: The “Why Didn’t She Leave” Argument

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I didn’t think I would write a post like this, not because I don’t think this topic is revelant, but because I wasn’t not sure I’d be able to bring anything new to the discussion. Seeing just how many cases of sexual misconduct happened and were never talked about, let alone prosecuted, makes me angry and sad. I really do care about everything that’s going on. And while all these cases are hard to read and think about, I hope the discussion they have started will lead to a better world in the future.

It also might not. Maybe we’ll be shocked for a while, and then just forget about it. Some people will suffer the consequences, but most will just move on with their lives. This is a thought that truly makes me sick. And this is why I decided to talk about it.

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There is another reason why this post came to being, and that is the fact that in my last post, just a couple of days ago, I mentioned Master of None, a tv show written by Aziz Ansari. You probably know where this is leading, but in case you don’t, apparently, the person who talked so much about woman rights in the show is now accused of sexual misconduct himself. HERE is the original article if you haven’t read it yet. This case made me feel betrayed, though I’ve never met Aziz Ansari and he definitely has no personal importance to me. I felt betrayed because this person was someone who was supposed to be on the “right” side of the debate. He was supposed to be one of the men who understands, or at least tries to understand, what women go through. This feeling that there are no men left to trust is horrible! Now, I certainly don’t feel that way, my boyfriend and my brother are my best friends, two people I trust the most. And they are men. So, of course, I’m aware that not all men are the same. But I understand when, in the midst of all this, some women start to feel that way. This way of thinking is horrible and destructive. It divides people and nourishes anger.

Now, back to the Ansari case – it turned out to be the most divisive case in the entire discussion. Ashleigh Banfield attacked Ansari’s accuser on CNN, saying that what happened to her was not abuse, and that she’s hurting the entire movement. (Watch it here). Many (feminist) women, for example Margaret Atwood, are expressing certain issues with the movement. Is it becoming attacks without proof? How big is the possibility of false accusations hurting innocent people?

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Now, I’m not saying that these issues should not be addressed. On the contrary, false accusations would definitely ruin everything that the movement stands for. The problem with sexual abuse victims has always been the lack of understading. The victims are met with doubt, and even blamed themselves for provoking the abuser. And this is something that the movement is trying to change. Women and men should not be afraid to press charges. They should never be mocked for what they went through, and their pain shouldn’t be belittled. A woman doesn’t deserve to be raped because she’s wearing a short skirt. Men can be raped, too, and this doesn’t make them less “manly”. Unfortunately, some people still can’t seem to grasp such simple concepts. And why is that? Largely because of what the society teaches us about men and women. And this is why the case of Aziz Ansari has to be talked about. He apologised to the accuser and said that he never realised she was feeling uncomfortable. But how could a person who openly speaks about these issues not see the problem? How can it be normal to proceed with sexual advances after a sentence like: “I don’t want to be forced because then I’ll hate you.”

Why didn’t the woman say a strong “no” or just left, some may ask. And others may pose a counterquestion: Why didn’t he stop if he wasn’t sure what she wanted? This leads to one of the the things we are taught, one way or the other: women are not supposed to act like “sluts”. This kind of labeling is where the problems start. It basically means women cannot enthusiastically consent to sex. They have to play “hard to get” (as if sex is something that is won by men). So, if a woman backs away, she may not really be saying no. It might just be a game. And in this game, the woman is a prize, an object. This is such a frequent trope that it’s become inbedded in our minds.

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The other side of the story is the notorious “friendzone”. This is what happens when a man doesn’t win “the game”. He does everything right. He’s nice, he tries so hard to be liked, but in the end, the woman still doesn’t want him. And the truth is, yes, some women chose a wrong man. This, however, doesn’t mean that the self-proclaimed “nice guy” is the right choice, either. Being nice in order to get something means you’re not that nice after all. *

Another thing we are taught is that women are supposed to be motherly and keep their marriages at any cost. You think this is something that has changed? It’s something we don’t have to talk about anymore, in the 21st century? There are so many proofs that, unfortunately, the problems are not yet resolved. I won’t go into much detail, since you can easily find all of the statistics on the internet. I won’t even go into the Star Wars: The Last Jedi debate, because I’m really done with that, but I feel the need to mention that a “men’s rights activist” made a no-women cut of the movie. Yes, really. And, of course, you can hate the movie, but hating it because there are too many women in to is just idiotic! Anyway, I don’t want to want about film or even books. I have a better example. Everyone trusts the victims these days, you say? Well, let me tell you a little real-life story from my own country, Croatia. It ended not even a week ago. And it didn’t end well.

County Prefect Alojz Tomašević is from the leading political party in Croatia. And he beats his wife. The wife decides to come forward, to finally press charges. After that, everyone she knows turns their back on her. EVERYONE. Even her children. The press mostly backs her up, but no one she knows gives her any help. And then the Minister of Demography, Family and Social Policy, Nada Murganić (a woman and a former social worker!) says that these things happen in families and it would’ve been better if they resolved it as a family, without going to the press. After that, the woman withdraws the charges. Literally NOTHING happens to her husband. He’s still in charge of the county. And her son writes a post on Facebook in which he thanks God that He enlightened his mother, and made her see that she made a mistake. (He’s probably just happy that his father is still influential and can “buy” him a good life.) The Church never addressed the problem directly, but an article comes out in which a priest says that divorce is a great sin, and women should never leave their husbands. All this in the 21st century. (I found a short article about it in English, if you’re interested.)

Why didn’t she just leave, you ask? Well, this is why! She was left alone and no one supported her. And this is why even smaller issues have to be talked about – that’s where everything starts. Every cat-call, every sexist remark shapes the society we live in. Yes, everyone makes mistakes, everyone sometimes says something that can be seen as problematic. But if someone warns you, you should just learn from it. If people are willing to think about ther people’s fellings, and what makes other uncomfortable, then it’s not that hard to change certain behaviours. And these changes are important for everyone. Women and men, because as I mentioned earlier, men are often mocked if they say they were sexually abused since they are expected to be strong, and to want sex all the time.

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And, since we’re talking about this, did you know there was a Spider-man comic which addressed this issues, and Peter Parker talks about his own experience of sexual abuse when he was a boy? I think this is a very important comic. To see a superhero, someone they look up to, someone powerful, go through such things, sends a very powerful message and validates the issue. It helps children realise that abuse can happen to anonye, and that it doesn’t mean you’re weak. You can read more about it HERE.

This is where I leave you, but please feel free to comment on these issues. It’s not an easy topic, but it’s important, and I’d love to talk to you!


*This goes both ways. What about the girl who is “one of the guys”? She likes her friend, but he dates the vilified “pretty girl”. The “one of the guys” girl does everything right. She likes the same things as he does. She’s not nagging like the other girls. All girls nag, but no, not her! Even if something bothers her, she will laugh it off. She never makes scenes. She doesn’t wear make-up. Boys always say how make up is misleading, how it’s “false advertising”, but still date girls who wear it. Now, why is that? And in a movie, she would get the guy. But real life is something else…


The pictures are from Pixabay.com. The Spider-man one is from HERE.


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Two sentence story: Hurt

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Salvador Dali (1904-1989)

He took the Bible, the heaviest book he could reach, and threw it at her. In pain once again, she felt powerless.

Stephen King’s Carrie and the Consequences of Bullying

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Stephen King’s Carrie is only at first sight a novel that deals with a girl with a gift of telekinesis. The outbursts of Carrie’s supernatural powers serve to intensify the horror of what she goes through every day, and the whole novel conveys an important message about the importance of dealing with all kinds of abuse.

The novel starts like an ordinary story about a seventeen year old girl who cannot fit in. The main narrative is followed by a mixture of fictional media, such as excerpts from a newspaper or scientific articles which deal with the phenomenon of telekinesis, reports about Carrie, her mother, and her behaviour.

Many of these narratives come from scientific sources or reputable university presses, allowing the reader to suspend disbelief. Also, the preponderance of scientific sources documenting the Black Prom and the t.k. phenomena give the comforting illusion that something like this can be prevented as knowledge allows us to contain it.  But as we see at the end of the novel, that’s not really true.’ (Pulliam)

What happened in the end of the novel did not happen only because Carrie possessed the supernatural power. It was caused by external, social factors.

First factor is the bullying she goes through at school. The second factor is the abuse she suffers at home. In both cases, one of the main problems the bullying causes is Carrie’s inability to develop. At home, Carrie’s mother prevents her from growing up – being a grown-up is something forbidden for her, especially in terms of sexual development. Carrie’s normal, biological characteristics are presented to her like something sinful, and she is accused for something she cannot control.

There is a short episode in the book in which a woman named Stella Horan remembers Carrie and her mother. Carrie says to Stella that she will never have breasts because her mother says good girls do not have them. “…she looked at me defiantly and said that her momma had been bad when she made her and that was why she had them. She called them dirty pillows, as if it was all one word.“ (30) Carrie’s mother got angry when she saw her talking to Stella, who she considered to be rotten and corrupt, and ordered her to go into her closet and pray.  Shortly after, chunks of ice and large stones started to fall from the sky. The first strong outburst of Carrie’s destructive power is a direct result of repression. The second outburst happens after Carrie gets her first period, which also triggers mother’s crazy accusations.

Besides her mother, Carrie’s classmates also prevent her from becoming a complete person. They tease her in order to establish their own identity, while at the same time undermining hers. They feel good when they divide themselves form Carrie and make her “the Other”. All teenagers have problems, but if they can find someone who is in worse state than they are, it gives them the sense of power. They establish themselves as a group which is superior to the isolated individual. A sense of belonging to the majority is more important than people want to admit.

The reality is that many adolescents in high school today are very abusive to each other. There are peer groups that will attack other kids verbally and emotionally, similar to a gang mentality. (…) If a teen or pre-teen doesn’t want to be a victim, they have to join a group.’ (Lehman)

The novel stresses the importance of developing one’s own independent identity, and that is exactly what Carrie could not do and what in the end made her kill all her peers.  Even in the beginning of the novel, Carrie is full of suppressed rage. Her sorrow and frailty turn to anger, and she wishes to punish those who harmed her.

A penny lodged in a crack. She kicked it. Imagine Chris Hargensen all bloody and screaming for mercy. With rats crawling all over her face. Good. Good. That would be good. A dog turd with a foot-track in the middle of it. A roll of blackened caps that some kid had banged with a stone. Cigarette butts. Crash in her head with a rock, with a boulder. Crash in all their heads. Good. Good.’ (21)

In the end, Carrie becomes a monster, but it happens only because she knew no other way out. Bullying made her a monster, not her powers. When it comes to the importance of developing your own identity, it is interesting to stress that the only student who didn’t die at the prom is Sue Snell, the girl who showed some consideration to Carrie. She is the only one who did something outside the group mentality and followed her own sense of what’s right – her own identity.

Sue lives in part because her sense of self wasn’t dependant upon Carrie’s Otherness. Chris, on the other hand, dies because her sense of self is wholly dependent on seeing herself in relation to those she torments.’ (Pulliam)

As stated before, it was impossible for Carrie to become a complete person, and she learned from what she could experience. Monsters create monsters. And that is also the problem with any kind of abuse, as it has been shown that the abused often become abusers later in life. If a person never had the opportunity to experience nice and warm behaviour, it is hard to expect from them to become a nice and compassionate person.

The last paragraph of the novel is an excerpt of a fictional letter in which Amelia Jenks, who is not a character in the novel, describes her daughter who can move marbles without touching them. She also remembers that her grandmother could do similar things. This paragraph serves as a warning that Carrie’s case is not unique. On the contrary, it may happen more frequently than we think.

Because Carrie isn’t simply born a monster as is the case with earlier horror texts, there is also leaves open the possibility that more monsters like her can be made. While the White Commission concludes that Carrie was an aberration, and no others like her will be born, Sandra Jenks’ niece at the end of the novel demonstrates that this is untrue.’ (Pulliam)

This could also be understood as a warning that what happened to Carrie is something that happens again and again. Maybe the problem lies in the society, and if people stopped mistreating each other the problem would cease to exist. The supernatural power can, therefore, be seen as a defence mechanism that evolves in people because they cannot fend for themselves without some kind of unusual power. If the abuse stops, there will be no need for that kind of defence. Abuse is a sort of chain reaction which only creates more and more abuse.

Look at men who beat or intimidate their wives and scream at their kids. They’ve never learned to be effective spouses or parents. Instead, they’re really bullies.’ (Lehman)

And to end this post, I will quote something we all have to bear in mind, and try to deal with:

…the true horror comes when the reader recognizes that they could just as easily be one of the characters bullying Carrie – we all have it within ourselves to be a Chris Hargensen or a Billy Nolan.’ (http://crimeandpublishing.com/2011/02/14/stephen-king-carrie/)

And, I would add, we all have it within ourselves to be better than that.


Bibliography:

King, Stephen. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2007. Print.

Pulliam, June. ‘Carrie, Stephen King’. Louisiana State University. 14 October 2009. Web. 23 May 2012. <http://www.lsu.edu/faculty/jpullia/carrie.htm>

‘Stephen King – Carrie’. Crime and Publishing. 14 February 2011. Web. 23 May 2012. <http://crimeandpublishing.com/2011/02/14/stephen-king-carrie/>

Lehman, James. ‘The Secret Life of Bullies: Why They Do It – and How to Stop Them’. Empowering Parents. n.d. Web. 26 May 2012. <http://www.empoweringparents.com/Why-Do-Kids-Children-Teens-Bully-and-How-to-Stop-Bullies.php>