I Am Not Your Sword and Shield


A long-ago conversation has been haunting me somewhat of late. One of my friends had gotten into a rather heated argument with a woman who, although never having been through it, thought being raped was the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to a woman.

“No, it’s not!” I said, incredulous. “It’s horrible, yeah, but I can think of worse things. Being murdered, death of a child…”

And, since I’m a rape survivor, my friend thought I’d be a good counter-authority if she ever broached the topic again.

But here’s the thing I didn’t quite grasp in those days: I am one data point, not the World’s Authority. Yes, it’s true: while I think rape is one of the worst, but not the worst, crimes that can be committed against a woman (or any human of any sex or gender, not to mention any sentient creature), I’m just one survivor. I don’t speak for us all. Just because I can think of things that, to me, would be worse than rape doesn’t mean rape isn’t the absolute worst thing that might happen to someone else. It doesn’t mean those who think it is the worst are wrong or irrational for thinking so.

You cannot use me as a shield against their points. You can’t use me as your sword to strike them down.

I refuse to be used. Image courtesy Very Demotivational.

I refuse to be used. Image courtesy Very Demotivational.

Take it further. The man I had this conversation with would never question the fact that rape is devastating and traumatic. He wouldn’t demand anyone who’s been raped to just “get over it.” I was his shield only in the specific context of defending his position that there are at least a few things that could be done to a woman that are worse than rape, and this was in the context of an actual academic debate. But what if he’d used me to attack a victim who wasn’t able to recover from her rape? What if he was using the fact I’d survived my ordeal without professional psychological help to argue that all women should do the same?

He’s be wrong. Fractally wrong.

So that’s a thing I’d like understood: I’m one person. You can’t expect every other woman in the world to be like me. And you are not allowed to use me as your sword and shield against other women.

“Dana did/does/thinks X” is not a defense, it’s a data point.

I think that’s what really infuriates me when the people caught doing sexist or misogynistic things whip out their Token Female Friend. “This woman friend likes having her legs chewed without consent!” Wonderful – but that doesn’t change the fact that many women don’t. “My girlfriend calls other women crazy bitches all the time!” That’s true, but the fact she sees nothing wrong with an abelist and gendered slur doesn’t mean this is safe language for you to employ. “But I’ve heard you talk about how evil women are!” Yes, and I was wrong, and sexist, and have since realized I should stop being a horrible person. When will you?

Don’t try to use me as your defense against the indefensible, your weapon against my fellow women. You may use me as a data point for thoughtful consideration. That is all.

Comments

  1. says

    At the same time, he acknowledged that he had no direct experience, and deferred to someone who did. Maybe not in the best, clearest way — and I hope he consulted you before bringing your name into things — but it was more than a lot of people with his (lack of) experience would have done.

    • Dana Hunter says

      He’s a very smart, considerate person. But I wasn’t so smart back then. Sigh.