So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

8 Jul

Possible trigger warning – rape, assault.

Alright dudes, go with me on this.

Close your eyes (but not really) and imagine that you are living in the world I’m about to describe. In this world there are people who have a third arm in their chests (think Zaphod Beeblebrox from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).

We’ll call those people Zaphods for short.  So there are two types of humans, Zaphods and Homo sapiens, which we’ll call Homos for short.  You’re a Homo.

Zaphods are potentially dangerous of course, sure.  They’re about 50% (more limb…) more dangerous than you, Homo. They’re bigger and stronger (think Beeblebrox pictured above but 6’7″ and bursting with muscles).  They can be scary, but also nice, attractive, smart, fun; remember they’re human too.

But, from infancy both you and Zaphods have been told, “Zaphods will be Zaphods.  They/you have more testosterone; they/you just need to get that aggression out somewhere.  It’s just nature.”

And little Zaphods are told “Don’t be a sissy.  Don’t cry!  Who cries?  Homo’s cry!  You’re not one of them are you?  Dirty creatures, you know the only thing they’re good for!”

So when you get a little older they start punching your friends at lunch; you’re told to look the other way or you’ll be next, so you do.  And then you get a little older and your friends start telling you stories of being followed out of bars and having their ribs broken in alleys.  So when you’re walking alone at night and there’s a pair of Zaphods walking behind you, you calmly cross to the other side of the street and try not to draw any attention to yourself.

And you know that 1 in 6 Homos have been assaulted by Zaphods.  Your dad told you the story of when he was burglarized and beaten by one back when he lived in New Jersey.  Your college roommate got her arm broken by one at a party.  Last week you read a story about a 13-year-old girl in Texas who was ripped literally limb from limb by 18 Zaphods in a trailer park.  Your neighbor across the way is a Zaphod who goes to your church, then goes home, drinks a martini and beats the kids senseless.

You’ve heard countless stories of innocent situations turning ugly in the seconds.  A nice Zaphod asking to buy a Homo a beer at the pub, then when the Homo says ‘no thanks’ and excuses himself to the bathroom the Zaphod follows him back there and leaves him bloody and bruised on the floor next to the urinals.

You keep getting chain e-mails from your aunts and uncles about how to drink at a party without making yourself a target.  There are pamphlets on campus telling you to never get too drunk, to be careful and carry pepper spray.

But then when you confide in a Zaphod friend that you’re sometimes nervous around other Zaphods he goes off saying, “Don’t judge me based on what happened to a Homo on the other side of the country!  I didn’t do that; besides I bet that Homo was just making the whole thing up.  What self-respecting Zaphod would touch that ugly Homo?  And also, they should stop complaining; there are people starving in Africa, you know!”

And in the small town where that 13-year-old was brutally murdered all her neighbors, Homo and Zaphod alike, are saying “Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?  She dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s.”  Blaming the young victim for not being able to prevent 18 grown Zaphods from deciding to kill her.

So now that you’ve lived 21 years hearing the horror stories from family and friends you start to change your habits.  Now that everyone on the news has told you that you’re a victim waiting to happen you don’t go for a run after dark like you want to.  Everyone tells you that you should take a cab to Sam’s party but you can’t afford it so you just stay home instead of seeing your friends.  You stay late at work and have to cross the parking lot alone and you peer around every car; when you pass a van you go out of your way to walk on the side without the big sliding door.  And all the while you can feel your heart in your throat and you’re clutching the pepper spray your mother bought you last year.

Your family and friends and the media tell you over and over again that by being alive you are a potential assault victim and your adrenal glands remember that sick feeling you had when you imagined the pain that little girl in Texas felt.

It gets to the point where just standing on the subway platform with a few Zaphods puts you into fight or flight mode, your stomach churning busily until you’re safely seated, until you realize he’s on the same car as you, and then he’s getting off at the same stop as you, and then he’s exiting through the same door as you; with each passed chance to part ways you sweat a little harder, clutch your jacket a little tighter, pray to god a little truer.

When cops tell you that you’re dressed like you were asking for his attention you wonder,”Who would ask for attention like that?  Who would ask to feel this way?”

Last month Rebecca Watson was propositioned in a hotel elevator at 4 o’clock in the morning and then mentioned on her blog that it made her uncomfortable.  Richard Dawkins replied with the following:

Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.


Richard, please don’t try to pretend that there is only one form of misogyny.  It comes in all shapes and sizes.  In fact a very common one is rich old white men.

2 Responses to “So Long And Thanks For All The Fish”

  1. Alex Fischer August 6, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    Brilliant. You really had me going there for awhile before I figured it out. And the best part is you didn’t just lead me along, I got a whole new perspective. As a man, I’ve never really thought of myself as a threatening figure. I was… well, I’m afraid I still am, one of those that says “don’t judge me by the horrible deeds of some men.” But I think our society and my gender tolerates and even in some cases idolizes aggressive, violent, thoughtless behavior in men. Just look at almost any movie.

    One part that I’d like to comment on is when you discuss what it is like for men (Zaphods) to grow up in their grade school environment. For some reason aggression and violence is tolerated among men in most societies, and as a man myself I dont understand why. We even use science to justify that its just their nature. But the best part about being human is we aren’t shackled by our natures. We can better ourselves.

    I wrote a paper for a philosophy course once that started with a simple premise — there are so many injustices and cruelties in the world and I can’t think of any large scale ones that are started or led by women. To my surprise, when I told my four housemates, all males, what I was working on, they were angry. I thought it was a self evident fact, that should concern any man that values intelligence and compassion. They were annoyed that I was taking “their side” by which they meant women. I thought I was taking the side of reasonable caring people, but they didn’t see it that way.

    To this day I don’t understand why they were angry. But I like to think that they would agree with me if they took a moment to listen and really think about my point rather than just reacting defensively. Maybe they wouldn’t but I’d still like to think so.


  1. So Long And Thanks For All The Chris « Female Gazing - July 11, 2011

    […] comment on my last post and I thought that rather than letting it linger on a comment thread, I would address some […]

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