Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth: I am still doing my reports. I am a little stunned because I thought I would go through the e-mails in the public account to help out everyone. I saw repeated e-mails from one man and thought, "What does he want?"

I have never seen such filth in my life and not only am I no shrinking violent, all of my children were boys. I had honestly assumed there was little I had not heard. I called C.I. to inform about the e-mails and C.I. had been ignoring them and instructed everyone working the public account to do so as well. I was out of the loop which is how I ended up being the first one to read them.

But that was over three hours ago and my hands are still shaking from the threats and the filth. To use the term of my day, I was "freaking out" when I read them. When I told C.I. about them, C.I. was cool as a cucumber so I will assume those sort of things come in frequently.

If someone was threatening me with talk of 'come Monday,' I would be freaking out. C.I. pointed out, "There's no reason for anyone to be nervous. He's just another crackpot making threats and getting angry when the response isn't 'I'm scared! I'm so scared! Please don't hurt me!' Don't worry about it."

That does explain the sexism at you know what site since the stalker, and I will use that word, is a friend of the man who makes it a point to tear into any female reporter but always sees a new day dawning when it comes to male reporters.

I had not planned to write about this. For one thing, when I sat down at the computer this evening, I did not even know about it. I knew it had a problem in 2005 for Rebecca. She avoided him and left the country for a summer vacation. I called Rebecca to ask, "Was he this obsessive with you?" She told me that he finally went away. She also feels bad because she never responded to him. He wrote her and she did not respond. Then he started writing C.I. and Rebecca asked C.I. to respond saying she was out of the country. Then he pops back up a few months ago and apparently has been writing these strange e-mails ever since. I may have missed one earlier, but I believe I read seven e-mails.

When I phoned C.I. my hands were shaking and they still are. C.I. juggled the phones to get several people over to look at the e-mails and one person to do a security check on the home but mainly stayed on the line with me repeating, "Ruth, don't worry." I honestly am worried.

The man sounds nuts. Hannibal Lecter nuts.

I just really cannot get beyond the abuse in those e-mails.

My chest feels tight and my arms are stiff and numb while my hands shake.

I called my oldest son and he came right over because he was afraid I was having a heart attack. I am not having a heart attack, I am just stunned and, even though the e-mails were not to me, really frightened.

The smartest thing to do would be not to do a report; however, if I do that I will have missed two weeks in a row.

I had planned to note some radio programs I enjoyed during the week but I cannot concentrate when I look at the notes I made. So maybe there is some value in just sharing about this?

As a feminist from way back, I do believe in the value of sharing. Consciousness Raising helped us realize that these "personal" events were not happening just to one woman but to many. It really helped us re imagine the world and change it. I certainly do not think enough change has taken place but the feminist movement has transformed the world.

That did not come about because we asked for things, not even nicely, that came about because we refused to be sidelined or turned into doormats.

In sharing our stories, we realized it was not just one of us suffering, it was all of us. We realized that the so-called "personal problem" was very much a societal problem. For some of us, that meant realizing that we might get by on a pass as an exception but the pass could be revoked at any moment, whether it was based on our position, our skin color, our sexuality, our attractiveness, or what have you. At the core, we were all judged as "less than" based on our gender.

We learned about respecting ourselves as much as anything else. The movement's accomplishments are rarely noted in the mainstream press, unless they are ridiculed, but for any woman living in that period, the changes have been immense.

My best friend in high school, to offer an example, had the highest G.P.A. She was named salutatorian, not valedictorian. A number of us were angry but we did accept, back then, the explanation that the man who was named valedictorian needed the title because he would someday be supporting a family.

That was bunk then and it is bunk now. But we rolled over on it because we were taught and socialized to believe that we were "less than." Our gender made us "less than" on the scale of humanity. This lie was based on another, that biology was "destiny."

Now if biology truly were destiny, they would not have needed to game the awarding of valedictorian. But that happened repeatedly in various scenarios. A man was all better and, when he was not, the system was gamed so that he would still be recognized as if he were. That really drove home the lie when we took the time to think about. The system was set up to reward males by their very gender but when a woman could win on the unlevel playing field, the system had to be gamed.

Certainly, during WWII, women demonstrated they could work in large numbers. The war ended and the women were told to go home. These were "male jobs" and "male destiny." So how did women ever manage to hold them down in the first place?

We were told a number of lies, our mothers, and their mothers were told a number of lies. Every step forward, every challenge that a woman who came before made eased the road for all of us. It gave us the foundation to build a movement on.

When we shared, we realized crimes were not "personal problems." A woman being beat up, a woman being raped, those were not "personal problems." But the system certainly allowed them to be judged that way.

Systematic abuses and discrimination were supposed to be just "natural." That was the way things were, we were told. The Civil Rights Movement and the peace movement laid the groundwork for the challenges we would make as well. Women were part of those movements and we saw the power that we had. Some of us owned our power immediately, some needed to learn it was okay to own it.

But we really did change the world and are still changing it.

So that a man from that period is a woman hater is not surprising. That he attacks a woman and threatens her is not surprising. With equality, not full because we still are not there, making strides, he obviously has felt under attack for some time. So he probably feels very powerful sending threatening e-mails. He probably expected C.I. to cower. When C.I. noted them here, the man was enraged because no abuser likes to be exposed. Ike Turner still attempts to pass off his physical and mental abuse of Tina Turner as something minor and pin the problems on her.

That is how it is when a woman tells the truth. When abusive men are exposed, they are even angrier because it was all supposed to be "personal" and remain unknown. It always the public shame they face for their actions that enrages them, the sunlight of day shining on their behaviors.

Which, when you think of it, demonstrates that, despite claims otherwise, even they know their behaviors are not the "norm" or acceptable.

The Washington Post, a few months ago, explored the abuse of women online. So hopefully this somehow contributes to that discussion.

I am an old woman now with grandchildren and, no doubt, great grandchildren on the way in the near future. My generation and ones that came after have fought for a better and more equal world. Younger generations take up the challenge today and we see, fortunately, that many males are willing to join in the struggle. The feminist movement has never stopped or ceased. The accomplishments have been immense and more will be done. We should probably see the attacks on women online as a the last struggles of sexists who think they have a "right" to bully women, to threaten them, and to silence them. Hopefully, those final gasps will have died out when my granddaughter Tracey is a grandmother.