>Many years ago, I went to dinner at my partner’s workmate’s place. The workmate was Asian Australian. Chinese Malaysian Australian, to be precise; he was also of an older generation than me. I get on with him quite well, and we laugh at each other with regularity, which is always a sign of good social oiling. Politically and values-wise, we’re not on the same page, so we don’t really go there.
Even so, at that dinner, when the issue of testifying after sexual assault came up and the workmate dismissed a rape victim’s fear/loathing of the trial and giving evidence, etc, with, “Well, you’d just tell the truth, right?”, I went there.
He seemed to imply that having trouble taking the stand (and going through the legal wrangles and questioning of one’s character) meant that you had something to hide (e.g. slatternly ways). And if this was the case, then maybe you weren’t as ‘innocent’ as you wanted to be…
You can probably hear my head exploding even as I recall this conversation. I’m usually very circumspect when it comes to dinner party conversation and confrontations about issues. For me, it boils down to the ‘Is it worth it?’ question. I’m not going to bother engaging in any depth with a total stranger who has extreme views, for example. And, it’s sad to say, I was quite used to ignoring/overlooking the many outrageous things that my uncles/aunts and older family friends used to say. Life’s too short to fight every fight.
In this case, because his manner spoke volumes about his dinosaur attitudes towards women, we saw him semi-regularly, and he had a young daughter, I called him on it. I may have been preachy. I might have used the words “double standards” and said “it doesn’t matter if she’s slept with 100 people!”. I remember trying not to shout at him, but know that my voice was definitely raised. The workmate was shocked that I was so angry. He attempted to laugh it off.
In the end, I don’t know if it made any difference in his way of thinking. He just avoided the topic around me.
Anyway, I remembered that evening when I read this recent post on Feministe blog: “Well, having been a [demographic identifier]…” It’s an entry by a feminist in the JAG corps, and is very interesting reading. I can’t even imagine the difficulty of working in such a male-dominated, proudly hierarchical environment.