Friday, October 7, 2016

Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti

Just finished Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti. There is definitely some great insight in Valenti's book. I especially liked:
Men’s pain and existential angst are the stuff of myth and legends and narratives that shape everything we do, but women’s pain is a backdrop--a plot development to push the story along for the real protagonists. Disrupting that story means we’re needy or selfish, or worst of all, man-haters--as if after all men have down to women over the ages the mere act of not liking them for it is most offensive. (Page 15)
I think the power of her memoir is in its personal representation. There's a lot about street harassment and lived misogyny that isn't necessarily mind-blowing to another woman, since most of us have lived variations of this. For these sections, I'm sure most men could learn about the daily hostilities women and girls face. For me, it was a little redundant. Not that it isn't powerful and important to address and name, it's just I'm part of the club so I have my own subway stories, my own stranger-dick horrors. In fact, a lot of them are eerily similar. Asking for directions with a dick in his hands... saying gross things to a young teen... etc. My "old hat" mentality towards it speaks to what a pervasive issue it is. Valenti's memoir is important in it being an act of being seen and heard, something still revolutionary (and potentially dangerous) for most women. She's able to call-out a lot of shady shit. And shady shit needs to be called out.

The book didn't shake me awake, as much as it just kind of said to me, hey, you know all that fucked up sexist, rapey stuff you've lived through - yah well, Jessica too. 

Reading her book makes me wish there was an organisation that went into 6th grade classrooms and told girls what they can do in order to protect themselves / how they can report the many kinds of assault. With the prevalence of cell phones, I actually think girls are more likely to have what they need to go to police now. When I was 15-16 and a guy stopped his car to ask for directions / masturbate to my friend and I we went to the cops. The cops told us unless he masturbated in front of a cop, there was nothing they could do. What fun. Now you can easily pull out a cell phone and get the fucking guys licence plate number.

Valenti shares a lot of stories that deal with drugs, sex, self-esteem and shitty relationships. At one point she mentions something her father says something that shakes her...
The things you do in your twenties are just things you do. Bus as you approach thirty what you do starts to become who you are. And there are some things you do not want to be forever. (Page 123)
I recognised myself in this. I've been looking at the lives of my friends, and thinking that the choices they make (who to hang out, what to prioritise) ends up being their choices, period. The same can then be applied to me. It's why I started volunteering. It's why I'm inching closer to vegetarianism one vegan or vegetarian meal at a time. I want to live my values. And to do that, that means actively choosing things that correspond to your values, to what you want.

That might seem so obvious, but when you're so depressed your general choices just focus on getting you through each day, it's hard to feel there's a greater rhyme or reason behind what you're doing.

Being a hot mess might be cute when you're 20 and can get by on being bra-less and naive. It gets less cute by the second. In fact, you realise how those who found that helplessness "cute" were patronising pervs mostly.

Eventually time starts flying by. There's more demanded of your time and your choices are all you have. The leisure of youth meant the privilege of being bored, of trying things. Every choice seems more important now. You see the ripple affect.

My friend E is about to finish her last graduate course. When she's completed it, she'll have obtained her Master's degree. This really makes me want to go back to school. Then I look into it, and I realise not only do I not have the money to go back, but I'm so exhausted that I can't fathom having the energy to go back and be engaged. The energy of youth. The ability to try something. I have to manage my expectations now. I hold back. I ration my energy.

Check out Valenti's work if it seems up your alley.

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