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Where is the compassion? *potential triggers*

April 5, 2012
tags: ,

I used to be a pessimist. In some ways, I still am – I’m more of a glass half-empty than half-full person. Yet  I like to believe in the innate goodness of people: I will take people at face value unless they give me reason to disbelieve them, and I like to look for the good in people.

Sometimes, though, this belief deserts me. Particularly when reading the comments on online news sites or blogs. I remember last year I was pictured with my kids and quoted in the Sunday Times and on their website, voicing my opposition to smacking – well, even opposition is a strong word. A journalist came up to me in the playground and asked me so I was quite tactful and simply said I don’t believe in it and there are better methods of discipline.

The comments on the online version really threw me. They ranged from wishing hateful things on my children (“Those kids will grow up to be juvenile delinquents”) to personal attacks (“This woman is an idiot and a terrible mother”). Still, I’ve been around the internet for many years now and it wasn’t that difficult to shrug off.

This past week – well, for a number of years really, but it has come to a head in the past week – a woman I know and greatly admire has been repeatedly vilified in the media. One particular post I got sucked into responding to by a Tweet that said (to paraphrase) “is there anything more offensive than the term ‘birth rape’?”

Well, yes, there is. Being disbelieved, ridiculed and attacked is far more offensive than the term ‘birth rape’, Ms Freedman. I use the term birth rape, and the other women I know who do so range from women who have never been sexually raped, to women who have a long history of rape and abuse, so it is not really an argument about ownership of the word rape. Until relatively recently, rape inside a marriage did not exist because the marriage implied ongoing consent to whatever the husband wanted sexually. Are there not some parallels to saying that when a woman steps into a hospital to give birth, she implies ongoing consent to anything? Obviously medical necessity is at time a grey area but very few of the women I know who use the term birth rape are looking for it to be legally recognised, they simply want some recognition and to try to come to terms with the violation that they experienced.

Is it a confronting term? Yes, definitely. Offensive? It may be, taking offence can be a very personal thing, but I would argue, not as offensive as cruelty.

Other women chimed in on this post explaining their experiences of birth rape. The rebuttals were not simply “I’m sorry you went through this, but I don’t think that’s rape” which would be a rational response even though it’s one I disagree with. No, these gems ranged from simply “You are lying” to “you are delusional”, “you are an idiot”, “rape is a penis penetrating a vagina without consent” (so anal rape, digital rape and rape with an object don’t exist?) and my favourite, “what is wrong with women these days?”

What is wrong with women these days?

What, indeed, is wrong with women these days – for as far as I can tell most of these commenters were women, although it is a site with a largely female readership – that women are so cruel to other women? That people think it is okay to taunt and deride someone who has suffered a traumatic experience, whatever name we place on the experience?

Yes, it is only the Internet. But is that really an excuse to hide behind when it comes to this seemingly complete lack of compassion for fellow women and fellow human beings? The woman at the centre of all this is a strong enough and compassionate enough human being to feel for others and “choose love” at this incredibly distressing time. THAT is the type of human being I wish to be.

Next time you post a comment on the Internet, think about the person behind the online persona you’re posting it to. How would you feel if someone said that to you, your daughter, your son, your best friend?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Cindy permalink
    April 5, 2012 1:42 pm

    Wise words G, well spoken.

  2. April 5, 2012 2:39 pm

    “Next time you post a comment on the Internet, think about the person behind the online persona you’re posting it to. How would you feel if someone said that to you, your daughter, your son, your best friend?”

    So, so wise. People can really get caught up in not caring for the feelings of other people online, it’s so much easier to cyber bully someone than to bully someone to their face.

  3. Project:Girl permalink
    May 8, 2012 12:53 am

    Amen to that! I really think that we as women seem to have lost our way. We should be supporting one another, nurturing one another growing together. There is room for all of us to choose our own path, Me choosing to homeschool my kids is not me attacking your decision to send your kids to school (for example). Me choosing a hospital birth was not me attacking the choice to home birth (another example). Yet somehow, just by choosing a different path, it seems we are challenging someone else in some way. I think instead maybe we should be focusing on the fact that women are loosing their choices. That we still don’t have truly equal rights or equal pay. We should be focusing on the fact that women are still shamed for being raped or abused. We should be focusing on Julia Gillards politics and not the size of her rear or her clothes. As the mother of four beautiful, compassionate and loving daughters, I genuinely fear for them with the world the way it is. Even my eldest daughter choose to move away from female friends to male as they were less inclined to turn on her for no good reason.

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