thread: 2005-05-16 : Violence
On 2005-05-17, jrs wrote:
There are such big issues here. I don’t really know how my contribution will fit in. It primarily addresses Matt’s blog entry. An aside to Matt—I have seen the Vagina Monologues; it is funny and sometimes too cute and occasionally almost too painful to bear.
Here’s my story. (Feel safe; it’s nothing like the Vagina Monologues.) For a few years I trained in aikido. One winter, a group of us decided to go to a local celebration of the Japanese New Year that among other things featured the making of mochi. Mochi are the rice paste balls that are a traditional part of the New Year’s festivities. This process consists of two main activities—pounding the cooked rice into a paste, and forming the paste into balls. These activities are gender specific with the men performing the labor associated with the first, and the women performing the finesse of the later.
Now, there were about five of us and I was the only woman. Our group, being primarily male, gravitated to the rice pounding activity. As far as I was concerned this included me, on a number of levels, partly social and partly due to our bond over aikido training. Basically, I considered myself one of the guys and as eager to test myself in the physicality of mochi pounding. I was startled to discover that I was not allowed to participate. One by one, my friends and fellow training partners were called up by the man in charge of the mochi pounding. I was not. In my head I understood that this is a culturally defined activity that excludes me and we were merely guests at this festival and I should just accept it. In my heart, I felt betrayed. I was angry and upset with my friends for so readily falling into this defined role and making no attempt to include me. It was hard for me to accept that I could be an equal on the mat, but not here. And, more importantly, I felt helpless to confront the issue.
So why am I posting this? I’m not sure I really know. To me it represents a small piece of the puzzle for why we as men and women behave the way we do, and how easy it is to fall into established gender roles, particularly in groups, particularly when confronted with an activity that is new and foreign. I’m not talking about violence and assertiveness. I’m trying to express how men can treat women badly (even in small ways) and how women accept it.