Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Male Victim.

The other night at the ER we had a man who had been assaulted by his girlfriend. This wasn't some demure little ladyslap either. This was nasty. It could easily have killed him and will permanently scar his face.

And I couldn't fucking believe my coworkers.
"Whooee, I wonder what he did. You know he did something."
"Boy, I wish I could [graphic description of how the man was attacked] my husband sometimes!"
"She sure got him good!"

I didn't just sit there stewing in my moral superiority (the way I do when they talk about Weight Watchers, oh my God shut up about Weight Watchers you goddamn self-hating pseudoascetics); I stood up. It didn't do any damn good though.

"Hey, he's really hurt."
"Oh come on, have a sense of humor."

"Wouldn't that be a really messed-up thing to say if he were a woman?"
"Yeah, but this is different!"

"I just don't think it's appropriate for us to..."
"You know what, you're just a tech. Go answer 18's call light and do an EKG on 14."

To be fair (and to evade any "so you see how men are victims of the matriarchy" blather), most female rape victims in the ER also endure intensive break-room analysis of their appearance, behavior, substance use, mental health history, "situation she put herself in," ad fucking nauseum. And the only things I can say about it seem to translate to "HI I'M HOLLY AND I'M STUCK UP AND NO FUN."

Well, there's no foolproof way to reshape everyone's opinions to match mine. Kinda sucks though, when the opinion in question is "deviating from traditional gender roles makes the victim of a violent crime laughable and/or culpable."


  1. Thank you for trying, Holly.

    It's not the same thing, but when I went to the ER for what turned out to be my gallbladder, I though it was my kidneys again. The nurse was sweet as pie- until my bloodwork came back no infection. Then she couldn't be bothered while I writhed around in pain. Then no other nurse could be bothered while I whimpered and cried.

    At least there's one person in one hospital somewhere not succumbing to groupthink. About shit they shouldn't be talking about anyway.

  2. Thanks for being the unpopular person at the party anyway. It was the right thing to do. Because you're right, battery is battery, and it's crappy to victim-blame.

  3. Couldn't agree more with your post and the comments to it. Groupthink is cowardly bullying. And you were definitely right, even if that is scant consolation.

    Unfortunately it sounds as if your colleagues would read the tag for this post and simply say "humourless feminist, is there any other kind?"

  4. I remember a prof in my Social Work program telling a class full of us that her goal was to make us "no fun at cocktail parties." So far, so good...and a tip of the hat to you.

  5. Doug - Hey, I'm heaps of fun at cocktail parties! I'm just not willing to accept everything joke-shaped as "oh, that's a joke, therefore automatically beyond reproach."

  6. As an amateur humorist and lover of wit, I've come to realize as I brush up on feminist theory that in fact, not only is most gender essentialist bullshit not funny because it's wrong, it's largely not funny because its NOT FUNNY.

    "Bald statement of what speaker takes to be objective fact." *Wink*
    "Ell oh ell! Ursorite."

  7. Nentuaby - I draw the most important distinction between offensive jokes that are funny because they're absurd and no one would really think that, and offensive jokes that are "funny" because they're "just so true!"

    Sometimes the same joke can be either, depending on the teller.

  8. Thank you for trying.

    Seriously speaking up might be the only way to raise the level of awareness about these kinds of things.

  9. That is so right. The whole "it's funny cause it's true!" thing can make me feel alarming amounts of rage. I even see this in the queer community- our own internalized homophobia can get to us sometimes to the point where some people are making gay jokes that aren't even satire towards the bigots- they're just awful.

  10. Holly-agreed. My (horribly made) point was that sometimes people view that as being "no fun." To wit, a recent convo with a friend:

    Friend: "This (random thing I dislike) is so gay!"
    Me: "By gay you mean..?"
    Friend: "Jeez, it's just a figure of speech, lighten up."

  11. Holly, you are awesome for saying something. You never what negative effect talk like that could have on a person.

    And as you have witnessed not everyone will realize what you did. You can't get people to care about people they do not know, if they don't already care. But because we are all human and make mistakes, you speaking up might make someone who does care, but just wasn't thinking, that the way they are acting does not communicate that they care.

    Many times in my life I had been acting without thinking and it was someone who had courage (like you) that brought this fact to my attention. I am grateful for people that do what you did. Thank you Holly

  12. Disclaimer: The "you" used in this post is the generalized societal you, not the "you, person [x]".

    The thing is, saying "wonder what he did" is not a joke. It's just victim blaming. And when what you're saying cannot be described a joke, you don't get to call in "get a sense of humour" on it.

    What *would* have been a joke (if rather horrifying and dark) would have been "well, yeah, you know, some women don't consider it right that only they have to bleed". A nasty joke, but if delivered just right, by the right person, at the right moment, those can actually be funny by sheer virtue of being outrageous.

    In the end, it basically boils down to the part where "it's funny because it's true" is in all likelihood utter idiocy.

  13. Yeah... Ulc's (extremely dark) joke is the kind of thing that would be bandied about on the ambulance between calls. But those jokes don't judge; they were a way for us to step past the horror of some of the things we saw and do our job properly without having breakdowns.

    We never judged. It wasn't our place. And I think that's pretty important. So I <3 Holly's stand on the issue.

  14. First of all, onya for saying something. I know it can feel like people are impossible and certainly you can't change the world, but even if you make just one of those people THINK just a teensy little bit, you've made a positive difference.

    Also... "I draw the most important distinction between offensive jokes that are funny because they're absurd and no one would really think that, and offensive jokes that are "funny" because they're "just so true!"

    Yes!!! Yes exactly! I really like that clarficiation and agree.

  15. I agree with your distinction on offensive jokes: some racist jokes, for example, are hilarious, a lot are DUDE NOT FUNNY, and that depends on context. (Most racist jokes are just not funny at all-- I mean, not because they're offensive, but because they're just not funny.)

    Most of the time when people are making DUDE NOT FUNNY jokes I just frown and don't laugh in hopes that this will show my disapproval without making too much of a scene. If I really know the person I'll call them out on it, though.

  16. Dearest Holly - you behaved in a professional manner and they did not. We are expected at our work to tell others when the say things that are not consistent with the code of conduct. I am very proud of our younger colleagues who speak up in this regard. You are fighting the dominant culture, so expect little change, but at least you are professional and ethical. I cringed when you described what you heard. Good on you! Hugs Candice

  17. It takes a professional to be able to tell the difference between clinical detachment with a touch of black humor and outright callous assholery.

    Sounds like the "just a tech" was the only pro in the room.

  18. Holly, first-time poster here; and like others I do thank you for trying to stand up against the groupthink/stereotypophile view. Even if you can't change the situation, I'm glad to know there are people like you in the world out there.

    "I draw the most important distinction between offensive jokes that are funny because they're absurd and no one would really think that, and offensive jokes that are "funny" because they're "just so true!"

    I agree in principle, but I note that this is not a binary polar opposition but more of a continuum. There are jokes that are really funny but also offensive at a different level, and jokes that are dumb duds and also non-offensive.

    A point often made since Aristotle is that there is something strange about humor. Jokes bring people together (= good) but they also seem to be almost always at the expense of someone or some group (= bad). These things can be kept under control and/or mitigated (when e.g. the joke-teller tells jokes about his own ethno-cultural-gender group, one can see that s/he doesn't really defend any prejudice in it), but they are never 100% absent.

    Which is not to say that we shouldn't be able to protest against certain jokes while laughing at certain other jokes. Just that it isn't a black-and-white question, and that even our own personal opinion about which jokes belong where may change as we evolve and become wiser.

  19. ^ Hey, Asehpe! Glad to see you over here!

    Good on you, Holly. Way to stand up! Like the others said, perhaps you don't have too many stripes to heave around, but you did absolutely the right thing. Absolutely. And someone went home last night and thought, "You know what? That WAS pretty messed up."

    Very proud, Holly. Thanks. :)

  20. So I just ran this whole post through regender (those who don't remember, Holly linked to it about a year and a half ago) and the co-workers' comments became incredibly creepy:

    The other night at the ER we had a woman who had been assaulted by her boyfriend. This wasn't some demure little lordslap either. This was nasty. It could easily have killed her and will permanently scar her face.

    And I couldn't fucking believe my coworkers.
    "Whooee, I wonder what she did. You know she did something."
    "Girl, I wish I could [graphic description of how the woman was attacked] my wife sometimes!"
    "He sure got her good!"


  21. THANK YOU for this! I started reading your blog a few months ago after linking to it from Sex is Not the Enemy tumblr. While I agree with a lot of what you say, this one really hit home. I'm a bisexual woman in an open marriage, but I also work in schools, so find myself biting my tongue frequently to heteronormitive comments and never have ANYTHING to say when conversations get on the monogamy train. Good for you for trying. :)