Free of Suggestion – guest post

by Madeleine Buck, who recently created and donated a quilt square to FORCE’s Monument Quilt project.

 

Every city dweller periodically finds themselves wondering whether they’ll
be able to go out in public without having to deal with a stranger’s commentary,
and the common solution is to barely acknowledge or ignore any unsolicited
appraisals of your person in the hopes that the interaction will end there. People
too often misrepresent the implications of street harassment as just part of living
in a city, or being a woman, or wearing a short skirt, or any number of variables.
However, it’s probably the most visible manifestation of how so many men are
taught from a young age that in order to be viewed as powerful and masculine,
they must hide their feelings behind false bravado and entitlement. In contributing
to FORCE’s Monument Quilt, which will eventually expand to cover the length of
the Washington Mall as a memorial to survivors of rape and sexual assault, I
wanted to bring attention to a shared experience which stems from the same
misappropriation of power.

monumentquilt

I decided to borrow the opening lines from Fugazi’s song “Suggestion”,
partly because of an abiding love of their music, and partly because it’s a
powerful statement against rape culture. In singing from a female perspective in
“Suggestion”, Ian MacKaye voices the frustration of both genders in dealing with
distorted ideas of masculinity, namely the pressure women feel to silently “suffer
your interpretation of what it is to be a man”. This song served as a realization for
my teenage self that feminism could be more inclusive than I’d been led to
believe, an experience that has no doubt been replicated countless times in the
twenty five years since Fugazi released “Suggestion”. The fact that one of the
album’s strongest tracks deals with sexual harassment from a woman’s
perspective speaks to the importance of art as a cultural catalyst, and that of
male allies in aiding female empowerment. Those who see irony in quoting a
song recorded by an all-male band are missing the point–the medium through
which people engage with a positive message is, in this case, not nearly as
relevant as the expanded consciousness they adopt as a result.

Street harassment is often presumed to be an isolated incident and
therefore something you shouldn’t dwell on, although it’s routinely on the back of
most people’s minds, regardless of gender, when choosing how to behave in
public. Educating people about how to respond to unwanted attention on the
street–or, alternately, the value in not verbalizing your feelings about a stranger’s
anatomy–is an important step in bringing awareness to the broader effort of
female empowerment.

Instructions for contributing a blanket to FORCE’s Monument Quilt can be found
at: http://upsettingrapeculture.com/quilt_instructions.pdf

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