This week we read a story which brought fourth the question: what happens when politeness isn’t enough? In Betrayed by the Angel by Debra Davis she shares with us her story of her first encounter with violence not being stopped by politeness. In only third grade she was being repeatedly jabbed with a pencil by a boy in her class. She was too polite to say anything and instead would just wish that he wouldn’t do it that day. She told a substitute teacher once, but the teachers response was to go back to her seat and tell her if he does it again. The problem was, she wasn’t brave enough to tell her again even though it kept happening. This learned behavior of just being polite to abusers lead to a similar behavior when she was 25 and raped in her apartment. Her first polite response was that she couldn’t shut the door in this man’s face when he knocks on her door. She feels that she has to let him in. Even when it is clear that he is going to rape her, she figured she had lost already. When he told her to stop fighting she shot back at him, “I’m not fighting!” 

She talks about how she asked her college students to write things their parents taught them that they won’t teach their children. One of the responses she brings up is “My parents always told me to be kind to everyone. I won’t teach my children that. It’s not always good to be kind to everyone.” Davis questions herself while reading this. Asking herself why it took so long for her to learn something her college student already knew. As women, I think we are expected to always be polite and respond to other people’s rudeness or aggression still with a level of graciousness. As a little girl I always heard “boys will be boys” whenever a boy said something mean or physically hurt me. Even at a young age boys were expected to be ill-mannered and girls were expected to deal with it with a smile. This is wrong. If someone is treating you poorly, especially if they’re causing you harm, you have a right to get mad. You have a right to show the same respect they’re showing you. You don’t have to just take it because “boys will be boys.”

Julia Russo

WMST 2010-007 

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