Lately I’ve been taking a very roundabout route through the ‘burbs of New Jersey.  Last night a sweet man who also happened to be the owner of a restaurant called The Quiet Man in Dover, NJ gave me a delicious dinner.  If you’re ever in Dover, stop by The Quiet Man for some excellent food!

By far the vast majority of people have been wonderful and positive in dealing with me, but lately I have had a couple of hostile reactions.  Last night a man saw my shirt and yelled “raghead!” from his truck, and recently someone posting on a forum discussing my blog offered his one word analysis of my walk: “Feminazi.”

I obviously don’t agree with these guys, but I think it is very useful to try to figure out where they’re coming from and what their comments say about our society. 

I’ll start with the “feminazi” comment.  I think that this word indicates a lot of fear on the part of the men who use it.  It sounds like they’re afraid that changes to gender roles would mean forcefully taking something away from them.  In the past I’ve done a lot of anti-violence education with groups of men, and I’m always amazed when they see a challenge to traditional gender roles as something that is threatening to them, rather than something that could offer them more freedom.  But it is a common reaction, and I think this is because our society does such a good job of convincing men and boys that the privilege they enjoy is worth more than the freedom they would gain if they weren’t forced to act “like men.”  In other words, the higher position in society is held out as a carrot, so most men never consider how big a role the stick plays in keeping them in line and making sure they conform, or what they lose when the women in their lives experience violence.

For the record, I think that the changes I’m talking about would give men a far better quality of life, and far more freedom.  I’m not interested in taking anything from men.  I’m interested in helping them (and women too).

Now, on to the “raghead” thing.  Unfortunately, I think this is a symptom of the strong anti-arab sentiment in America, and a tendency to lump everyone living in the Middle East into a single category.  This is an extremely dangerous way of looking at the world.  It makes it far too easy to manipulate Americans into supporting military action against any country with a large Muslim or Arab population.  If everyone in the region is a “raghead,” and therefore a terrorist, Iraq and Iran (and lots of other countries) are appropriate military targets even if they haven’t attacked us.  And it even makes sense to, in the words of one guy I talked to just as I was leaving for my walk, “Nuke the whole place”  (When asked which place he was referring to, he responded, “the whole area”).

I think it’s important not to get caught up in an angry reaction to these comments–that will only make it harder to understand them.  These people are responding out of fear, and we all do that sometimes.  Much better to try to understand and address their fears than it would be to respond by calling them names right back.

And finally, I think it’s important to understand the minority that thinks this way, but also to remember that the vast majority of people have responded with support, kindness and generosity.


4 Responses to “Namecalling”

  1. 1 rebecca July 20, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    Dear Peace,

    Well, I just want to write you and offer sympathy as well as praise. It can be so difficult to withstand judgement. And I’m amazed by your wish and continued efforts to respond with kindness and curiosity, rather than anger.

    I lived in New Jersey as a teenager, and it unfortunately comes as no surprise to me that you have been coming face to face with individuals who seem to speak without much thought for the feelings of others — as you say, from fear.

    It strikes me that these individuals represent that most unconscious part of all of us. And I’m really glad and grateful that you are making this pilgrimage, continuing to be a visible witness to the possibility of purified consciousness. Your visibility, in itself, is such a strong counter to that un-consciousness. And in this time, where the media seems to play up violence and downplay the activities of peacemakers, it justs seems vital what you are doing.

    So, thank you.

    Much love and best wishes for continued safety.
    Barre, MA

  2. 2 Bill Newsom July 21, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    I appreciate this blog. You are asking many of the same questions I am. A lot of the bad mouthing pacifists get comes from fear, but a lot of it is just ignorance. We need to show people how to love each other.

    Bill Newsom
    Austin, Texas

  3. 3 Carol July 21, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    Hi! I just found your site! Thank you for what you are doing. I am sure that it will be a life-changing experience for you, and hopefully, others.

    My thoughts are with you on your journey.

    In peace,

  4. 4 marzena July 23, 2007 at 4:54 am

    Good luck to you Peace, I’m fighting the same fight, so I’m completely with you spiritually. I admire your strength and inner beauty. Email me if you’re in Ohio. Thanks for the blog.

    Much love,
    Marzena, OH

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Walking for Peace

Starting June 1st, I’ll be walking at least 1,000 miles for peace. I will walk until given shelter and fast until given food. The way I understand the word, “peace” means internal peace, interpersonal peace, and peace on a national and international level. To get a little more specific, it also means that a young woman should be able to take a walk alone without fearing for her safety. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case right now. I’d like to help improve that situation.

Contact Me

peacepilgrim2007 @ gmail . com

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