“This isn’t what we do. It’s not about hatred or about death or about any of the trivial reasons the biased media is painting it around. Don’t let them twist the mission.”
“Them? This isn’t about some vague all powerful ‘them’, this is about me. About us and what we’re trying to accomplish here. We’re supposed to be sending a message to a group of people too comfortable and arrogant to read it. There’s only one choice left.” She punches downward to accentuate her point with the cracking of fist-on-desk violence. Or maybe just to stop herself from hitting me.
“It’s a choice that is no choice at all. We are not murderers, Ares. And don’t bring up torture again. Torture doesn’t change the criminal, it changes the torturer. It’s too far.” I rub small circles into my forehead partly to dissuade an oncoming headache, partly to give myself a second to close my eyes. Years wouldn’t be long enough to reign in the disgust in them, but a second is all I can steal.
“If you’re not willing to give this your all, maybe you should just fucking retire. You may’ve started this but it’s got a life of its own now and will not be stopped by your weakness.”
She slams the door on her way out. She always did need the last word in an argument even if that meant running away from an imminent response. I knew eventually this would spiral out of my personal control, I just didn’t think it would happen so rapidly. Or that the defiance and escalation would come from my second in command. Right now, she’s loyal and only voiced her growing agitation with my methods with me, but who knows how long that will last. Knowing Ares, not very long.
Such a fitting name she chose for herself. A man’s name. Well, a male God’s name in any case, one known for war and death. I always thought she was being ironic, now I’m not so sure.
“Grey eyed Athena, so set in her ways. Do you even remember a time when you felt like your pride and your control and your security were taken from you? From your throne, do you? Do you remember what it felt like when he beat you down and made you less than nothing all because he was strong and you were weak? We all know your story. Know your history. But that’s all it is now, isn’t it? An old story about a him. You found your strength and with it your pedestal upon which you perch and cast judgment down on the rest of us. Us who maybe haven’t found their strength yet but who are sure as hell standing strong against the firestorm that’s happening right now.” Vicious rapid-fire verbal assault thrown my way. Foolish. I, as all the others, will never forget.
“And do you, Ares, remember that you, and not I, named me after a Goddess? In hopes of what, I do not know.”
“I was hoping you’d be wise! That you’d know what to fucking do. I never thought you’d be so afraid to do what needs to be done.”
Not even a week has passed after the confrontation in the tiny windowless hole I call an office, and yet, here we are in front of our entire local congregation. Ares’ voice is far louder than a polite indoor level and I can see people swayed by her passion. She asks me what I remember. I remember once feeling that strongly but… now? Now I have the curse of hindsight; the agony of knowing all the wounds I’ve inflicted and the soaring righteous infections that are growing in their places.
It started simply, as movements do. An impulse to action; how could a man possibly understand what it felt like for a woman in this society where men could so easily get away with rape and a woman could so easily get blamed for inviting the same? Something needed to be done and if others would not… well I suppose I bought into the belief that all it takes for evil to triumph is for the good to do nothing. I was tired of nothing, tired of hiding another’s crime, tired of being afraid, tired of being ashamed of facts I could not change…. a past I couldn’t change. I, in my own past weakness, did not bring my own monster to justice. And I will forevermore live with the guilt and knowledge that he may have at first taken from me but then I did nothing but let him keep it. Let him stay free to take from others. I will always remember.
So I sought to make them always remember. Even if the laws remained and nothing changed in the judge’s court, I wanted them to always carry the burden they thrust upon their victims. It seemed clean cut and simple. Rape isn’t about sex. It’s about power. So I strove to take from the takers and would be thieves.
One on one, most women are not a match for a man. Fact.
One in five = a woman’s chance of being raped in this country. Fact.
Ninety seven percent of rapists are not incarcerated. Fact.
Basic math led me to believe I could easily find both perpetrators and fellow vigilantes. I was right and but I failed to really consider what kind of snowball effect my call to arms would have. I knew laws wouldn’t change, but society has. Rapidly.
What started out as a group devoted to prowling the night protecting the innocent and humiliating the attacker has become a forward moving base of accusations and creatively cruel branding techniques. Nowadays it isn’t uncommon for men to travel in groups, concerned that wild roving factions of armed women will descend upon them with condemnations and curses with the smallest provocation. Blaming them for their gender and potential for violence. Every male now guilty until proven innocent or unconscious.
This isn’t what I wanted. This isn’t justice. Before, women were afraid to walk the night for fear of rape and murder. Now, men, regardless of actual fault, are afraid of castration and branding.
The sick part is that in a way Ares is very much correct: since she and her army began castrating rapists and men caught in the attempt, rape cases have plummeted.
Do the ends justify the means? Should I walk away from my ‘throne’ to allow my initial goal to be successfully brought about in a way I didn’t anticipate or do I stand in the way of the progress I so wanted in the name of protecting those I am unsure deserve protection?
Violence invites violence… are we amassing this overwhelming power to change the dynamics of our world just to continue the cycle of the strong preying upon the weak? Because that is what we have found: our strength in numbers.
“I step down.”