[ETA 5/29/14: I’ve had about 1800 people arrive here via a Facebook link but don’t know what it said (WordPress only links to Facebook, not a specific post). If anyone would be kind of enough to share a link or info on what sent them here, I’d appreciate it. In proving that this tag and conversation are needed, I’m slightly worried it’s a hateful/negative thing sending people here. Thanks!]
Yes all women.
So, something big happened on Twitter this weekend. Over the course of the weekend, the hashtag #YesAllWomen trended and inspired conversation among women across the world to speak out about all the times they’ve been marginalized, sexualized, and victims of rampant misogyny and patriarchy. Because it happens. Every day. All day. To all women.
Yes. ALL women.
The #yesallwomen hashtag has left me amazed in both good and bad ways. The hashtag began as a way for women to point out some of the instances when misogyny or rape culture has personally affected them, how living in a patriarchal society has affected them. Seems simple enough, right?
Hundreds of thousands of tweets were sent. Hundreds of thousands.
The conversation emerging from the shooting at UCSB is far from new but with the ease and access of Twitter, it’s more widespread than I have ever seen. Women from all cities, states, countries, and time zones rang in with “this one time” or “I feel like…” and just as many women answered back with “me too.” Each one was disturbing, emotional, angry, and sad. That’s a lot of emotion wrapped up in 140 characters. Each and every woman on this planet has a story to tell. Go ahead and ask them. They may not volunteer the information if you don’t but believe me when I say they can relate.
Waiting tables at 15 in a small local diner, we had a lot of regulars. Most were men that filtered in and out throughout the day, ordered the same meals, drank the same coffee, sat in the same seats. They were mostly nice guys, coming or going from work, stopping in for a bite and conversation. One Saturday, one of these regulars came in later than normal and stayed till he was the only customer. He ordered his normal meal and I went about refilling sugar containers, check the salt and pepper shakers, organizing everything else under the counter. He started asking a few questions – how old I was, what grade I was in, etc. Stuff I know we’d already covered in the past but I humored him, figuring he forgot. Then there was a turn. His questions turned from simple conversations to ones far too personal to ask anyone, especially a teenaged girl alone in a restaurant. The owner, the only other person in the building beside us, was in the back. I smiled politely (because that’s what little girls are trained to do) and told him I wasn’t going to answer his invasive questions. He pushed. I said no. He asked again. I stood firm. He escalated his comments. I ducked them the best I could. Then he said this:
“I can be gentle if it’s your first time.”
I don’t remember what I said. I was too shocked that, too young, and maybe a little naïve to properly process how inappropriate it was. I can still, today, tell you what his smirk looked like. I made an excuse to go in the back then I made about ten excuses to stay in the back. I straightened, I washed dishes, I rewashed dishes, I wiped down freezer doors. My boss finally noticed and asked what I was doing. I distinctly remember hesitating before telling her. Somehow I had this thought that I was the one that had done something wrong. The moment was fleeting , I took a breath and told her what had happened less than twenty minutes before.
I don’t know what reaction I expected her to have. Would she get angry? Would she make him leave? Would she tell me that it was ok to stay in the back until he left? Would she tell him that I told her?
She laughed and asked me how much he tipped. “Might be worth your while.” She went back to cleaning the grill top.
My female boss did this.
I was hurt. Angry. Disappointed. Though in the moment there was a touch of panic more than anything else. I told her that I didn’t feel comfortable waiting on him anymore. She threatened to fire me if I didn’t.
I was fifteen years old. I was underage. I had a married man in his thirties saying he’d be gentle if it was my first time and a boss – a woman – who made a joke out of it and then threatened my job when I pushed the subject.
This is one incident. One moment. One little story in a lifetime of stories. It’s not even that bad compared to other women’s stories. It’s not the worst in my own life. But it stands out in my mind because it was the first time I remember feeling powerless. It’s the first time I remember clearly thinking “Oh. I get it now.”
Think all women haven’t been the victim of misogyny, rape culture or physical assault at the hands of men at some point in their lives? You’d be horribly mistake. Here are just a few of the contributions to #yesallwomen:
- Since I was 16, I knew it was necessary to wait to make sure my friends made it in the house safely when I dropped them off in their own driveways. That fifteen feet from my car to the safety of their home could hold danger.
- I’m a grown woman in my thirties and get nervous when any cable/repair/serviceman comes to the house and want someone else there with me.
- There are men that believe women should be flattered when they catcall and grab their dick.
- I can count on one hand the number of friends that have NOT been sexually assaulted in some way.
- I was SHOCKED when a male colleague called out another for harassing me before I did. That should be the norm and it’s so not.
- I had the audacity to complain about rampant misogyny at work and I was told “what else do you expect?”
- A man got so angry with me at work that he told me to be careful when I walk to my car or I could get raped. “You never know what could happen.” I was told to stop blowing things out of proportion when I told my male boss.
- A friend said “I’m wearing jeans to the bar tonight instead of this skirt in hopes it would make it harder.” I knew what she meant without asking.
- I always pick the location of hotels by the safest walking route back to the room after a night out.
- I was taught to park under lights and have my keys out in between my fingers to use as a weapon.
- I’ve had the thought “I’d feel safer if a male friend went there with me” on many occasions. The threat is always there.
- I had a band member stop me from leaving a bar until a certain guy that was trouble was for sure gone from the area. He was known to be trouble but it was still on me not to get in his way.
- There’s rarely been a time that I’ve been alone in a room with a man, outside of my family, that I didn’t mentally plan an escape route before I even realized I was doing it.
Those things are all personal experiences. MY personal experiences. It’s a handful of circumstances where I was made to feel less, to fear more, to feel cheap and used, to feel like someone else believes they have a right to me, to feel that my fear and concerns didn’t matter. It’s nowhere near an exhaustive list. It’s nowhere near touching on all the times I’ve felt unsafe. It’s nowhere near the worst.
Know what’s really screwed up? I’ve kept a mental list of situations that could’ve ended up really badly and didn’t. I’m still surprised that they ended ok.
When I posted something with the #yesallwomen tag, some guy felt the need and felt that he had the right to tell me my fears were unjustified. Those were his exact words. “Your fears are unjustified.” I was also told that the meaning of rape is “being watered down.” Want an example of rape culture? A guy trolling women on twitter so he can tell women what they can and can’t be afraid of while insinuating that the word ‘rape’ is overused so that ‘rape is being watered down to the point where having sex with a drunk girl is considered rape’ so he doesn’t trust statistics. Um.
Someone put it perfectly. “Not all men menace women, but all women have been menaced by men.”
I’d like to ask men the following: When is the last time your friend told you to text him so he knew you made it home safely? When was the last time your genitals were grabbed when you were making your way through a crowd? Did your parents teach you, at the age of eight, to kick out the tail lights of a car if you were stuffed into a trunk? When was the last time you made a friend go to the bathroom with you so you felt safe doing so? When was the last time you got a new drink because you left yours unattended for one minute? When was the last time you took precautions so you didn’t get raped?
That last one? Every woman has an answer. “I avoided eye contact with the guy in the parking lot. I carry pepper spray. I keep 911 dialed on my phone when I walk to my car alone. I have a male friend walk me out of work if it’s dark.”
No one is saying all men are predators. This isn’t their story. It’s ours. What’s being said – shouted, really – is that the average man has a pretty good chance of being one and we live with that fear every single day. Most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. We’re not living in fear, afraid to leave our homes. These things, these lessons, are so engrained within us that most of them have become second nature. We look for the brightly lit parking spot automatically. We have the car keys readied to use as a weapon. We glance under the car as we approach it and in the backseat before getting in.
The bottom line on this whole hashtag is this: Women live in a very different world than men and most men have no idea.
This isn’t some crazy feminist stance. This isn’t man-bashing rhetoric. It’s raw and simple truths.
And while we’re at it?
F*ck your “friend zone.”
Women are not a machine you feed compliments into until sex falls out. F*ck your “friend zone” and your fictional exile. If your only interest in talking to a woman is because you believe sex is a possibility, congratulations. You’re a huge part of the fucking problem. Sex isn’t owed to you because you decided to treat someone like a human being.
I don’t live my life in fear. I refuse to do so. But I’d be a complete and total liar if I said I didn’t have moments of fear. Ever walk down the street at night and hurry your steps because there’s someone walking behind you? Ever choose to not walk down the street at night at all? I have. All women have.
Most of the mainstream media coverage this weekend has gone something like this.
Media: “I wonder why he did it.”
Shooter: “I hate women. Here’s a 140 page manifesto and some videos where I explain that I’m doing this because I hate women.”
Media: “I wonder why he did it.”
If he’d targeted Jews or Muslims or gays or people with red hair, we’d be calling it a hate crime. Because his goal was to target women, we call it mental illness and only mental illness. I’m not getting into a debate about mental illness being at play here, I’m not saying it wasn’t, but the underlying belief was that he was owed sex from and deserved power over women. Because HOW DARE women not f*ck him, right? He’s owed that much because he was born with a penis, right? That’s the lesson that so many men have taken from today’s world. So many. Think I’m lying? Look up ANY news story covering this and read the comments, then tell me I’m wrong when I say there are loads and loads of men that agree with that line of thinking. It’s horrifying.
TALK TO YOUR SONS.
Right now. No matter their age.
Don’t assume they’re paying attention. “Oh it’s common sense, he knows that.” He doesn’t. You have to teach him. Sit down and have those tough conversations with him. Those tough talks with our sons help the lives of our daughters. We teach our daughters tips on how to avoid being sexually assaulted. When was the last time someone sat down with their son and explained that consent is never a default yes but a definitive no unless, beyond the shadow of a doubt, she states otherwise? When was the last time you sat down with your teenage son and explained that sexual assault includes all types of things, not just penetration? When?
If you’re not willing to admit that rape culture overwhelming affects women on a daily basis then you’re living in denial.
If you’re not willing to call out misogyny, especially when you witness other men actively participating, you’re part of the problem.
If you read women’s list of fears and experiences and you’re first thought was “well not ALL men” then congratulations, you’re the root of the problem.
Talk to your sons, your brothers, your husbands, dads, cousins and friends.
Talk to you daughters, your sisters, your wives, moms, cousins, and friends.
Head over to twitter and spend time reading through that hashtag. Please.
Men, I beg of you. Ask the women in your life. When they start talking, shut up. Listen. Learn. Don’t debate. Don’t minimize. Just listen. Think. Believe. Every women has a story. Every single one.
Then get up tomorrow and try to do a little better. That’s all we ask. We know you’re not all predators, we know you’re not all rapists. But an overwhelmingly large amount of men are and we live with that reality every day. Every single day.
It’s time do better.