It’s been almost seven years since I wrote “All Men Are Rapists – Until Proven Otherwise.” I wish my need to reference that post stemmed from celebration: “Look how far we’ve come!”
A 22-year-old kid spouts the same misogynist rhetoric that my coworkers and I receive in our inboxes on a daily basis and goes on a shooting rampage with the expressed purpose of punishing women for not giving him the sexual attention he felt entitled to and we’re still told that we have no right to be scared because #NotAllMen are like that. (Jezebel)
As noted previously, I have been harassed, assaulted and date raped. (What does it say that I cannot simply say, “raped,” that I have to qualify it with “date” because I’m conditioned to accept responsibility for what happened?) I did not list every incident because what woman has time? We’re busy working, taking care of our kids, the house, our partners and, with luck, enjoying life. Why give the men who have hurt us any more of our time?
Because what happens is this:
On Friday, May 23, 2014, a man killed six people (and possibly himself). The manifesto he left behind stated he did it because women wouldn’t sleep with him. …over the weekend, the hashtag #YesAllWomen started. It was a place for women to counter the #NotAllMen distraction, and to state clearly and concisely what they actually and for real have to deal with. All the time. (Slate)
I couldn’t stop reading #YesAllWomen. Not because it was shocking – the experiences relayed via the hashtag are so common that I grew inured to them years ago. You have to. Because if you stop to think about what it means to live in a world where you can be harassed, groped, raped, stabbed, shot because you happen to be a woman, that this mere accident of birth has made you more vulnerable, more at risk, more afraid, well, sooner or later you’re going to have to demand change. And you know that change has to come in part from the men who are not harassers, gropers, rapists, killers. Your friends.
It’s a hard conversation, especially when the offender isn’t a stranger, as they usually aren’t –
“…this isn’t just about two buddies who don’t get along. In this case, the man did something predatory and disturbing.” (Jezebel)
– one I cannot fit it into a hashtagged tweet. The experiences barely fit into a blog post seven years ago. I just made a list. I could elaborate about the worst experiences, but those are the easiest ones to understand because even your most gray-area guy friends will usually agree that a guy you don’t know well forcing you to have sex is Wrong. (Small victories.) What’s harder to get across is how demoralizing the daily devaluing can be. Let me try.
You have a job you like in a market bad enough that such a situation is rare. You work with mostly guys and all the women are either in secretarial positions or struggling the same as you. You and your female coworker joke one day about how little money you make and when you giggle about “$11/hour,” she suddenly gets serious and says, “You make that much?”
And it’s not really funny because you’re trying to feed three kids on that wage. Three kids you had because you and your husband seem immune to birth control and so what? You love your children as much as if you’d desperately fought to conceive them. Maybe more, because you’ve had to prove to the people who doubted you that you can be a mother.
Your dependence on that paycheck, this job, comes to define your life even more than anticipated one day when your bosses bring in a consultant to tell you and your coworkers how to do your job better. “People think I’m an asshole,” this guy says by way of introduction. “I’m cool with that.” Your bosses chuckle, then nod along as the asshole talks down to you and the other peons in the room. You do not remember feeling this disrespected at a job, ever. Not the dive bar. Not the Italian restaurant where the owner would steal your tips if you weren’t quick enough to grab them off the tables.
So it’s not exactly surprising that later, when you’re getting some coffee, the asshole squeezes past you and grabs your ass with one hand as he’s reaching for the pot with the other. It’s also not surprising that, demoralized and aware of your place, you say nothing.
Until a couple years later, when you have a better job, one with respect and a decent paycheck. At this time, you share with your former coworkers what happened and how upsetting it was. They’re taken aback. But the consultant remains one.
A couple more years and you still interact with these same people, your friends, and they mention, by the way, the asshole has been hired to work there full-time. Maybe he is good at what he does, you think, but so what? Are you worth so little that sexually harassing you is not an impediment to being hired? The answer is, and has always been, obvious.(#YesAllWomen)
Another example: You are out one night, dancing with friends when someone grabs your ass, your crotch, repeatedly, despite your pleas for him to stop. You keep whirling around, but you can’t catch him until finally you do. He’s someone you’ve known for years, considered a trusted friend. He giggles when you bust him. It’s hilarious that he’s doing this to you, out at a bar. You’re hoping no one sees. He’s never been like this, even when drunk, but now he is. You’re shocked, confused. You end the friendship and try to warn people because you’re not the only one experiencing these hands on your body against your will. But being in the role of killjoy never goes over well. Everyone just wants to have fun. They get drinks with him, joke around on Facebook.
You maintain distance, curate your social media outlets to a higher degree, still can’t help but feel hurt, angry when your friends act like nothing’s happened. You’re frustrated on your own behalf. On behalf of women everywhere. (#YesAllWomen)
Because it’s not just you. (#YesAllWomen)
It’s just how men are. Because they can be.
And you remember, in your whole life, the one set of circumstances in which guys did not get away with hassling, harassing, assaulting you. You were working in that dive bar. The bouncers were great. If any man bothered you, you could just holler and point, and the bad guy would be expelled, no questions asked. What a thing.
I can’t let go of #YesAllWomen because, to quote the Madeleine Davies‘ post again:
I hate that we’ve all experienced these things to varying degrees.
I hate that I feel lucky for not having experienced worse.