I’ve been swept up in the #YesAllWomen whirlwind. I actually heard about this before I heard about the incident that helped push this hashtag activism to the top of the Twitter trends. As a busy mom, sometimes I get a little behind in my news.
Since I was a teenager and first heard of the Riot Grrrls, I was secretly hooked on feminism. I loved punk already and this next step was inspiring. But, because I was a follower who so very much wanted to fit in, I left my brooding and my secret love of Liz Phair for my private time and shopped at the Gap and wore my boat shoes with those little culry-cue tied laces in my public life.
At college, I was raped, but that wasn’t the most important thing that happened to me during my time there. I met the man who would be my husband there and this has proven to be far more significant to my life. However, I also remember being dumb-struck when I looked out of the window of my freshman dorm to find a mini-mock-cemetery erected to “show respect” to the “babies” who had “died” from abortion. I was sickened. And, my festering feminism grew.
I had always been self-conscious and bordered on a having a bit of an eating disorder until my adulthood. Yet, there were always men who ogled, cat-called, or bought me drinks. No, I didn’t find any of it flattering. It all scared me in a way I couldn’t quite define then, even if I made jokes about it. In fact, anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that sarcasm is my defense mechanism. When I’m cornered, I crack jokes.
Still today, when I walk alone, I am always acutely aware of when there are men around. I hold my purse tighter. I listen to the pace of their footsteps behind me to gauge whether they are “gaining on me.” I check my rear-view mirror often to make sure I am not being followed in my car. Once, I am certain that I was followed. I was about 19 and pulled into the completely empty parking lot of the tanning salon where I worked as a cleaner on Sunday mornings. No other businesses were open in the shopping center. The car that followed me into the lot couldn’t have been an innocent shopper. I high-tailed it out of there before putting my car in “park.”
A few years back, as a precaution, I was asked to have a breast ultrasound as a semi-routine part of my women’s health check-up. The technician found an unusual clump of fibers that turned out to be nothing at all. But, she needed to call in the doctor on staff to double-check her work. I am pretty sure that as he moved the ultrasound wand over my breast, he let his pinkie finger rest along side of it, rather than on top of it with the rest of his hand. This allowed his little finger to stroke my breast and linger over my nipple while he worked. I wasn’t sure if I was just imagining things or if I would be overreacting to a medical professional just doing his job. So, I said nothing. I still feel like this was wrong today. I am angry that I didn’t say anything.
I never hold the elevator for anyone if I am alone.
I carry my keys between my fingers if I am in a parking lot by myself, regardless of who is around. I never enter my car without checking the back seat. In parking garages, I check under the car before approaching it.
I am shocked by how much fear I live in and I never thought about it until the hashtag revolution of All Women.
And, I am shocked as I look back on my life and realize how much I wanted to be a feminist, but how afraid I was to be a “feminist.” I am sad that I still avoid using the word “too much” because it might make me seem like a “man-hater” or a “feminazi.”
What made me solidify the idea that I was finally (after, like a quarter of a century) ready to embrace my feminism came when I realized that the “other” people I was looking to shelter from the harshness of my equity search just didn’t have a say anymore in my politics.
You’re different? Great. You’re a man who doesn’t rape, oppress, kidnap, assault, attack, belittle, misjudge or objectify women. I actually don’t fucking care.
I mean, that’s nice and all. And, I totally know a ton of you guys. Really, the vast majority of men I have come into contact with personally are of this category. You’re not different. I truly believe that you are the norm.
But, it so very sadly does not matter. Or, does not matter enough.
One armed psychopath killing pretty girls because they don’t love him and killing innocent men because he’s jealous of their happiness is one too many.
One fucked-up Clevelander who held women hostage for over a decade in his home, repeatedly assaulting them is one too many.
One court judge who tells a woman she ought to forgive the husband who repeatedly drugged and raped her is one too many.
And, when we add in contraceptive tampering, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, honor killings, sex slavery, forced prostitution, bride-buying, human trafficking, female infanticide, rape and the slew of other crimes that “some” (a few? a small number? a relatively small percentage?) of men commit world-wide, it makes me grab my handbag and remember what my 11th grade gym teacher taught me about popping somebody’s eyeballs out if I were ever attacked, even though 95% of my personal experiences with men have been positive (or at least neutral) so far.
You’re different. Super. You being different didn’t help any of the millions of women on this planet when they were beaten, enslaved, mutilated, raped, tortured, sold, murdered, held captive or made to live in fear.
It is not your fault. You are not responsible for the men who ruin your sex. I do not blame men as a unit for their part in the myriad of crimes against women daily. Men as a unit have no part in the myriad of crimes against women daily. Indeed, it is not *all* men who treat women like shit.
But, because even a very small few have, I don’t walk at night alone. I don’t blame you for this, but it is something we should talk more about.
Feel free to leave me your comments.