Those who know me know that I am a feminist, although there are plenty of opinions as to what that means in today’s society. I am a strong proponent of equality between the sexes, of the empowerment of females, of ‘girl power’, all of those tropes and truths that have come down the pike as I’ve been on this planet and conscious. So why have I started, deleted, and restarted a post based on the Isla Vista shooting and the #YesAllWomen movement so many damned times? I couldn’t feel more passionately about it than I do. What is holding me back?
I am beginning to think that it’s so hard to write about this for two reasons, both of which are less than awesome. The first is upsetting for me to even admit I feel, but it’s true – speaking frankly means risking the anger of all of the men on the internet. I know, I know. #NotAllMen are angry, violent, or any combination of the two. Not to mention, who the hell even reads this little blog? Who would be that upset by what one chick wrote on her blog about dudes? Maybe it’s the PTSD of living in NYC as a woman, existing in a constant state of mean mugging and tense muscles, constantly braced for unwanted attention, the threat of violence, and the feeling that no matter what you do, you lose. Because if a man follows me down the street, tries to talk to me, or touch me, there is very little I can do. If I am polite to him, he will think it is an invitation to escalate his actions or at least keep up his actions – I have a very hard time ‘being the better person’ in these situations, especially the longer I am here, and why should I have to do that, damn it? If I am direct with him and say I am not interested, I risk vitriol and violence – I have been harassed days and weeks after the initial event if it’s in a location I frequent, threatened, spat on (yes, actually), and called a ‘bitch’, ‘tease’, ‘slut’, or, had my favorite retort screamed at me: ‘I wouldn’t have fucked you anyway’. As if that were ever on the table – or was it, in their minds? Either way, it’s the most unsafe option, if for no other reason than I don’t want to piss off the wrong person at the wrong time and get shot in the head on my way to work for muttering ‘fuck off’ to a passing asshole. If I ignore him, which still feels like an unfair compromise with someone who has absolutely no regard for me as a human being, it inevitably seems to push men to try to get attention in a more intense way, or at the very least, just keep doing what he is doing for an extended period of time, which always ends up seeming like the best choice. Think about that. Constant, continued abuse is the best option for women simply existing in the place they call home. God knows I won’t wear half of what’s in my closet without a loose layer over it and/or my husband with me so I don’t escalate the harassment, which is bullshit in itself – simply having a man next to me is enough to make these men respect me as a human, but my own humanity isn’t enough for them. So it’s no wonder that I am hesitant to post this on a such a public forum, although I have some safety behind my keyboard as opposed to on the street. Even with the ‘safety’ of my physical self, I still risk hate and anger, which sounds like a much lesser problem, but dammit, why should I even have to accept the possibility of that for simply talking about how I am equal to all of the other humans around me? Ugh.
The other part of my hesitance to write this is even harder to admit. What is not at ALL hard to admit is that I am surrounded by amazing, groundbreaking, fearless, sweet, kind, and loving men. Men like my peerless husband, my amazing brother (who is the gentlest person and father I know, tattooed mechanic tough guy exterior aside), my father in law (an amazing husband, teacher, and father, and a great example for young men everywhere), my own dear father, and countless other men I’ve known make it hard for me to believe this insanely pervasive issue even exists. However. With the beliefs I have held all of my life, I have always been known as the ‘angry feminazi’. When I honestly talk about how I feel, even to the men closest to me, I have been told many times that I ‘hate men’. That I need to ‘chill out’ and learn that ‘boys will be boys’, that it’s in mens’ DNA to stare at women, to comment on and critique their bodies and faces to everyone around them including other women, to be less able to control themselves with females, to have a propensity toward violence, to be focused on one thing and one thing only. Which just pisses me off more. Fuck that. Fuck that because it’s an excuse that permits an entire category of humans to act however they want or whichever way is easiest and blame it on the way they are made. Fuck that because the men I know and love are smarter than that. Fuck that because I know seven (7!) women personally who have been sexually assaulted. Fuck that because… FUCK THAT. Ugh. If I can choose to be better, to not only not abuse them but be kind to them, to not yell at my husband like I want to when he finishes but doesn’t replace the toilet paper roll/soymilk/beer and instead choose to take a breath and pick some up on my way home from work, to use my headphones on the train instead of the speaker, to use my turn signal when I merge, to open the door for the person behind me, to not blatantly check out and comment on and yell at and follow and chase and touch and grab and spit at and threaten and corner with my friends and attack and rape and… *deep breath* generally reduce every person I see to a thing as opposed to a human being, SO THE FUCK CAN YOU. I know you can, because I can. No excuses, because we are the same. No whining about your DNA, or the way your father raised you, or the way your father’s father raised you, or how you never got any girls in high school (I got very few boys BTW), or that girls are bitches, or how they dress, how they act, when they simply say ‘no, thanks’, what they drink or smoke or take or any other reason. There is NO REASON to harass, violate or harm another human being. Ever. And the fact that I have a magical little niece who will one day (sooner than I want to admit) face everything I face now only makes me angrier – and you should be angry too. Angry enough to stop apologizing for and therefore permitting men to think that just because they aren’t ‘that kind of guy’, that they aren’t to blame in any way. Angry enough to talk to the young men and women in your life about humans, about their worth, no matter what their gender, their race, their orientation, or any other mitigating factor. Not just because of this senseless shooting, which will be forgotten someday far too soon, but because rape culture and sexism exists. I shouldn’t have to say that ‘she is someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, someone’s wife’. She is human. She is worth respect. Yeah, I am angry. And you should be, too.