So everyone knows the horrible thing that happened lastweekend. It makes me sick, the whole thing makes me sick and sad and weepy and mama-bear-want-to-hug-my-kids. It’s awful.
Something kind of amazing is happening because of it, though. I’ve been obsessed with the #YesAllWomen hashtag. I watch the feed grow, ten posts a second with stories, some personal, some funny, some raw, touching, far-reaching, political, and poignant. The crazy part is, until recently I think I’ve been fairly ignorant of exactly how deep the sexist fault that runs under our culture really is. To be honest, I work in a pharmaceutical industry. I’ve never felt demeaned or belittled at work. I’m often respected. Many of my colleagues are women. Does that mean I’m denying it exists? No, not at all. I do think everyday sexism is a thing, it just never hit home like it has recently. I tend to ignore people who offend me, or alternatively, not get offended by it.
Then I started seeing replies to #YesAllWomen, and not just from men. Angry, counterproductive hashtags. I saw one that said something like “I never heard a catcall in my life, yet a million women on twitter claim to hear it all the time. Y’all must think you’re really beautiful.” (As if that’s even the POINT). And then there was about twenty responses to that, women included, basically saying: Hear, Hear!
So I’m finally offended. Here’s why: I’m part of the problem. I think to many people feminism means you don’t shave your armpits and get mad when someone uses the word “chick”. I’ve always been more laid back, people it’s a joke. But you know what? I need to be fucking offended once in a while. Honest to God, what kind of people-pleasing asshole shrugs and smiles when people say truly terrible things about my friends, my gender, ME? Words like c*nt, and hoe because they get rejected. Who turns a blind eye, shrugs, and moves on with their day? Oh yeah. Me. I do that.
So here’s a crazy story. I traveled in college. I backpacked some of Europe and had a blast and spent more money than I should and got bit by bed bugs and it was AMAZING. DO THIS. Anyway, we were out drinking one night. Afterward, I was in line to get ice-cream at some stand and these four Swedish guys got in line and started talking to me, bumping into me, what have you. I was tired. I wanted ice-cream. Whatever, it doesn’t matter, the answer was a polite “Go away”. I was done talking to people. Before I knew it, they surrounded me and grabbed at my chest and my butt and called me things like “Snotty American bitch.” I left. I did not get ice-cream. Here’s the craziest part: I freaking forgot that whole thing happened. Until this week. Until #YesAllWomen.
Here’s another story: I was in Miami pumping gas (in a tank top. I was clearly asking for this, right?) and two men working on the roof of the convenience store started catcalling me. At first I ignored them. Then they started making “Suck it” gestures. I made a face. Then they started getting nasty, called me a c*nt and whatnot. I gave them the finger. Then they proceeded to throw stones at me. FROM A ROOF. I was literally stoned for not being flattered by “Suck it bitch.” WTF? Also a fact, I forgot about this, too.
Was I pushing all this out of my mind because it was so painful? No. I really don’t think so. The fact is, this kind of behavior is so expected, so freaking normal that it hardly registers. I know I thought about it for a few days afterward, but that might be it. Do I think all men are like this? GOOD GOD, NO. Let me be clear: No. No. No.
But let’s all stop accepting this shit as normal. It’s not. Men, women, whatever. Stand up, say this actually is harassment and it’s not allowed. It’s not “boys will be boys” and “whatcha gonna do.” That’s as insulting to men as it is to women, by the way, to assume that all men think like this, act like this.
But what things like #YesAllWomen does is open up a dialogue. It exposes this prevalent attitude to people like me, who have never been raped or truly abused (because there is a difference, my friends, between what I experienced and what others go through). It’s helpful because it can make men, who have never stoned a woman for giving him the finger say, whoa. That’s messed up. Then, maybe those men, will have sons and open this dialogue with them. Teach them a way to not only not objectify women, but how to stand up to those doing so.
I don’t think feminism is a new concept. Every trend that comes along, like #everydaysexism and #yesallwomen and #consentculture, brings us all one step closer to understanding our own dangerous attitudes. Maybe the guys who appreciate a beautiful woman aren’t necessarily objectifying them, but the next guy who takes it a step too far and makes inappropriate comment is. And another step is thinking you can somehow “own” a pretty girl. Or be awarded a woman. And then you’re mad because you don’t get what society has taught you that “you deserve”. Where exactly is that line? How far is too far?
To be honest, I’m not always sure, because we blur it a lot. But a worldwide conversation about it couldn’t hurt. In fact, let’s have a bunch of them, #together.