In the wake of the shootings in Santa Barbara, a horrible event indeed, there rises this phoenix of courage (and amazing Twitter reading) #YesAllWomen. Ladies have suddenly opened up over the past few days to tell how it is to live with everyday sexism. We live in a world where our safety is always unsure and our credibility is readily questioned. Ladies be Tweetin’!
Being 5’2″, having worked in a male-dominated field and being on my own two feet since age 17 has made me feel the effects of this more intensely. I’m like the kid who’s been sweating in the middle back seat this whole trip and finally the driver is hot enough to turn on the air. In a way, I’m glad we’re all hot now. This needs to come out.
So what’s #YesAllWomen really about?
When you’re a guy and you go on a first date, you hope she’s attractive and fun. Maybe on time. A woman hopes all of those things, plus she hopes she won’t get raped or killed. Even on a first date with the nicest guy, she has to make sure she finishes her drink before she goes to the bathroom and then see to it that the next one comes directly from the restaurant in case that nice guy planned to roofie her. She has to meet the guy in public, so he doesn’t know where she lives in case he planned to kill or rape her. She has to make sure a friend knows where she is at all times and calls to check-in that she made it home safely after the date is over. These things are all common sense for women and dating. As a married women, the fear is the same, except getting guys to leave me alone because I say I’m married is no longer a lie I have to tell because a simple “no” has rarely worked.
The fear of men (NOT ALL MEN! SOME MEN WHO DO BAD THINGS! NOT YOU, GUY READING THIS! PROBABLY!) is such a backdrop to life as a woman, we don’t think to talk about it much. I assumed guys knew what we went through. Like, for example, that women don’t like being alone in an elevator with a strange man. Any “smart” lady tells a repair man that her husband is asleep upstairs. “Smart” women take alternate routes home every so often so if anyone is watching them, they don’t establish a pattern. A “smart” woman doesn’t check into her location on Facebook or FourSquare until she leaves. Constantly being proactive about not getting raped or killed (carrying your key between your fingers when you walk alone, talking loudly to your “mom” on a dead cell phone so no one knows you’re vulnerable on your way to your car at night) is a way of life. It’s assumed. It’s invisible. That is, apparently, unless you live it.
#YesAllWomen is teaching the men who love us what it feels like. My husband wouldn’t even watch Mad Men with me last night. (“Why would I want to watch a bunch of misogynist assholes for an hour?” – clever husband who doesn’t like Mad Men anyway.)
The shooter of the Santa Barbara massacre sent a lady-hating manifesto to his parents and therapist before enacting his “day of retribution” on the women who had starved him of sex and the men he felt had enjoyed too much of it. According to him, his problems were the fault of the “stuck-up blonde bitches” on his campus, therefore, they deserved to die. Not all men hate women enough to kill them. But some do. For that reason, all women have reason to be afraid.
I happen to be a blonde bitch who doesn’t go around handing out sex to unhinged guys who think they “deserve it”. I mean, sex isn’t spare change you just toss at the needy. My vagina isn’t a 501(c). When I was single, I didn’t determine whom I had sex with based on balancing the ration. “Oh, let’s make things fair for the virgin!” Right.
It doesn’t necessarily pay to date nice guys anyway. I dated a “nice guy” before I moved to Chicago. He was a lanky, soft-spoken guy who, despite being over 6′ feet tall, was assumed to be physically unable to hurt anyone. Little did our mutual friends know, he had a lot of rage simmering below his quiet, “nice guy” surface.
When we were alone on Spring Break, he got drunk and went nuts on me. He gave me a black eye and bruises all down my arms. The next morning he was sorry, of course, and the whole sick thing just got worse. It was how he acted when he was sorry that almost hooked me into staying with him. I mean, I could see how people stay with guys who beat them because the “sorry honeymoon” is bizarrely validating, if you can forget you’re wearing sunglasses at night so no one sees your face bruise. I didn’t stand for that shit though. When we got home, I moved his things out.
Want to hear the worst part of the story? I confided in a “friend” what had happened. The friend laughed, “Oh, he could never hurt anyone! He’s a nice guy!”
Anyway, that was 12 long years ago. I graduated, moved to Chicago, tried to stay safe and sane in this crazy world and eventually met my awesome husband. There are great guys out there. Actually, most guys are fine and chances are you’re not going to get raped or killed or beaten up by any of them. But you might. And that’s the point. #YesAllWomen.
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