I’m sure most of you are familiar with the #yesallwomen hashtag over at Twitter, and some of the good, bad, and sad things that have been tweeted on it. I’ve looked myself and as I often do with such things, I find I have mixed feelings about it.
I think it’s clear that for some reason, Elliot Rodgers, the man who stabbed and shot six people and then killed himself, was not right in the head. It is also clear, from Rodgers’ own written and video manifestos, that he blamed all of his anger on women. (I’m not linking to these because you’ve probably seen them, the links are easily found elsewhere, and quite frankly, I don’t want to see or read them myself. Reading about it is bad enough.)
Rodgers said, in no uncertain terms, that he felt women owed him love, sex, and adoration, and he’d had it up to here that they weren’t fulfilling their end of his self-perceived bargain. And it wasn’t just women, because he was clearly just as pissed as the men who were getting the girls that Rodgers thought he should be getting. Hence, he killed men, too.
It’s good that this is generating discussion, although I’m of the pessimistic thought that the discussion will pretty much just circle around and not get anywhere.
Anyway, one of the things about #yesallwomen that makes me feel odd is that, well, so many of the things other women have said have not happened to me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not looking for trouble — I am exceedingly glad I have not had to deal with the shit they have, and I am sorry that they have. The funny thing is, though, that when you see all these things coupled with “#yesallwomen,” there’s a feeling akin to guilt when I think, “Well, not this woman.”
Like I said, I’ve been very lucky. I’ve experienced very little outright sexual/gender discrimination that I know of. The only thing that really stands out is that when I was in high school and wanted to join the A/V club, I was told by the vice principal that girls couldn’t do that. I didn’t question it at the time; I went to a Catholic school and the VP was a priest. Like baseball players do not argue with the ump, I did not argue with him. Thinking about it now, I would guess the reasoning was that the A/V club was all-male, and having a girl there could lead to potential problems.
Now, why they wouldn’t, say, have a teacher or two there to make sure everything was okay, I don’t know. It was stupid at the time, but I had other things to do, and so I dismissed it and went on to those other things. I wasn’t going to sue over it or anything like that. I would also guess that now that is not the case, but it was in the mid/late 1980s.
But when I read #yesallwomen, I see the statements of reporting sexual harassment, or assault, and not being believed. Of carrying keys through your fingers as a makeshift weapon when walking alone (I’ve done this). Of having to tell a strange guy you have a boyfriend, even if you don’t, because it’s the best way to make him go away. Or worse, of being assaulted by friends or family, and not believed by same.
That has not happened to me (again, thankfully). I saw a tweet that said, roughly, ask any woman you know if she’s been sexually assaulted/molested/harassed and she’ll say yes. The first reply was from a guy who said he’d asked his mom and sister, who had both replied in the negative.
And perhaps that’s the problem. I will agree that women are aware and conscious of personal security in a way that most men are not — because they don’t have to be. I had a roommate for a couple of years, a guy who had just come out as gay not long before moving down my way. This was a big thing for him, coming from a smaller, conservative town. One night he was going out and I asked what I thought was a fairly innocuous question, was he intending on coming back that night. He got mad.
To be fair, he wasn’t belittling my concerns. What he was mad about was that he essentially had to consider someone else’s POV, and he was in a phase of basically not wanting to be answerable to anyone for what he was doing. I pointed out that I didn’t care if he came back that night, aside from wanting him to be safe, I just wanted to know if I could put the chain lock on. If I’d been a guy, I doubt I would have thought about it. But I’m not a guy, and I did.
So it’s weird when I read the tweets, because although I sympathize and empathize and agree as best I can, it’s not my experience. Some of it is because, for example, I don’t and didn’t to places like bars, which seems like a place where a lot of unwanted advances happen. To a great extent, I’ve probably taken myself of risky situations, but not to avoid the risk. I’m just not a bar person, but the result is the same.
And again, let me be clear — a woman should be able to go to a bar, or a restaurant, alone or with a friend, and be left alone. No means “no,” not “make an offer” or “I’ll change my mind if you keep talking.” People, men and women, need to learn to respect a person’s “No.”
I do think attitudes need to change, and that will be hard. I’d like to see an end to things like “You throw like a girl” and other statements where a man is insulted by calling him a woman. It’d be nice if groups of men — teams, etc. — would stop saying things like, “Okay, ladies, let’s…” They aren’t ladies and there’s an implied disrespect thee. So stop it.
I’d like to see people of both genders stop saying (as I read on all #yesallwomen) “Why didn’t she leave?” when finding out about an abusive relationship and start asking, “Why didn’t he stop hitting her?” and “What made him think he had the right?” People need to help and protect themselves, but that’s often easier said than done, and blame and responsibility need to be placed on the person perpetrating the violence and not the one who was victimized.
And that should happen when it’s #allmen, too.