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#yeseverywoman ….except maybe not me…

May 29, 2014

I’ve been watching this roll out in the media and social media around me.  I have read with horror and empathy as women expounded on their harrowing tales with sexual assault and sexual intimidation, watched as every man who dared to speak up and say, “hey wait, I’m not that guy” got lambasted for his privilege and his obvious inability to “get it” and I’ve wondered what in the world I’ve done wrong in my life that I didn’t feel the way these women do.

Let me be clear.  I am a cis-gender woman, complete with big breasts.  I have never in my life felt as though my life or my body were in danger due to the proximity of a male of the species. When a guy uses sexual aggression in a social situation I reward him by telling him he’s an asshole and walking away.  When a guy tries to talk down to me or expect me not to know something because I have boobs, I show him what I do know.  

Am I naive to behave as though people are people?  Am I wrong to believe that people can rise above the social programming in individual interactions?  

Or possibly worse, does my thinking that way, does my behaving that way, in some small measure help perpetuate the very culture where rape is seen as common place and our girls are perpetually taught to protect themselves rather than our boys being taught not to rape?

These are the questions that have been rolling around in my head this past week.  One thing I know for certain, my treating men like grown adults who know how to behave even with a penis and a set of balls is never going to END rape.  There will always be situations and individuals and we won’t ever stop it completely.  And YES, we need to have consistent and strict punishment for those caught and convicted.  And YES, women, it does fall largely to us to not be stupid.

I’m reminded of a young man I knew in high school.  He was something of a hellion.  He was known for being disrespectful, getting into fights, causing trouble.  I became friends with him. I made it clear with my behavior that his behavior was unacceptable.  Very quickly when he was with me he was respectful, even chivalrous.  He controlled his words, he spoke to me about the reasons he was angry or hurt…by the time I’d known him a year, he was a different young man. He was getting better grades, he was making friends.  My expectations changed how he behaved.

Since then, I’ve applied this principle with others, both male and female.  Most of the time it has positive results.Sometimes it fails, but I guess that helps me remember I am human.  In every instance though two things were constant:  I EXPECTED and made my expectations clear, a certain model of behavior and I loved unconditionally, even when the behavior wasn’t modeled. 

Nothing I’m saying is a solution.  I don’t know how to fix what is wrong in a society where men feel justified killing a woman who won’t have sex with them, or where rapists are told “don’t do that again” and let out into society simply because their victim was their wife.  I don’t know how to help every woman feel secure in her own body, in her own sexuality.

I’m not sure I actually have a point except to point out that #yeseverywoman isn’t exactly true….because most of what I see being posted under the hashtag doesn’t apply to me.  And yeah, I’m a big fat woman, and I’m usually the person my girlfriends use as their “safety” when we’re out and some guy gets ideas that make them uncomfortable (by which I  mean, they sit in my lap and kiss me and make it clear I’m their girlfriend so the guy gets the idea…which is probably not the “right” way to handle that, but how do we even fold that into this conversation?).

So, am I somehow privileged because I don’t feel threatened by every guy I pass on the street, every dick in a bar thinking with his little head? Or is it because I don’t find myself desirable enough to be aware of the threat they pose?  Or is it maybe that I haven’t yet experienced any overt sexual aggression?  Or am I oblivious?

I honestly don’t know.  I just don’t know.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 29, 2014 12:36 am

    WOW! You’ve put my thoughts in your words. Great piece.

  2. May 29, 2014 5:17 pm

    Trying to put my thoughts in words… 🙂 I think you are that lucky because you radiate an enormous aura of self-confidence, and therefore you are not an easy victim. But your friends who need to pretend that you are the girlfriend… they shouldn’t have to.
    I wasn’t a victim of overly sexual aggression either, but I do remember a coworker who had the nickname “groper”, who showed up in your office while you were on the phone, grabbed your waist, said hello and disappeared again, with no way of retribution. If it would happen to me today, I would politely put my customer on hold, turn around and slap him. Back then? Rolled my eyes and said nothing because hey, he was only joking!
    I remember a friend from the choir who showed me a “funny” date rape drug joke, and expected me to laugh. When I told him it wasn’t funny, he did look ashamed, but quickly left and gave me no chance to talk about it, and I let it go.
    And the more I think about it, the more little things that sum up come to mind. And I feel violated.
    Of course your approach to that young man was the right way! And it might very well prevented him from becoming one of “those men”. Small steps, but in the right direction.
    And I have no idea if that makes any sense. 🙂

  3. May 29, 2014 5:37 pm

    I knew I forgot something… 🙂 To my understanding, that hashtag means “not all men are harrassers, but every woman has been harrassed by a man at some point in her life. So if I understood you right, you have been harrassed, but you kicked their asses… 🙂 But I’d say that counts you in.

    • May 29, 2014 6:13 pm

      I disagree. To me harassment is more than some asshole making a lewd comment. I don’t feel harassed. In fact, I feel more harassed by women who feel they have a right to constantly tell me what to weigh, what to eat, where to sit, what men I can date/sleep with, etc. than I have ever felt harassed by a man who is behaving like a moron.

      Your groper, for instance, if it was obvious he was doing this just to cop a feel? I would have just casually punched him in the balls to discourage it. I guarantee it would stop. And if it didn’t? Then it IS harassment and you haul his ass to HR.

      Most of what is being covered under that hashtag doesn’t feel like it applies to me. And that is just the point I’m trying to make. Yes, all of these things happen, and yes it is deeply ingrained behavior that our society somehow sees as acceptable and yes, it is up to each and every one of us to change it.

      But, #yesallwomen isn’t entirely accurate. And to be honest, I feel somewhat marginalized by it. I think that’s all I was trying to get at.

      • May 29, 2014 9:02 pm

        Fair enough. And oh God, those types are definitely harrassing, absolutely. I guess this shows that you never can generalize things. But it brings attention to the whole situation, and if this leads to discussions and maybe more awareness, then it’s at least not a bad thing. Still, and I wholeheartedly agree there, it’s up to each and everyone to change. As I said, today, I would at least slap him!

  4. June 1, 2014 10:11 pm

    *nods* I’ve been feeling much the same thing as you with regards to the hashtag – i’m always getting some guy calling out at my boobs but hey, I kinda find it complimentary. I’m not a particularly self-confident kind of person but I’ve never felt… idk.. unsafe in my life or whathaveyou just because I’m a woman. I also wonder if I’m missing the point somewhere :/

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