I found myself on the #YesAllWomen hashtag on twitter this morning. I never search trends, nor do I scroll through tags. I don’t know why – I like to tell myself that I have better things to do (like scroll through my tumblr dashboard). Today was different.
I started out by favoriting a few tweets, then I braved to retweet a couple of them. As soon as I RT’d my second one, I moved my thumb over to the new tweet icon. I was about to type up an “excuse all the feminism talk” apology. I stopped and thought, why?
Because people get antsy and uncomfortable when they’re confronted with issues they either ignore or don’t find it appealing to talk about. I’m one of them. I would never call myself a feminist or one with feminist views because I’ve been taught all the negative connotations. Rather, misconceptions.
This morning, I found myself at a crossroads – apologize for believing in and feeling strongly about something that affects me personally and then having the nerve to share, or say fuck it and fuck anyone who judges me for it.
I chose the latter and I’m so goddamn proud of myself.
Not one for confrontation in the least, I was surprised to find that I wasn’t even the tiniest bit nervous about it either. I’m almost twenty-six years old and it’s about time I went out on a limb.
It’s a bloody strong limb, at that.
Some of the things I retweeted:
Anne DeAcetis: “Unfortunately we all have a lot of these stories. If you’re tired of hearing them, imagine how tired we are of living them. #YesAllWomen”
Emma Osborne: “#YesAllWomen Because I sometimes forget that I’ve been groped, bullied and verbally abused by men. It seems SO normal.”
Dream Fifteen: “#YesAllWomen because I was taught to scream ‘fire’ instead of ‘rape’ because it increases the chances of someone coming to help.”
Jessica Piazza: “Upset about #YesAllWomen? Try this experiment: Ask ANY woman for a story of a close call w/ sexual or physical violence. She’ll have one.”
Nev Schulman: “The most attractive quality a man can have is respect. Respect for women, and respect for himself. #YesAllWomen”
Shit My Sisters Say: “#YesAllWomen because I shouldn’t have to consider myself ‘one of the lucky ones’ because I’ve never been a victim of sexual assault.”
barbie: “‘because guys can wear naked girls on their shirts but girls can’t wear their own bodies in public’ #YesAllWomen”
Little Miss Classy: (twitpic) “If a female student got drunk and had her car stolen, the university would call the police. If she got drunk and had her computer stolen, they would call the police. If she got drunk and had her phone stolen, they would call the police. The fact that she was drunk would not even be factored in when assessing if a crime had been committed. But if she gets drunk and has her body invaded and her humanity stolen, school administrations are perplexed about what to do.”
#YesAllWomen: “Unless I ask for ‘it’, then no, I am not asking for ‘it’ #YesAllWomen”
Sana Saeed: “If men don’t have ‘luck’ w/women, they often blame women. If women don’t have ‘luck’ w/men, they often blame themselves. #YesAllWomen”
Mary E. Winstead: “These are not isolated incidents. This is just every day, all the time. #YesAllWomen”
priya: “#YesAllWomen because we so often preface ‘I’m not interested…’ with ‘I’m sorry’ – we apologize for not being interested – WE APOLOGIZE”
Karin Robinson: “No, #NotAllMen are violent against women, but #YesAllWomen have to navigate a world where those who are look the same as those who aren’t.”
pleasedonteatjo: “Because ‘Text me and let me know you got home safe’ is standard, necessary and normal. #YesAllWomen”
Warren Leight: “Men, fathers, brothers, boyfriends, uncles, boy friends: take some time to read the #YesAllWomen hashtag.”
Elly Blue: “Grateful that I’ve ‘only’ been harassed, belittled, underpaid. Never assaulted, stalked… or shot. The bar is that low. #YesAllWomen”
David Slack: “I’d like to recommend every guy read the #YesAllWomen posts. Don’t comment, don’t defend. Just read and think about living in fear.”
Some of the things I tweeted:
“#YesAllWomen because I wish desperately to be able to say ‘no thanks’ to an advance and not have to justify it.”
“#YesAllWomen because my old mobile number came out of my mouth faster than ‘you know, no thanks.'”
“#YesAllWomen because a complete stranger (female) embraced me on a street in London to dissuade a man who was following/harassing me.”
One tweet included this blurb from a tumblr post:
“We were discussing homosexuality because of an allusion to it in the book we were reading, and several boys made comments such as, ‘That’s disgusting.’ We got into the debate and eventually a boy admitted that he was terrified/disgusted when he was once sharing a taxi and the other male passenger made a pass at him. The lightbulb went off. ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘I get it. See, you are afraid, because for the first time in your life you have found yourself a victim of unwanted sexual advances by someone who has the physical ability to use force against you.’ The boy nodded and shuddered visibly. ‘But,’ I continued, ‘As a woman, you learn to live with that from the time you are fourteen, and it never stops. We live with that fear every day of our lives. Every man walking through the parking garage the same time you are is either just a harmless stranger or a potential rapist. Every time.’ The girls in the room nodded, agreeing. The boys seemed genuinely shocked. ‘So think about that the next time you hit on a girl. Maybe, like you in the taxi, she doesn’t actually want you to.'” – Andrew Sullivan (Homophobia: The fear that another man will treat you like you treat women)
There was a screenshot of a tumblr post where someone put a steak in front of his two dogs and they were sitting and looking up at the camera. This was to make a point about the ‘women dressing suggestively is like putting a sirloin in front of a dog’ argument. As in, don’t tempt men because what do you think they’re going to do, restrain themselves? Anyway, the poster went on about how he put the steak down and told his dogs ‘no.’ He said one dog didn’t even approach the sirloin as he hadn’t been told he could, the other dog approached it, was told no, and immediately backed off. “Notice how they didn’t ‘argue,’ didn’t take it anyway, didn’t get aggressive, didn’t beg, or didn’t try to somehow persuade me that they should be able to have it. They were told no, they backed off. So, essentially, if you use that analogy to excuse rape, you’re saying you have less self control and fewer basic social manners than my two dogs. That also probably means you should be neutered and kept on a leash.”
*drops mic* *shots fired* I mean, seriously.
One of the most interesting things, to me, was just how many women tweeted about (or retweeted a tweet about) having to say she had a boyfriend just to get a guy to leave her alone. Because a man is more likely to respect another man’s ‘property’ than take no for an answer. I’ve been single for two years now, but as far as the clingy guys are concerned, I’m fucking engaged. Also, why is it such a problem to simply say no to someone? If I approached a guy and asked if I could buy him a drink, and he said no thanks, I’d say, okay, no problem, and promptly walk away with a bit of red in my cheeks. You say no to a guy and you get, ‘oh, come on, why not? Just one drink, come on, it’ll be fun, I’m a nice guy.’ Yeah, not so nice that you won’t kindly bugger off when you notice I’m clearly not interested. So instead we have to lie and say we’ve got someone on the go. Even though, sadly, that doesn’t always work either.
The phone number thing gave me pause, too. Like I said in my tweet, my old mobile number has come out of my mouth more readily than ‘no thanks, I’m not interested.’ In fact, there was a middle-aged, divorced man in London who bought me a couple beers and chatted me up and even invited me to his place in Canary Wharf ‘if I’m ever in the area’ (which I ensured I never was again), and then asked for my phone number. I’m sure I said, umm… okay… (thinking, fucking hell, seriously? I can’t say no, that’d be rude). [Yes, that’s right – I thought it’d be rude to refuse to give out my phone number to a total stranger, who could jump off the Jubilee Bridge for all I cared]. So, I said, ‘4-0-2..’ and before I knew it, ‘8-8-0’ was coming out of my mouth before I’d even processed what I was doing. I’ve not had that phone number since maybe summer of ’12? I’ve never, ever slipped up in giving my correct phone number and all of a sudden, it’s like my fight or flight smoothly took over my brain and got me out of the situation.
And I’m sure I’ve written about the man who followed me and harassed me one night after leaving the Ivy in London. (Remember, I didn’t want to talk to him ‘because he was black’ and he proceeded to follow me down about three streets?) Yeah, well, then I ran up right behind this group of about four strangers and got close to the blonde (I think she was blonde?) in front of me, and whispered, ‘I’m so sorry, but this man is bothering me, so I’m going to stand here a minute’ – without missing a fucking beat, she turned around, wrapped her arms around me and said loudly enough for anyone to hear, him in particular, ‘oh, THERE you are!’ She hugged me for what seemed like forever and whispered back to me, ‘just stick with us for as long as you need.’ See – this is the kind of shit women have to do for each other. I bet you could ask any woman what the ‘please, for the love of God, either someone help me or shoot me’ look that women give each other – even complete strangers – when some douchebag is chatting her up at the bar, and she’ll know exactly what it is. I further reckon that most women have either been rescued or been the rescuer for a total stranger in that situation. Because we all know. #YesAllWomen
While I was scrolling the tag, I noticed twitter would tell me when there were new tweets added, as it’ll do. In about fifteen minutes, there were 300 new tweets with the hashtag. After just over a half hour, there were 800 new tweets. I mean, Christ, here are about 1000 women per hour coming forward to either support someone else or offer her own unfortunate experience. There were some women brave enough to mention how the first question they were asked after reporting being raped was, ‘well, what were you wearing?’ There were men tweeting with the hashtag about having their eyes opened and encouraging other men to browse the tag. There were mothers and fathers tweeting about the way they have to raise their kids because of #YesAllWomen and the ways they’re going to make sure to raise them because of #YesAllWomen.
Of course with the #YesAllWomen hashtag comes the #NotAllMen hashtag, where men get defensive and make the conversation about themselves and how not all men are assholes. Okay, you’re right, not all men are assholes. And thank God for the good ones. Someone had a hand in, there. However, one of the most powerful things I saw regarding this issue (have I said this already?) is: Not all men harass women, but all women have been harassed by a man.
If men still don’t think that’s possible, perhaps scroll through the #YesAllWomen hashtag a bit longer, oh, and the next time you’re walking alone on a darkened street, think about how your keys are in your pocket and not speared between your fingers like Wolverine to use as a defensive weapon, or how you don’t have to notice that there’s another man by himself walking down the street toward you, or how your jeans and t shirt wouldn’t ever come into question if you were to be accosted in some way.
I should point out that while I might sound hostile toward men in this post, that is absolutely not the case. I was raised by a wonderful man, I have the most emotionally intelligent brother, and I know heaps of excellent men. I don’t believe that all men are assholes, just like all women aren’t bitches, not all horses will throw you off, not all red socks will turn white shirts pink in the wash. Whatever.
After only an hour, I was a bit overwhelmed. To think this is something that literally, and yes, I’ll use literally, every single woman has gone through and hardly anyone ever fucking talks about it (or seems to fucking talk about it, anyway). It’s unspeakably unfortunate that the conversation came about because of a horrible tragedy, but the victory lies with us, here. We are going to be stronger and closer and things are going to move toward changing for the better. I have an incredible sense of sisterhood, womanhood, and hope, as of today.
I don’t care if you call yourself a feminist, a Christian, a civil right’s activist, whatever, I think we can all agree that it boils down to one very simple idea: treat people well, for the love of God. Or whoever. We need to be more empathetic. We need to be more conscientious. More aware. Because we’re definitely all human.