In my recent return to Facebook after a mini vacation, my feed has been overrun with posts about women in a social environment. I bravely went to the comments on each one and found more encouraging comments than usual, but there were still the negative ones as well. (We’ll use this and this for reference. There are other ones but next time.)
“That happens to men too! Women aren’t the only ones who can be victims, you know.”
No one is saying that men can’t be victims, but in the same way we’ve conditioned to think a woman in charge is a workaholic and bossy, we’ve been conditioned to think men don’t have the same problems with going out at night and fear of assault. It’s become one more unfortunate norm. Getting “mad” about women posting articles about their experiences excluding men (It’s not an outright exclusion. They have their individual experiences, find other women in their proximity share those experiences, more than men, if any men and then generalize) will not make them include men in future posts. The door is generally open to everyone to share their experiences, including men. It’s just in recent years, in addition to the many levels of inequality between genders (every which way to Sunday), those who never had a forum made one and it grew and grew and people became aware they weren’t the only ones who had those experiences. If you want to show that there’s more in common, join them. Not in some horrendously snarky, condescending way, but that honest response that shows how true it is for everyone.
“Oh my god, she thinks everyone wants her and is going to rape her. She’s stuck up and/or insecure.”
It’s one thing to think that you’re incredibly attractive and everyone wants to sleep with you. It’s another to be told the rules about going out as a woman, to put up with harassment, to find out that at least every other friend has been raped/sexually assualted and to have these rules start to control your life. (Control your life in such a way that if there weren’t a reason for these rules, yiu would do more stuff) With statements like the one above, following directly after comments of people sharing their stories about experiences that led to the development of these rules, you’re telling them their fear isn’t valid. And while you may not have those fears, the fact is someone does. It’s weird when a fear develops over something you can’t control, when it could happen to anyone, anywhere (regardless of gender). It’s frightening to see how little emotional support you might get because of mentalities like this. Which leads you to believe that you have to do everything in your own personal power to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
For example in the Buzzfeed list “29 Things Women Avoid Doing Because We Fear For Our Safety” eating in public is on the list. Now eating is a necessary part of life, you have to eat. When I was a freshmen in high school, drinking out of bottles (of soda), eating hot dogs or other tube shaped foods, I was stared at, commented on, and made to feel uncomfortable with suggestions about my mouth and their penis. “It’s sexual. You eating is sexual,” I was told in several relationships. (I didn’t want it be sexual. I wanted to eat a hot dog because they are delicious.) Because it happened with such frequency, I stopped eating in public. When I asked why I wasn’t eating, I explained, and was met with “You’re being paranoid. No one does that.” And then they would do that exact thing, even after the first curious glance I’ll give you for bringing it to your attention. As you get older, you build up resistance to that behavior, but that doesn’t make it socially acceptable or me any stronger. That behavior that needs to ignored, brushed off, or laughed at (“don’t take it so seriously”) still goes unchecked and bleeds into other areas where resistance is deemed as much a part of being a woman as learning to accept sexualization in whatever form it comes in.
“That’s just how people are.”
We’ll finish on a more personal note. This is in reference to being interrupted. I have social anxiety. It makes it difficult to interact with people. It means “being assertive/confident” in conversations happens about 50% of the time, on a good day. I’m not a shy person, but I am relatively quiet. It means my person orders for me when we go out to loud restaurants or drinks at the club. I had to find away to circumvent facing this problem head on, because that has never gone well. I have a friend (still current friend) who interrupts me often. So often, that now I don’t want to tell this person anything. I’ve tried rivaling them for control of the conversation, continuing after they finished speaking, distracting them until they lost their train of thought so I could continue what I was saying, and talking to them directly about this problem. They told me “That’s just how people are, you’ll have to get used to it.” I said “I don’t want to get used to it. I don’t want things to be like that between us.”(I’ve never had to get used to it, not in any relationships that actually lasted or meant something. People don’t seem to be aware that they do it, and usually when you tell them it happens more than you’d care for, they do it less.) They said “But that’s how people have conversations. You’re being petty, just let it go.” I finished the conversation with “It’s a horribly inefficient way to have a conversation. But fine, whatever.” And as far as they know I let it go. I never bring it up, I just stop speaking and let the silence fill the room. We just go out now, with other people, to busy places, where we can interact with everything else but each other. (It’s weird, it’s been so long since I’ve been interrupted, I really don’t have anything to compare this to. Even in a work environment I don’t have this problem [because I run my shit like a tyrant rawr!])
Someone once told me, that as you get older you stop wanting to change things and just accept them for what they are. I’m still young, so I don’t know first hand if that’s true, but it can’t be. The people who inspired people who inspired people who inspired us? They never stopped trying to find a way for their voice to be heard, to change things. Of all the things I am now, I hope that’s the one thing I never lose.
Until next time,
What are behaviors you don’t do, or had to build resistance to in order to feel safe? For the other side of goth follow me on Tumblr, Youtube, Instagram and Facebook. (Should I get a Twitter, I don’t know). And/or if you love what you find here, Join the Exploration Party.