Wednesday, May 28, 2014

#Yesallwomen includes this woman

Every time we have a mass shooting/murder incident, there is the inevitable discussion about what will we do, with some insisting the real issue is gun control and only control, others it's all mental health care. People will often deflect or even ignore the part of the discussion about the topic they don't want to address, insisting this one topic is a distraction from the real issue and those who would talk about it are therefore part of the problem.

A funny thing happened after this most recent shooting in Santa Barbara, then. Besides the usual gun control and mental health discussions, a third topic made its way to the forefront: misogyny and violence against women. Based on the alleged shooter's video rants and written manifesto in which he refers to women as mentally ill, wicked, the source of all evil in the world, and the predominant source of his misery, it seems a fair topic to bring in. So someone started a hashtag movement on twitter, #Yesallwomen. Women started sharing tweets that for many of us hit very, very close to home. Things like "because we teach girls not to get raped instead of teaching boys not to rape," "because we hold our keys in our hands like a weapon when we walk alone at night," "because if a guy buys my daughter a meal, it does not mean he gets to sleep with her."

Of course, predictably, a backlash then started, with hashtags like #notallmen, as if tweeters sharing these experiences hate all men, think they're all equally responsible for all the bad things a few men do. And that it was a distraction to the real issue, was someone co-opting this tragedy for political gain, etc. It's easier to react defensively, to knee-jerk reject a topic out of hand, than to listen and be thoughtful.

Maybe this hashtag trend has not a whole lot to do with this one mass shooting, but that doesn't make the comments being made any less valid. It doesn't mean the conversation women are trying to get started isn't an important one that men should hear, whether it's entirely comfortable or not. Because the cold, hard truth is I don't know one woman who doesn't have in mind what her offering to #Yesall women would be.

Since the #Yesallwomen trend began, I've had lots of tweets in my head, things I would contribute.

But I haven't and I'm not entirely sure why. Nothing I would post on twitter is anything I would be ashamed of or wouldn't defend. I say it's largely because my twitter feed is dedicated to sports and it's somehow not socially acceptable to foray too far into other topics. But that's never stopped me from tweeting about the death penalty or other controversial topics. Maybe it's just because I have too much to say, too many stories that can't be contained in 140 characters, and couldn't settle on just one or two.

Because there are so very, very many reasons to post to #Yesallwomen.

Because we equate female genitalia with weakness and male genitalia with strength.

Because a powerful woman must have a pair of brass ones.

Because a baseball player with a bad arm throws like a girl.

Because when a guy who kept trying to go out with me and wouldn't take no or silence for an answer finally drove me to send him an aggressive email telling him to leave me alone, the response was that I needed to up my meds.

Because when I didn't respond to another guy on his time table and explained I had been busy at my regular Thursday martini night with my besties, he responded that the image of a bunch of "sexy ladies" at martini night intrigued him and that he was sure we would eat him alive. Because, obviously, my friends and I regularly get together for cheap drinks to provide random men with fantasy material and we are all maneaters.

Because as this hashtag is trending all over social media, a male friend who I thought of as pretty aware and a feminist liked a stupid Internet post about how much men love see-through yoga pants, complete with pictures and obnoxious captions. And because what I want to do is share that post with a comment about how yes, even this kind of thing, is what the hashtag is all about, but I'm afraid it will come across as scolding this friend. (even though he probably deserves it.)

Because just this spring, there was a huge discussion amongst legal bloggers about what women should wear in court.

Because I have driven past my own house when I thought a car might be following me. And because when I told this to a male friend, he was totally stunned. It had never occurred to him to worry he was being followed.

Because people say that boys are easier to raise than girls, that teenage girls are a nightmare, that girls are horrible, to each other, to their mothers, etc.

Because even some women say things like "women are awful to each other," perpetuating the idea that women are catty, gossipy, unworthy of friendship.

Because people still think boys should be taught "don't hit girls" instead of just "don't hit."

Because no one asks men if they're going to go back to work after the arrival of a child. No one asks men if they're going to stop working after the wedding. No one asks men if they're going to change their names after the wedding. And if a man decides not to take his wife's name after the wedding, no one is going to passively-aggressively insist on addressing letters, invitations, etc. to him using his wife's last name anyway.

And because if you comment on any of these piddly little things, if you point to any of these specific incidents or comments as a minor piece of evidence about a much larger issue, you're told to lighten up, have a sense of humor, or not be so sensitive.

These are just the things I came up with off the top of my head in the space of 10 minutes. I haven't even touched on the birth control and abortion debates (which so often boil down to women needing to keep their legs closed, pay for their own promiscuity, and suffer the consequences of her slutty, slutty actions while the responsibility of men is ignored). Or the school dress codes that tell girls not to be distractions to boys. Or the studies that show that lots of today's 11-14 yo boys still somehow have the idea that girls should put out if boys spend money on them.

And I still have more. So many more.

Because medical research is still disproportionately geared toward men, leaving women more vulnerable.

Because women are still more likely to die from heart attack related incidents in hospitals because women's symptoms are still overlooked, downplayed, and thus treatment is delayed.

Because some people still persist in thinking of rape as somehow a "worse" crime than murder. This ones even worse because it's tied to a false claim of focusing on a woman's agency and bodily autonomy. But it's not. Both crimes deny a person agency and bodily autonomy. Duh. One denies it permanently and irrevocably for all time. Being raped sucks, no doubt. But no woman or man should think a woman might have been better off to have been murdered rather than raped. No woman's sexual purity or autonomy is more important, more valuable than her life. It sickens me that I even have to say that.

Because prison rape jokes are made constantly. Some even actively wish prison rape on particular defendants. All sexual violence is unacceptable.

Because the word that means "believing men and women are equal and deserving of equal rights" is considered a dirty word and something many women refuse to be associated with.

Because the fact that I am single, especially at my age, is somehow "my fault" and everyone feels free to offer an opinion on just what I'm doing wrong and how I should change to fix it.

Sure, women in this country today have far more opportunities than the woman of my grandmother's generation, or even my mother's. While my grandmother had to forgo college because the family's money had to be saved for her four younger brothers' educations, my mother and her daughters knew from early on a college education was non-negotiable. Women are all over higher education now. There are fewer and fewer work barriers, as well. The ranks of women in my profession are nothing like what my grandmother might have expected. Last I checked, more women are now graduating from law school than men. (Though it's not all rosy in the workforce. Women are underrepresented in the ranks of corporate CEOs and there's still that pesky pay issue, for example.)

Equal access to education and the workforce are the big things that are frankly easier to address. You can pass a law about discriminating against women in the workplace. Equal access to education can be the topic of a lawsuit. But you can't write a law to stop certain men from feeling entitled to grope the first women they find on dance floors. You can't sue men who think "make me a sandwich" jokes are funny or who feel threatened by women who earn more money than they do. So that "little" stuff is what lingers, long after the law technically recognizes equality.

That's what #Yesallwomen is about. This piddly little crap, all the hundreds (thousands?) of insidious little ways women are still somehow a little less than men. Even if some men and women don't want to acknowledge these things are true or a problem, it's been downright cathartic to write them out and stop pretending this crap doesn't get to me.

So there. Think my rants are all just the ramblings of a hormonal bitch (ooh, because while men's hormones also cycle regularly, you never hear anyone write off a man's comments with a derisive reference to his time of the month) if you want. Think I'm overblowing little things that don't matter. Each of the above is something I have personally encountered, heard, dealt with, and been negatively affected by. Feels pretty good to air all those grievances for once.

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