May 27, 2014

Muse: #YesAllWomen Is The Rage Against The Patriarchy That We All Need

I will admit when I heard the news about the shooting rampage near UC Santa Barbara this past weekend that claimed the lives of six women, I just sighed, shook my head, and thought, "We need better gun laws..." and went about my business.

Yep. That's how numb, no immune, I've become to mass killings as they happen far too frequently and nothing, absolutely nothing gets done about them. We just all collectively shrug our shoulders, and that's it. How 'bout them Cowboys?

Usually we never get the "why" in situations like this, but for this tragedy we have received it as the killer left a 137-page manifesto explaining that he planned to wage a "war against women" as they "have starved me of sex for my entire youth and gave that pleasure to other men".

I'm reminded of something the author Margaret Atwood experienced. When she asked a male friend why men can become afraid of women (note the "can become") the response was simply, "Men are afraid women will laugh at them". When she mentioned this quote to a group of women, the response was opposite as they stated: "Women are afraid men will kill them." Blunt, yes, but my gosh is it true, especially in concerns with this recent tragedy.

Whenever a violent act such as the Isla Vista shooting is committed, people like to hold their hands up, wiggle them, and sputter out, "But, but, this doesn't happen to ALL women, not ALL men are crazed violent killers who write long-winded sexist manifestos." True, not all men kill women, but let's not eat powdered sugar coated turds and call them brownies.

There ARE men who physically, sexually, and verbally abuse women --- and they do it daily.
There ARE men who believe women aren't equal to them.
There ARE men who believe rape is a-okay to do, egg on, and laugh about.
There ARE men who believe that "no" means "try harder".
There ARE men who love to control women.
There ARE men who feel they are owed sex and attention from any woman that they see fit.
There ARE men who kill women because they "deserve it" for just being women.

There are far too many men who do unspeakable acts towards and against women, and that is why the hashtag of #YesAllWomen has taken flight, as it has put those jerks on blast, allowing women a chance to air out their frustrations and their stories, not just to heal, but to educate and ignite open conversations about how our culture revolves on misogynistic behavior.

A lot of stories are being shared well into the work week, and that's because a lot of women have stories of being victimized. Almost too many to read in a full day. Just ask any woman you know, even ask little girls (because sexism begins, like Shirley Chisholm said, when the doctor announces "it's a girl!"). They ALL have a story of being threatened and mistreated at the hands of men, some they knew and some they did not, and that is horrible. It's horrible that all women have to go through this. It's horrible that it's normal for us all to have tales of 'men behaving badly'. It's horrible that women have to be told how to defend themselves, that women have to have "buddy systems", that they have to have fears of traveling alone, that they have to watch their drinks at parties. And like Gina Denny who was the catalyst for the #YesAllWomen hashtag movement, states it's even boring to share these stories because they are so common place that we've gotten into a "same shit, different day" situation. Like I said about mass shootings, we're immune to it, it is our culture now, and that sickens me to the core that I have to expect and have my pepper spray and keys flared in order to prepare for this mess.

From what I could stomach from reading the campus killer's sprawling rant, I too began to shudder with disgust, and an all too familiar feeling washed over me, because I have heard his narrative before. The killer's words and thoughts have fallen out of the mouths of some of the men who have bothered me in the past. I would talk about them all, but we'd be here all day and night, so I'll stick with two standout incidents that occurred when I was in high school that led me to realize hardcore that I was well, a female and not worthy of being in control of my own personal agency:

  • During my freshman and sophomore year I was stalked by a young man who took my kindness and my once friendship as an invitation that I was "coming on to him" and he believed in his mind that I "deserved" to be with him and that I was to (and these are his words) "release him from being a virgin". When I declined his advances, he took it as a means that he should "try harder" to win me over. He learned my schedule and he began to follow me to classes and be at the places I hung out at. He found out where I lived, and would ring the bell and run away. He even watched me at band practice from his car. Every time I turned around there he was. I received threats and gifts during this time, almost as a grooming mechanism, as according to him, I was expected to treat his actions as if this was normal 'courtship'.
  • Memories of my senior prom aren't so sweet and innocent as the Molly Ringwald films led me to believe as I was awoken to the "nice guy" syndrome that night. My date was a "nice guy" who picked me up, gave me a corsage, bought me dinner, danced with me, and then when he took me home, proceeded to assault me because "that's what happens at prom". Sex was "supposed" to be the nightcap to the evening because that's what the movies and 'normalized' teenage culture teaches us. Fortunately, I was able slap him off of me and get out of the car. Later on, I found out that he went around school stating that I was a "prude" for dismissing his advances. So on prom night, I was a 'wanton slut' itching to surrender to his overt passions, and now today I'm a 'prude'?

My existence, according to these men (or really boys), was for them only. They could groom me to thinking they were "nice, respectable guys" and then go forth to use and abuse me any way they saw fit. I wasn't in the equation. My feelings, my thoughts, my morals didn't matter. I was just a girl, and I should be oh so thankful to be basking in their presence. This is why #YesAllWomen hashtag is revelation for me, it thrusts these deranged thought processes out bold and naked and has men realize (or hopefully realize) that to stop the violence against women it really begins with them. That they need to listen and to take action to do better, and especially urging their peers and the younger, more impressionable generations to do better.

Now usually hashtag rebel rousing has the reputation of being only productive for the moment, that is until some new clusterfuck happens, but I really really advise everyone, especially men, to participate and follow the hashtag and really read, listen, and remember to what is being said.

If you feel rattled behind it. Good. That's the effect. We need to start getting uncomfortable so that we can start breeding solutions so that women aren't swapping tales of patriarchy beatdowns as if we're reciting Aesop fables.

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