pexels-photo-246804

A guy walks up to a girl in a bar. She’s laughing with her friends, engrossed in conversation. He slides in next to her to introduce himself. Offers her a drink. I’m just here to hang with my friends she says more than once. He proceeds to ask her “get to know you” questions, ignores her icy stare. Oblivious to her friends rolling their eyes. He appears immune to her Not interested‘s and her No thank you‘s. Finally, she sighs, I HAVE A BOYFRIEND. He backs away grudgingly, defensively, hands in the air, It’s cool, it’s cool. I got it.

Her rebuffs weren’t enough. Her refusals were dismissed. It was clear that what she wanted wasn’t of much concern to him. But another man’s woman? That’s a record scratch. A stop sign. A no trespassing sign.

This story isn’t unusual. It’s not even rare. Most women at some point have played the boyfriend card to fend off an aggressive guy.

Not all men have to hear the boyfriend excuse to accept a “No.” Many men approach women humbly and respectfully. But the reality is that far too many men are the aggressive guy with the selective hearing. It’s disheartening, frustrating, and at times… scary.

And it all comes down to ownership.

Entitlement.

We watch in horror as it plays out in the most grotesque ways. A man kills a woman on a train for refusing his advances. A man shoots his wife and her two students because she left him. A man shoots an innocent stranger and says his girlfriend made him do it. It’s a man going on a murderous shooting spree after posting a video blaming all of the women who refused to see how “nice” he was.

It’s not always violent or abusive. Most often it is vague and hard to put your finger on. But our society is constantly telling men they have rights to us. That they own us. This message isn’t shouted or barked. No, like most effective messages it’s subtle. Implied. It’s in our everyday interactions. But it’s there, coloring our language and our attitudes and our traditions. It’s the pervasive, implied entitlement in casual words and actions that we accept and absorb because we are so accustomed to it we don’t even recognize it.

Ownership. Women are property. Men are entitled to us. Society is unconcerned with our agency and autonomy.

It’s tradition and it’s doctrine. It’s history and it’s gospel.

It’s the marrying off of daughters as a transaction. A young girl whittled down to the equivalent of a goat and an acre of land.

It’s women being the spoils of war.

It’s women being categorized as either the virgin or the whore.

Most men don’t walk around looking at women as property. That’s not how this works. But it’s there, implied. It’s woven into our culture. Passed down like a defective gene.

It’s not just the persistent guy in the bar. It’s the guy who tells us to smile. As if our expression is there for him to dictate. Our mood, his to determine.

It’s the man who thinks he has the right to catcall a woman because she is walking down the street. And then thinks he has the right to get angry if she doesn’t respond in the way he thinks she should.

It’s the shock and disdain for a woman who curses. It’s not lady like. It’s unbecoming. It’s trashy. No. Admonishing a grown woman as if she’s a child is unbecoming.

It’s the “Friend-zone.” The place where hard-up guys and their precocious desires go to die. Angry that they are denied access to someone they were friendly with. I was so nice to her, why wouldn’t she have sex with me? As if being cool means they should automatically have rights to us.

It’s the seething hate directed at every woman who has a large online presence. A platform, a big following, a blue checkmark next to her name – all are cause for threats. It’s the armies of men who troll, looking for powerful women to go after. Who have rabid anger for women they’ve never even met. Why? For moving into their space. For taking up their oxygen. For getting attention and followers and likes. They are threatened by it. They feel less powerful when they see a powerful woman. So they try to control her, bully her, intimidate her. They try to drive her off social media and sometimes out of a job.

It’s the looks of disgust or the comments when a woman is breastfeeding in public. Her breasts should be used to sell Carl’s Jr. burgers or to entice or to entertain. But using them for their intended purpose is disgusting. It’s utilitarian and not serving the greater male population in any way so put those things away, you exhibitionist whore. 

We are here to accentuate. Complement. To be arm candy or stay quietly in the background. We should be easy going, but not easy. We should laugh easily, but not too loudly.

We should be soft and sweet and curved in all the right places. But not too curvy. Unless that’s what is desired by the men we meet. The goalpost of what is desirable is constantly moving so we must read magazines and scour pop culture to see what’s what. You see, we are complicit in our own servitude. It’s part of our DNA as well.

We should speak demurely. Speaking loudly, projecting our voice is an affront. We should calibrate our voice to precisely the tone that is pleasing to male ears. And for the love of  all things nasty,  please don’t laugh too loud.

Our bodies are commodities. Our sexuality is for other’s to copulate to. Our pureness to be held up as saintly. Our reproduction legislated by old white men who couldn’t find an ovary or a female orgasm if they had a GPS.

It’s male journalists frothing every time Chelsea Clinton speaks or wins an award. Their condescending laments laced with the fear of another ambitious woman coming dangerously close to that glass ceiling. Their words dripping with contempt. How dare she be visible or audible when they had other ideas. Stay in your lane, Chelsea. 

It’s the pat on the head, the unsolicited advice, the let me tell you how you really feel because my male perspective is more valid and more right, ok sweetheart? 

It’s telling a woman to calm down because her outburst or her fire or her anger make it so much harder to rein her in.

It’s the stealthing that turns consensual sex into sexual assault, and the online chat rooms that instruct bros how to do it, and the judges who will laugh it off or brush it off or dole out a slap on the wrist with a wink, and now we have one more fucking thing to warn our daughters about.

It’s the men who help themselves to parts of our bodies as we make our way through a crowd or through the office or across campus.

It’s our lovers, the men we trust and love. They think nothing of laying down a guilt trip if we refuse sex. After all, what right do we have to consider our own mood/desires/feelings? Our bodies should be open for business when he needs it, the moment he needs it. After all, we love him, right? C’mon baby, you say you love me but you aren’t acting like it right now. And they don’t understand or see that their pressure and guilt is added to the pile of male needs and desires we’ve spent a lifetime collecting and being held responsible for.

We watch young girls, on the brink of womanhood who are ogled and leered at. Men, with their shirts straining against their dad-bods, scanning every inch of her. Oblivious to her discomfort. Unconcerned that she is still just a child. They act like they don’t see how their hot gaze makes her squirm. Making her feel equal parts dirty and self conscious and guilty. You see, she learned long ago in school that how she dresses is responsible for how men and boys act. But they’re oblivious to her tugging uncomfortably at her clothes because they don’t see her as a person and they’ve been taught that it’s harmless to do these things and it’s not big deal, it’s just guys being guys and geez, stop overreacting, wouldya?

We’ve heard the song, the one that has been in the background our whole lives. The one that tells us we’re the temptress, the siren of the sea. We’re Eve, licking the apple from our wet lips wearing nothing but a wicked grin. That we’re the built-in excuse for male aggression and anger and frustration and missteps. A convenient scapegoat for society’s ills.

We’re supposed to be “a lady in the street, but a freak in the bed.” Unless he’s not into that kind of thing, in which case we better figure that shit out and accommodate before he decides to dispose of us and tells his friends that we’re just a dirty whore.

We are not your property.

You don’t own us. You are not entitled to our bodies or our minds or our emotional labor.

It’s ownership when men get angry at the fat girl and call her names. How dare she go out in the world in a way that’s not pleasing to his eye?

It’s ownership when they scream at the transgender woman who doesn’t fit their idea of what a woman “should” be. And they’re going to make damn sure she knows it by their voice or their sneer or their laughter or their fist.

It’s ownership when dudes ask a lesbian if they can “get in on that action” or when they wink, “give me a chance to change your mind.” Because it’s really not about her identity and being who she is, it’s about them getting off.

We are not your participation trophies. We are not your conquest or your ego boost.

We are not here for you to decide how we should act/talk/smile/laugh/look/live.

Our role in the home or the board room or online is not yours to define.

Our daughters are not your son’s distractions.

Our wholeness is not a threat to your existence.

Our minds and bodies are tired of this game so if you could wake up and see that we’re not asking you to feel guilty or to drag you down, that would be great. We’re asking you to listen and to believe us and to help us make it stop.

Help us make it stop with the young girl getting dress coded because her body is a distraction to the boys.

Help us make it stop so that when she tells her teacher about a boy making a rape joke, she doesn’t get the “Boys will be boys” retort that tells her that her fears and safety are secondary to boys having fun and blowing off steam.

Help us make it stop because she will learn before she’s even out of puberty that grown  men will take from her, whether it’s the lingering stares or the hand that rests on her shoulder for too long or some other innocuous gesture that she can’t put her finger on but she knows it’s not right. Help us before she goes off to college and she tells herself “boys will be boys” when a drinking game goes too far and she finds herself going from laughing and playing along to being victimized but feeling like she deserved it because she is just repeating what she’s seen and heard her whole life. Boys can’t control themselves. Their actions are just a response to you. You should have known better/done better. 

Help us. Recognize when you see ownership, in all its forms. Tell your sons and your daughters and your coworkers and your bosses and your bros.

Help us because it’s this subtle sense of ownership that feeds the violence. It’s the little moments that add up and build up and give permission to a man to touch, to hit, to rape, to kill. It’s systemic and institutionalized ownership that allows lawmakers and judges and police officers to question a rape victim’s level of sobriety or her past sexual history or how much the rapist might suffer in prison so we really should give him a slap on the wrist because he is a preppy white rapist with a bright future.

Help us amplify this message. Help us stop the cycle of entitlement.

We are not your bitch, your slut, your problem. We are not your excuse, your reason, your burden.

We are not your anything.

 

 

39b44ab1278fcf89da3102eb2b7ad7c9

Dear Mr. Trump… can I call you Mr. Trump? Is that ok? I want you to be happy, that’s very important to me.

Before I get started, let me say this letter isn’t from all women. The Trumpettes surely won’t approve of this message. But this is from most women.

We see right through you. We have all known you at some point. Your ways are not unfamiliar to us. We see through you because we’ve been dealing with you our whole lives.

We heard you call women pigs. And disgusting. And stupid. And bimbos.

We watched as you called a former Ms. Universe “Ms. Piggy” and then spent four days continuing to insult her.

We see your weakness. Your lust for attention at any cost, your need to denigrate women. We see all of it. And we’re mad.

Yes. We’re mad. And fired up. And here’s the thing about us… we can be bitches.

Gone are the days where we question our power or our influence. We are strong. Smart. We know our worth and it doesn’t reside in the size of our bras or our skinny jeans. We build each other up. We have our sister’s backs. And our brother’s. So when you took on the former Ms. Universe, you took on all of us.

And right now you’ve got a lot of angry women to contend with. And let me remind you, Mr. Trump… hell hath no fury like a pissed off woman who’s tired of this sexist bullshit.

We heard you when you said we should  “look for another place to work” if we experience workplace sexual harassment. Your non-solution illustrates either your lack of understanding or lack of concern. Or both. Your attitude and ignorance on this is stunning. Your response, pathetic. We see you, and we see someone who’s in over their head.

We watched you interrupt a woman 51 times during a 90 minute debate. While the better qualified, more knowledgeable woman was talking, you attempted to bulldoze right over her. We all know this game. It’s called male privilege. And it doesn’t look good on you, Mr. Trump. It makes you look weak. We see you, and we see a man who is so threatened by a woman speaking that you can’t even bear to let her finish. Sad.

And we see it rampant throughout your campaign and your proposed policies. It’s in your paltry maternity leave proposal that leaves out fathers and LGBTQ and adoptive parents. And when you say that women who seek abortions should be punished. And when you refuse to consider supporting equal pay for women.

Your latest ad, in which your daughter, beaming with privilege and pride, says “being a mother is the most important job a woman can have.” didn’t go over so well with us, Mr. Trump.

We are different, us women. We are not a homogenous army of fem-bots. We have different interests, goals and lives. There is more to us than motherhood. Some of us revel in motherhood. Some of us don’t want to have children. And some of us can’t have children. Our status as mothers has nothing to do with our worth. This ad, coupled with your policies show that you are tone deaf to the reality that women face and point to an antiquated attitude. One that keeps women as the caregivers and leaves men out of that equation.

We see you. And we see a man who has no business representing our interests in the Oval Office.

We heard you say no one would vote for Carly Fiorina “because of her face.”

We remember you calling women “a beautiful piece of ass” in Esquire Magazine.

We watch you say one thing, then say the opposite. Then refuse to admit any of it happened. Problem is, we can spot gas lighting from a mile away.

We recall the bit about all women being gold diggers in your memoir.

We cringe and hold our daughters a little closer when we are reminded that you said you’d date your daughter. If only she weren’t your daughter.

We remember when you called a lawyer “disgusting” for requesting a break during a trial to breastfeed.

We roll our eyes when we saw you try to dismiss Megyn Kelly after she had the nerve to ask you questions. At a debate. “Blood coming out of her wherever” was not lost on us. Most of us remember hearing such comments in Middle School.

We are horrified when we learn that you sent a journalist a picture of herself with the word “Dog” scrawled across it.

We seethe with anger when we read your tweet blaming military sexual assault on the fact that women are in the military.

We haven’t forgotten your lurid tweet about Hillary Clinton not being able to “satisfy” her husband.

Not only do you not understand women, you seem to have an awful lot of contempt for them. This is not fitting for a man who wants to be President in the 21st Century.

Which leads me to this:

Make America Great Again.

We know exactly what you meant when you branded yourself with this slogan. It’s not-so-coded language for a time gone by. Your “great” America wasn’t so great for women and minorities and gay people.

We won’t go back.

We won’t be relegated to the kitchen.

We won’t be locked into a life where we have no choice over our bodies or whether we have babies.

We won’t accept your patronizing response to sexual harassment.

We won’t be silenced or demeaned any more.

We won’t be ridiculed for our weight or judged by our appearance.

We won’t be shamed for owning our sexuality.

We have come a long way since your days of when America was “great.”

We have busted our asses to get here and we’re not going back.

We are raising strong daughters who fight back against sexist school dress codes.

We are raising strong sons who aren’t afraid of their feelings and aren’t afraid of strong girls.

We are shutting down catcalling.

We are no longer letting ourselves be interrupted and drowned out in the board room.

We are locking arms with our sisters in solidarity when rapists are given a slap on the wrist.

We are shouting about every day sexism.

We are calling you out, Mr. Trump.

We will not go quietly into any good night. We are loud. We are in your face. And we don’t put up with the kind of bullshit you’re selling.

So maybe this isn’t your time, Mr. Trump. Maybe your time has passed.

Maybe you would have been more suited to the early 1900’s when women did not yet have the right to vote.

When marital rape was still legal.

Or the 1950’s when women largely stayed home and produced children and McCarthyism and blacklisting were acceptable.

Or perhaps 1930’s Germany would have been a better fit for you.

But now? Now is not your time.

We’re moving forward. All of us, smart men and women, have had enough of the tired gender roles. We’ve had enough of you and other weak, fearful men trying to stop progress.

We see you, Mr. Trump.

We see your sexism and your bigotry and your racism. We see right through you.

Remember. We can be bitches.

And bitches get shit done.

Bitches Vote.

See you on November 8, Mr. Trump.

 

*photo source*

evil-little-boy

“Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight.

Carry that weight a long time…”

-The Beatles, Carry That Weight

Boys are getting a bad rap.

They are being reduced to the lowest common denominator.

They are suffering the permissibility of low expectations.

They have no self control. They have violent urges. They have uncontainable sexual tendencies.

Boys will be boys.

What does this oft cited phrase even mean? Does it mean that because they were born with the Y chromosome that they are inherently impulsive and helpless to their own actions? Does it mean that it is natural for them to be more violent, more sexual?

Or is it an excuse trotted out to dismiss unsavory behavior?

Is it an antiquated notion that keeps boys boxed into a hyper-masculine role while putting the burden on girls to keep order and civility intact?

I know a few boys.

I am a sister, a wife, a mother, a daughter. I’ve been blessed with some amazing boys and men in my life. Most of the boys I have known and encountered have been sensitive, intelligent, thoughtful people. Very much in control of their own actions. Yes, I have known some jerks. But they truly are the exception in my life, not the rule.

I love men.

I always have. I grew up having more guy friends than girl friends. I sometimes felt more comfortable and at ease with my guy friends. I love masculine, strong men and I love sensitive, artistic men and I love that these traits aren’t exclusive of each other. I don’t look at men as adversaries. I don’t view them as opposition. I view them as friends, as neighbors, as fellow parents-  as people full of good and sometimes a little bad but mostly just human and trying to do their best.

Let’s stop saying it…

Let’s stop saying “Boys will be boys.” It is said when little boys fight on the play ground. Instead of breaking up the fight and teaching them that there are other ways to problem solve, some people use this phrase as an excuse. Let them get out their anger, let them blow off some steam. It’ll toughen them up. Does this not seem an antiquated notion? Doesn’t it send messages that are hard to undo? Hurt and damage young boys who don’t necessarily enjoy fighting?

Let’s stop using it as an excuse for boys to grope girls. To say demeaning things to girls. Let’s not speak this phrase to imply that boys cannot control their urges around girls. To imply that it’s natural for boys to be misogynistic. It’s not. Misogyny is taught.

Let’s stop saying it when enforcing a dress code that is mostly thrust upon girls. Shorts must be a certain length. Skirts must be a certain length. No spaghetti strap shirts. Why? The reasons I’ve heard all seem to point to a few disturbing notions. Either that little girls will be viewed as too sultry or sexual when wearing shorts or tank tops or that it will put boys in the uncomfortable and impossible position of having to control their sexual urges. They will be too distracted by the show of flesh. So girls are all sultry sirens of the sea luring poor dimwitted boys to jump in the ocean, devoid of any self control?

Let’s stop saying it when men make lewd or inappropriate comments towards women. When men make crude and laviscious cat calls at a woman walking down the street.

And, dear god, let’s stop saying it when a boy sexually assaults a girl.

‘Cause here’s the thing…

Not all boys or men do these things. These are not behaviors inherent in the male species. Not all boys are violent. Not all boys are lustful. Not all boys view girls as objects. Not all boys are distracted by an exposed shoulder or an extra inch of thigh. Not all boys want to demean girls. Not all boys believe that they have rights to a girl’s body and privacy and sense of safety.

I don’t think any boy is born with these tendencies. They will have more testosterone, yes. And surges in testosterone can lead to feelings of anger or sexual urges. (And let’s start admitting that girls have sexual urges too.)  Boys can be taught how to deal with these feelings.  They are beyond animalistic instincts to act without regard to others or themselves. They are more evolved than that. To dismiss bad behavior with “boys will be boys” implies they have no control. It implies that they are subject to their worst impulses.

It is insulting.

The line of thinking that goes along with the “boys will be boys” mentality is an insult to boys. It is just as insulting as assuming that women are uncontrollably emotional and irrational because their bodies produce more estrogen. It only teaches boys that not only is bad behavior ok, it is expected of them. That it is evidence of masculinity. This is ridiculous. You know what’s masculine? Being honest about your feelings, showing emotion. Being respectful of others. Honoring other’s rights and needs. Understanding those around you.

I believe in setting high expectations, not shrugging away boorishness.

I believe that most boys don’t want to have to fight on the playground.

I believe that boys are completely capable of self control.

I believe my son doesn’t need to “prove” his masculinity any more than my daughters need to “prove” their femininity.

I believe that boys are capable of functioning around girls, even scantily clad girls, without succumbing to hormonal fueled hysteria.

I believe that if we stop dismissing behaviors and excusing them and expecting them, that we will raise strong, masculine men who respect themselves. Who respect women. Who want to be productive and not destructive. I believe that we can raise boys who won’t grow up to grope women. To make insulting cat calls. Who won’t say misogynistic things to women, to female senators. Who won’t assume rights or ownership to a woman’s body. I know it’s possible. I know many of these men. Many of whom grew up to be great men in spite of society’s banal accommodation of “boys will be boys.”

So let’s give boys some credit. Let’s assume they are capable of the best. Let’s expect more and in doing so imply that we know that they are more than able to do more. Let’s allow them to be who they are, not what society deems as masculine.

And once and for all, let’s stop saying “Boys will be boys.”

 

 bodqhc2ciaawthw_19o506m-19o506t

“Where you born to resist, or be abused?

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?”

-Foo Fighters, Best of You

Saturday was a fun day. We spent the evening at friend’s house. The kids laughing and playing in the pool while we enjoyed good food, great conversation and more than a few drinks. We all came pouring in the door full of energy and laughter. We shuffled the kids upstairs to get ready for bed. I paused for a minute to soak up the moment. My family. All of us smiling, happy. I was still reflecting on the fun evening whenI grabbed my phone. I popped on to Twitter for a quick peek to see if there was anything of interest happening.

#YesAllWomen. That’s what was happening.

I stopped my distracted cleaning that I had been doing while reading tweets. I had to sit. It was everywhere. Women tweeting. Tweeting in response to the shooting in Santa Barbara. Tweeting about their experiences.

All the things that have been said and done or implied that reminded them that they are less.

Less important.

Less valued.

Less worthy.

Less powerful.

I was taken aback. I felt overwhelmed. I felt tears burn at the edges of my eyes. I felt sick to my stomach. I felt too connected to what these women were saying. I could relate. I knew what they meant. I had experienced so much of what they were discussing. The every day misogyny. It’s not the stuff of news stories or even blog posts. Usually. It’s the stuff that I have brushed off my whole life. The things that I have learned to expect and to accept. And I don’t know if I ever truly realized it until reading these tweets.

I am no stranger to women’s issues, to feminist causes. I have written about it many times on this blog.

I’ve written about rape, the need for Feminism, on-line misogyny, and sometimes just your basic rant against Feminist deniers.

I participate in a wonderful and enlightening #FeministFriday discussion every Friday with some smart and engaged blogger friends. I obviously am very passionate about these topics. But it did not occur to me that I had spent most of my life minimizing and diluting the very thing I was writing so vehemently about.

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 8.08.46 AM

I think it went like this:

  • In Kindergarten a boy pulled my pants down. It was nap time aka time for the teachers to watch their soaps. I had scooted away from him and he got mad and grabbed ahold of my pants as I army-crawled to a different spot. I pulled my pants up quickly. The teachers were engrossed in their show. No one saw. Out of embarrassment I said nothing.
  • Boys at school would occasionally grab and grope me in the hallway. I said nothing. It happened to my friends too. We would just roll our eyes and shrug our shoulders. If the offending boy hadn’t darted off we would maybe offer a quick punch to send him a message. But we didn’t make a big deal out of it. It was just what happened. It was normal.
  • During my teen years, it came from adults. Strangers. And I was still a kid. A teenage girl, whether she has breasts or looks mature, is still just a kid. These men had no problem flirting with a cashier who was 20 years younger than them. These men saw nothing wrong with saying lewd things passing me in a parking lot. These men would make obscene gestures at a stoplight. These men thought that a young girl was an appropriate outlet for their sick and twisted and perverted impulses. But I brushed these creepy encounters off. It was normal.
  • On the first day of college we had a meeting in the dorm. A meeting about campus safety. About how to not get raped. Don’t walk on campus alone at night. Don’t drink too much at a party. Don’t go back to a guy’s room. Don’t lead a guy on. But never, not once, did we hear: Don’t rape. They definitely said “No means no.” But this phrase was such a sing-songy vague campaign, in the vein of “Just Say No To Drugs” as far as effectiveness. Repeated so oft it becomes white noise. What would have been impactful was a simple rule book. With one rule. Don’t rape. Instead we all heard “Don’t get raped.” We got the message. The onus was on us to not get raped. We didn’t flinch or question. We’d heard all of it before. It was normal.

I left college unscathed by the horror that too many girls face. I realize, only now, just how lucky I was to have breezed through four years without being violated.

Still, this shit happened:

  • I couldn’t wash my car for an entire summer in my parent’s driveway because the construction workers building the house next door would make disgusting comments.
  • I got my ass grabbed too many times to count by my boss at the restaurant where I worked.
  • I had to fend off a kiss by my boss with a punch in the stomach.
  • I worried when my boss’s started drinking before the end of the shift if this time they would try to take it further than an ass-grab or a kiss.
  • I had to politely, with a smile, derail come-ons by drunk older men at the bar where I worked.
  • I learned to expect that I would get groped at some point at every single concert I went to, at every crowded bar I frequented. Almost every time I would turn around to try to confront the offender, only to see a crowd entangled, trying to edge closer to the stage and/or bar.

And even now, as a grown woman, this shit STILL happens:

  • I stopped by the house we were building to check on something. I got in my car to leave and turned to look at the house from the road, only to see one of the construction workers making very large, dramatic, jerk-off motions in the window. Directed at me. I was stunned and he stopped as soon as he saw me looking. I drove away considering my options. I could call the builder and tell them. But what if they fired him? What if he has four kids and is struggling to put food on the table? Yes, he’s a misogynistic asshole, but I couldn’t bear the thought of someone being out of work because of me. So I said nothing.
  • Condescension. Too many times to count. The baseball coach who said “And try not to be late next time” when I inquired about an upcoming game. I bit my tongue. I wasted my opportunity to school him in how to speak to a woman, to a person. I didn’t take a moment to let him know that the only reason we were late to practice was because my daughter’s piano lesson ended at the same time that baseball practice started and since my husband travels during the week that I have to do it all and be all places at all times and get all of my kids where they need to be and that I have been all over town in a frantic rush just trying to make it all work. All so he can stand there and smack his obnoxious gum and talk to me like I’m his child. And I knew, beyond any doubt, that if it had been my husband who had been standing there instead of me that he would never have said it. Because no one has EVER talked to my husband that way. But I said nothing. Because my kids were standing right there. Because my son still had a whole season of playing on this dickwad’s team and I didn’t want him to ride the bench because of me. So I said nothing.
  • My husband and I tried to have a drink a our neighborhood martini bar. We sat and watched middle aged men ogle the young waitresses. Girls young enough to be their daughters. The two waitresses stood off to the side, their arms awkwardly hanging in front of their bodies, trying to cover themselves from the creeptitude. My husband I sat and watched, disgusted, as the waitresses timidly walked to the tables where these men sat on their fat asses, leering with such entitled lust and righteousness. I wanted to say something. I wanted to scream at these men to keep their metaphorical dicks in their pants. I wanted to get right in their foul smelling faces and demand to know what gave them the right to make a young girl feel that way. I wanted to walk up to the owner of the bar who was walking around chatting it up with patrons, and knee him in the gut and then explain to him how to treat his employees and how to demand his customers treat them. I wanted to take these girls home with me and wrap a comforting blanket around them and feed them some homemade soup. I wanted to tell them that no one would ever look at them that way again. But I would be lying. And I didn’t do any of that. My husband and I sucked down our sickeningly sweet martinis and paid the bill and left, vowing to never give that bar another dime. I said nothing. Even though I really wanted to.

Enough of that shit.

I’m tired of saying nothing. I’m tired of minimizing the everyday bullshit that happens to every girl and every woman everywhere. To me. To my friends. To those waitresses. I spent my life shrugging it off. I laughed it off. And even when I wasn’t shrugging or laughing, even when I was angry, I said nothing. But then I started this blog. And I started saying something. And then I met some pretty awesome bloggers who care about the same things. And together we started saying something. And then I read these tweets and I saw women, all of them saying something.

And I’m going to keep saying something.

I won’t shut up.

I will say something when I see politicians minimizing rape with qualifications.

I will say something when girls are video taped being raped.

I will say something as long as female genital mutilation continues.

I will say something as long as women are subjugated and demeaned and dismissed.

I will keep saying something.

You won’t be able to shut me up.

I’m hoping you won’t try.

I’m hoping you’ll say something too.

 

What are your thoughts on #YesAllWomen? What kinds of everyday misogyny have you experienced? Do you think a social media movement like #YesAllWomen is helpful/ enlightening/ productive? Talk to me…

 

 

rape0-2

“Me and a gun
and a man
On my back
But I haven’t seen Barbados
So I must get out of this
Yes I wore a slinky red thing
Does that mean I should spread
For you, your friends your father, Mr. Ed”

-Tori Amos, Me and A Gun

My daughter had this funny thing she did when she was a baby. She would do something she knew was “wrong” (throwing her sippy cup to the ground, throwing a toy) and when we would respond with a firm “No, no,” she would cover her eyes. She thought, in her adorable baby brain, that if she covered her eyes and couldn’t see the spilled milk on the floor, then it didn’t exist. My husband and I would laugh every time she did this. We marveled at the simple naiveté of a small child. We thought it was precious.

But you know what’s not precious? When adults do it. When we do it. When society does it. When we do it about something more serious than spilling milk, it’s not cute at all.

I would like you to complete a short, simple mental exercise. Imagine 5 young women or young girls that you know. Picture each of them. Now, with that mental picture in your head, consider that one of those girls will be the victim of rape. Horrifying, right?

It’s horrifying and shameful and appalling…

It’s also reality.

This is a reality in our country. I know that this is not something any of us want to consider. Who wants to look at our young girls and imagine those kind of odds, that kind of future for them? But not thinking about it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Sticking our head in the sand doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s also dangerous.

Is this the way we are choosing to operate in our country? Apparently so.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 5 women will be raped at some time in their lives. An estimated 80% of those rapes occur before the age of 25.

And we call ourselves a civilized society?

We are lying to ourselves. We’re covering our ears and our eyes and pretending like we don’t see what’s happening all around us.

The world in which we live is oozing rape culture like a festering wound.

Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.  Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.

-Marshall University Women’s Center

There’s no disputing the misogyny present in our music, our television, our movies, our advertisements.

bksevenincher

It’s the accepted degradation of half of our population. Sexualizing women, sexualizing girls. Even taking images of young girls in literature/movies and creating “sexy” halloween costumes. So, now we have women dressing up as “sexy children”???

Violence marketed towards boys/men. The vernacular that plays out on talk radio and from politicians. The demeaning of feminism (“feminazi”- ’nuff said.) Women portrayed as hypersexualized while men stand by and look on in their fancy suits…

I have no problem with women expressing their sexuality. I think we all should embrace that part of ourselves. We should own it, nurture it, love it. We shouldn’t be ashamed of it. But I can’t help but notice the obvious disparities in our media. It is this incongruence that is troubling. And it’s just one small piece of a much larger rancid pie.

We have radio talk show hosts calling women sluts for wanting birth control pills. (Because, you know, women have sex in a vacuum. Men are not even in the equation.) We have politicians talking about ‘legitimate rape” and “forcible rape.” We have girls being raped while drunk at a party in front of a group of boys, boys recording the assault and posting it to social media to further the pain and humiliation of the victim. We have news outlets that do this:

10

We have “slut shaming.”

e0778d6adf06e0209deeb40460ca2cf2

This week a wealthy DuPont heir was sentenced to probation for raping his 3 year old daughter. The judge said he “wouldn’t fare well in prison”. Last year a 56 year old teacher was sentenced to 30 days for raping a 14 year old girl. The judge said that she was “older than her chronological age” and that she was “as much in control”. The girl committed suicide before the case even went to court. In 2013 an Alabama man was found guilty of rape and sentenced to counseling and probation. For raping his teen neighbor on three separate occasions. These are just a few examples. A quick Google search for short rape sentences turns up a stomach turning number of articles chronicling similar sentencing.

Rape culture exists is alive and well in our courts.

Obviously it’s not just video games and popular music and movies and tv shows that contribute to the rape culture that is permeating our society. We are absorbing this from every place.

We see it every time a politician makes dismissive comments regarding violence against women.

We see it every time there’s another slap on the wrist for rape.

We see it when every time a rape victim’s sobriety, purity and behavior is all called into question.

We see it every time a woman is shamed for being sexual, for embracing her sexuality.

We see it every time a girl is told to cover up at school becuase her legs/shoulders/cleavage are too distracting.

We see it every time a young boy lashes out at his female classmate and we utter the phrase, “boys will be boys.”

We see it every time bros are whining over being “friend-zoned.”

We see it every time a girl’s rape is passed around on social media for entertainment and ridicule.

These things matter.

These things seep into our subconscious. The reinforce an ancient narrative. One of control, of power, of objectification.

Rape culture. It’s not just feminist speak. It’s not just political correctness run amok. Look around you. It’s every where.

We need to recognize it. Get used to calling it out. Get used to talking about it.

We need to stop looking past it, pretending not to notice. We need to take our hands off of our eyes and stare it straight in the face. We need to understand that to ignore it is to ignore a sickness that affects us all. That to ignore it is to ignore the ripped psyche of every  girl or woman who is assaulted, raped or shamed. The longer we deny this exists, the more it will persist.

Ignoring it will only bring us more. More “Not Guilty” verdicts. More short sentences for rape. More victim shaming.

More rape.

America, this is your rape culture.

Screen-Shot-2014-01-20-at-4.26.03-PM

“Stand up like a man, You better learn to shake hands, You better look me in the eye now, Treat me like your mother.  Come on look me in the eye, You wanna try to tell a lie?  You can’t, you know why?  I’m dressed like your mother.”

-The Dead Weather, Treat Me Like Your Mother

When women are being called names, something’s not right.  When women are being harassed, something’s wrong.  When women are being threatened with rape and death, something’s got to change.  Right?  Most of us can agree on that.  But what if these things are happening online?  Is the fallout any different because the words showed up on a screen rather than in the mailbox or on a voicemail?  Is the emotional toll and the fear any less because it was done electronically?  Does the vehicle by which a threat was issued even matter?  Is a threat not a threat?

Journalist Amanda Hess wrote an article titled,“Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet”.  She goes into great detail about the vile comments she has received over the years.  She has an active presence online as a writer and has endured angry rants, threats of rape and threats of death.  She has had one individual in particular stalk her online.

Lauren Mayberry of the indie band Chvrches wrote an op-ed that appeared in The Guardian.  She wanted to shed light on the misogyny that she has been subjected to on-line.  Her band gained notoriety and acclaim after posting some of their songs on a music blog.  The internet has been a crucial part of their success.  For this reason they find it important to keep communication going between their fans online.  Among the gushing fan postings were some hostile comments.  Name calling.  Threats of rape.  Details of lewd acts.

These two women are not alone.  They unfortunately are in good company.  There are writers, singers, actors, business women, students, executives, and kids who have all experienced the same thing.  They are mostly women.  And they are considered targets by some simply because they have the audacity to log on to the internet.  They are told to shrug it off, laugh it off, don’t engage, move on.  In other words, suck it up.   Good girls stay quiet, don’t make a fuss.  Just smile and don’t make anyone uncomfortable.  It’s a response that women have heard for ages.  Don’t make a fuss about voting, just try to sweetly influence your husband’s vote.  Don’t complain about your boss grabbing your ass, just be grateful you have a job.  Don’t bother reporting that rape, everyone will just think that you did something to encourage it.

There has been talk of taking the anonymity out of sites like Twitter.  Sure.  Being anonymous makes it easier for these perpetrators to be more brazen.  There have been questions asked concerning who should be tasked with investigating these threats….  the police?  The companies that own these websites like Twitter, Facebook and AskFM?  Sure.  An avenue for women to report these assaults could give them a way to fight back.  While these things could be helpful, they are merely the tourniquet on a bleeding wound.  The only way to truly change the dynamic that is festering online is to find the source of the bleeding.

Where is all of this coming from?  Is it the continual and persistent objectification of women in all parts of the media?  Is it the rampant disregard for other’s feelings?  Is it a culture that views women as easy targets, the weaker sex? All of the above?

More than ever before, women are portrayed in a sexualized way.  Pop singers wear less and dance like someone should be throwing dollar bills at them.  Magazine covers show more skin, more suggestive poses, more sensuality in general.  And don’t even get me started on music videos, especially hip hop videos.  I am not opposed to someone expressing their more sensual side, but it does seem that it has become the norm, the expected.  Boys see this.  Girls see this.  At a young age they absorb all of this.  It plays into their perception of things, of people.  They don’t see men being represented in the same way.  They don’t see George Clooney draped in a bed sheet.  They don’t see Jay Z with his ass sticking out and a pouty look on his face.  They don’t see male celebrities portrayed in a come-hither-I’ve been a bad boy-don’t you want me kind of way.  When men show skin it is usually done with a very macho tough-guy feel.  They pick up on this, the kids.  They see women being treated and portrayed differently in the media.  It seeps into their subconscious and sometimes may result in them seeing women as commodities.  Not living, breathing, feeling, real people.

Then there’s the lack of empathy.  Recent studies have shown a decline in empathy in our youth.  This disturbing trend is not just some factoid for psychologists and behavioral specialists to be concerned with.  We should all be worried.  As parents, it’s our job to teach these skills to our children.  I believe it is the most important thing we teach them.  Socialize them at a young age.  Set an example of compassion.  Talk to your children about social issues that demonstrate the need for caring and understanding.  If kids don’t learn these lessons, they may be more likely to bully.  They could see a sexual assault of a drunk girl at a party and take a video of it instead of trying to stop the crime.  They may be the person who sees such a video and posts it to social media.  Without any apparent remorse or concern for the victim.  These kids will laugh.  They will ridicule .  They obviously don’t view the girl who has been violated as a living, breathing, feeling, real person.

There’s the detachment that is part of the online world.  Typing a message on Twitter is a little easier to do than screaming it in the person’s face.  Harassing someone on Facebook takes a little less nerve than doing it in person.  Behind the  keyboard, a person is likely to feel more bold.  Some people feel that the lack of physicality gives them a license to be a little meaner, a little more cruel, a little more threatening.  They are able to act out from the safety of their home, they can say things they may never say in person.  The scary fact that for the person on the receiving end of these kinds of messages is that they have no way of knowing when or if the perpetrator is going to take it to the next level.

Does it matter that these threats are online?  No.  The threat is no less real.  The only difference is it is easier to hurl a lewd comment or convey violent intentions over the internet.  It takes less effort than the more traditional means of harassment or stalking.     But the result is the same.  A woman is belittled.  A girl is shamed.  Their safety is threatened.  They feel violated.

The world we live in has changed dramatically over the last 20 years.  The internet is an integral part of all of our lives.  It is a part of our work, our education, our entertainment, our socializing.  We have more access to more information.  We can reach more people with a keystroke.  While all of this access to information and people affords us all kinds of benefits, we can’t ignore the risks.  We can’t enjoy the fruits of the digital world and turn a blind eye to the uglier side of what is taking place.  Social media has become a way for journalists and artists and business people to promote their craft. But it has also become a breeding ground for abuse.

It’s time for us to come to a collective reckoning.  These things need to be addressed, scrutinized, understood.  We need to understand that the person we see on the computer, tablet or phone screen is a real person.  A living, breathing, feeling, real person.  They are not a character in a video game.  They are not a “virtual” anything.  They are women, they are girls.  They are Amanda Hess and Lauren Mayberry.  They are your mother, your sister, your friend, your daughter.  And they deserve to be treated as such.  They are trying to bring this issue to light, they are starting the conversation.  It’s our job to continue it.