Sunday, May 25, 2014

This Is My Fight

After the UCSB shootings, the Twitter blew up with two hashtags - #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen. I am not here to talk about the man who did these shootings, in my opinion he is so clearly a sick, unhappy individual, completely deluded and not worth mentioning even his name here. What I do want to talk about is the importance of #YesAllWomen and the irony of #NotAllMen.

We live, and have always lived, in a time where the oppression against women is treated like a myth. As if women have fabricated statistics and staged scenarios to support their claims of inequality. Even worse, when women gather to talk about the times they have felt afraid, judged, held back and discriminated there is always backlash, always someone disagreeing with what is being said, demeaning it and misconstruing it as man-bashing. Women who are brave enough to speak out about their experiences are often mistreated for doing so. Eventually, it all comes down to name calling and the word feminist is bandied about with a sneer as if it's something dirty. 

How do I know? Because when you type in 'feminists are' into any search engine on the worldwide web, you get results like this: 

Yet, if you ask people 'do you think women should be treated equal?' most will answer yes. Ask those same people, if they are feminists, they will cringe, recoil, pull back and shake their heads. There is such a hatred towards feminism and I can only surmise it's because a lot of ignorant people don't have a clue what it truly is. Summed up simply, you are a feminist if you support women and their right to be treated equal. That being said, if you are going to call yourself a feminist and speak out about the inequality women suffer, be prepared for ridicule and resentment. Be ready for a fight and to be called a man hater, sexist and have terms like Feminazi thrown at you. 

The point of the 'yes all women' hashtag was not to hate on men, but to shed light on the horrible truths women live with everyday. Instead of listening to what was being said, which basically came down to women sharing their fears and desire for change, there was a surge of defensiveness (from men and women alike). The retaliatory 'not all men' response is simply proof of our society's urge to keep women as the second sex. When there should only be empathy, sympathy, and love shown towards women, why was the spotlight being tipped back to men?

It is something done unintentionally, I think, but it doesn't change the fact that whenever something 'pro-female' is said or done, someone is there asking how men feel about it. Often, the male opinions are then pushed to the forefront and women once again fall to the background. So, maybe it's time to show the fear women live with through the eyes of men. Last night I was talking to my Sidekick about being a modern women and, how despite the fact that I can vote and work and go to school, there is still such an overwhelming abundance of discrimination, like worrying about getting in trouble if I'm not pretty enough for work. How women themselves perpetuate these unrealistic expectations, especially on physical appearances, and how out of place I often feel in my everyday life. On top of that, I have this defeating fear that something bad is going to happen to me. Even though I am capable, intelligent, and independent, I worry about getting myself into situations I can't get myself out of.

The Sidekick, a kind, loving, generous man, kind of balked at what I said, as if my fear was irrational. So then, I rephrased it. "How would you feel if I was walking home at two in the morning by myself?"

Worried was the resounding emotion. And I wouldn't be walking home late at night by myself because he'd come and pick me up. Interesting, right? Where is his fear coming from? Is he worried about women attacking me? Bears? Alien abductions? I don't think so. Further more, I don't drink and I certainly don't dress provocatively, but this still didn't make me less of a target in his mind, or in my own. That being said, if I did drink, or wear a short skirt and low cut blouse, I should still be able to walk home safely, and to not be judged on my appearance if something did happen. No women is ever 'asking for it'. 

So, yeah, men fear for us. They fear their own gender when it comes to their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, and female friends. Does this not serve as validation to what women have been saying for years? And isn't it infuriating that it's almost as if the world needs to hear it from men before they believe it to be true? Well, that's oppression my friends, and it is rooted so deep and so common we don't even realize it's inside us and all around.

I live my life as I please and refuse to let anyone dictate what I can wear and when I can go out. Still, when I am walking late at night and I see a group of men, there is a voice in the back of my head reminding me of all the things I've been taught:

It isn't safe to go out at night. Always have a friend with you. Carry your keys between your fingers so you can do optimal damage. Always check your backseat before getting in the car. Watch your drink. Keep your head up, back straight. Look like you know where you're going. Don't walk down any alleys. Avoid driving in bad neighbourhoods. Lock your door as soon as you get in. If a big van is parked next to you, get in on the opposite side of it. Take the elevator instead of the stairs. Scream 'fire' not 'help'. Date a fireman, he will keep you safe!

These are actually pieces of advice I have received, from being a kid, to a teenager, into my twenties. The general vibe is that I need to be careful. It makes me wonder if this is really living? To be this afraid? To have these precautions the norm?  For the only way for me to feel safe is to have a big, burly man in bed next to me, someone who can protect me.

We understand that 'not all men' are abusive, misogynistic, oppressive jerks. It doesn't even have to be said. It's common sense. We know there are so many amazing men out there, men who want to help, who want women to be equal, but there are far more women who are afraid, alone, and need help. Every single woman I know has been on the receiving end of unwanted attention. Every single woman I know has felt that fist around her heart when she finds herself confronted by an unsafe situation. Every single woman knows what it is like to be second. Like me, every women I know has experienced sexism. 

This is why 'yes all women' is important. There is a struggle here. A fight. The battle of a fear that runs so deep it's considered normal. This is my fight because I lock my doors when I get in my car and I think twice about going for a run at night. This is my fight because I want my sisters and friends to be safe. This is my fight because I am horrified that spurning a man's advances could result is women dying.

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