My last post was a tough one to put out there. It required a whole bunch of “It’s okay if people hate you” thoughts to finally push the Publish button. Sometimes writing and publishing on the internet is like that. It’s free and easy, but the world can read your innermost thoughts in one click. Self doubt is a master of disaster in all creative endeavors, but nothing quite kicks your confidence’s ass like writing about a controversial subject that has a very personal twist.
The response was overwhelming.
My article went viral on Facebook (WTF!) and the emails, comments and messages started pouring in. Fellow bloggers are writing about their experiences while others are sharing the message.
It was a homogenous message from the internet world: this is happening. To everyone. Everywhere. From offers to take me to the shooting range and let off some steam to sharing personal stories of rape and assault, people were really letting me know that I wasn’t alone in this.
People I hadn’t heard from in over a decade reached out, people I’ve never met found their way to my story, we all connected over the same goal: to make the world a safer place for women.
As much as it felt wonderful to know that so many were with me on this- my real questions still remain:
why do we all have so many stories?
How is it that everyone who wrote me has such jarring and personal accounts of sexual assault?
Is it really this pervasive?
Social Media Strikes against Sexism
A while back there as a wonderful Twitter campaign called #YesAllWomen. The campaign featured stories of misogyny and violence against women and was spurred on by the Isla Vista killings in 2014 and a campaign called #NotAllMen. #NotAllMen focused on the fact that Not All Men were misogynistic, agreed with patriarchy or committed crimes against women. While I love that sentiment, I feel that the #YesAllWomen grassroots campaign was more powerful, for it focused on the fact that every woman is impacted by these issues, regardless of the caliber of men in their lives.
We can all agree that no, not all men are purveyors of misogyny. I have many a wonderful man in my life, from my family members, to my partner, to my favorite men on the planet: my surfing buddies. The pervasive take away from the campaign is that every woman, every day, faces sexism. Time Magazine put together a list of the most powerful tweets using the hashtag.
“I have a boyfriend” is the easiest way to get a man to leave you alone. Because he respects another man more than you. #yesallwomen
In college, a police officer told us to scream FIRE if we were in danger of being assaulted otherwise people won’t get involved #YesAllWomen
Girls grow up knowing that it’s safer to give a fake phone number than to turn a guy down. #yesallwomen
These quotes and tweets bring about a familiar double standard that I’ve spoken about before: we as women are taught to avoid violence, to avoid rape, to be responsible for the potential assault. The responsibility lies in us all, women and men, to educate, to teach, to reach out. The more we speak, the louder we become, the more out message infiltrates the center of the problem.
Our voices are our most powerful tools. The way we use language impacts our beliefs, impacts our experiences, impacts our thoughts. Instead of teaching women to avoid rape in the way they act, dress, and interact with men… how about we teach men to ask before taking and respect the answer given.
Stepping away from the culture of blame.
Next time you read, hear, speak about someone who was raped, sexually assaulted or violated… watch your words. See how you speak about the victim and the assailant. So many times I have heard someone mutter the sentence “The poor guy, his life is ruined because she accused him of rape.” There have been cases in the U.S. where entire communities have rallied around the accused rapist, not the victim. This is blows my mind. What if the same thing happened with thieves? Or arsonists? Or murderers? Where entire communities lamented the perpetrator and not the victim? I could go on about this for days, but I’d rather have you all stick around.
Now, I will not make light of the repercussions on a man’s life if he is accused and/or found guilty. However, the negligence and inability to see that being raped, or being almost raped, or having your body used in ways you do not wish: that is what ruins lives. It ruins a woman’s relationship with her body, her friends, her family, her lovers’.
I do not ask us all to fall into the role of a victim. Please, do not allow Victim to be your primary mode of life. It is no way to live. There is a way to deal with assault, to take back your life, to take back your personal power.
And for all of you who reached out, shared my story, shared their own, my gratitude is endless. It’s all too familiar a story line, there are too many people with occurrences like mine. Maybe if we talk more, speak up more, we can illuminate the situation for others who haven’t opened their mouths yet.
And for the men who do the hurting, if they realize that it could be their sister, their daughter, their lover, their mother, their friend… maybe they would stop, too.