Sunday, June 1, 2014

Thoughts On #yesallwomen

Image provided by Unsplash ( and edited by me.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to write this post or not.  I struggled with it for a while because I didn't know exactly what I wanted to say.

It's an important topic and, as a female blogger, I felt like I probably should comment on it.  But since it is an important topic, I wanted to make sure I said something meaningful.  Hopefully I can.

If you're reading this, I'm sure you've probably heard about #yesallwomen, the Twitter movement that inspired users to share examples of what all women must fear simply because they are women.  The movement itself was brought on by Elliot Rodger's killing spree in California, which he blamed on the "cruelness of women" in the manifesto he left behind.

If you've been reading my blog, you might remember that I'm not a fan of Twitter.  I do, however, think this movement was a great idea because it has inspired both women and men to share their thoughts on and experiences with misogyny, gender-based harassment, and sexual assault.  And while there needs to be more action and less talk when it comes to things like this, opening up and addressing the issue is an important step.

While it's true that not all men are terrible monsters, it's also true that enough of them are ... Enough to make many women fear for their safety (or even their lives) when they have to take public transportation at night or worry that they'll be victims of date rape if they have a few drinks and/or wear something that's "too sexy."

Let me tell you something ... I used to dress a little sexier from time to time.  I'm pretty sure the last time I wore something more revealing (and, to be honest, it wasn't even that revealing ... It just showcased my cleavage) was on New Year's Eve 2005.  I remember this clearly because I was going to a party with a couple of friends and wanted to look cute.  When I went to the party, one of the first guys I spoke to started referring to me as "Boobs."  I remember saying to him, "You know, I do have a name ... And it's not Boobs."  And you know what?  He just laughed.

I have big boobs.  There, I said it.  I find them to be more of an annoyance than anything (especially when I'm working out or trying to find a dress that will actually fit my waist and hips without squeezing the shit out of my chest), but they're what I have to work with.  Unfortunately because of that night (and because of the hundreds of other comments I've heard about them over the years), I often feel like I need to "cover up" to avoid those types of comments.

Although I typically don't wear very revealing clothing anyway, the point here is that I should be able to wear whatever I want without fear of receiving unwanted attention.  All women should.  I've read that some men are offended by these types of statements because they make men seem like crazed animals incapable of controlling their urges.  The thing is, not all guys are like that ... But, as I said before, enough of them are.  Enough to make me think twice before wearing a top that gives even a glimpse of cleavage.  And that's completely fucked up.

To bring this point home, I'm going to share a story from my senior year of college.  I was a member of the leadership program at my university.  A large part of this program included giving guidance and information to incoming freshmen and transfer students during orientation.  We performed a lot of skits during that time in order to give information in a more fun/interesting way, and one of those skits was known simply as "The Date Rape Skit."  My senior year I was chosen to play the girl in the skit.  (And as someone who used to act in high school plays and who has always secretly-not-so-secretly dreamt of being a professional actress, I was excited to play the part.)

The whole point of the skit was to show how easily things can happen.  It wasn't an anti-men message.  It wasn't an anti-alcohol message.  It wasn't telling young women not to wear "revealing" clothing.  It was simply a way to illustrate the importance of being vocal about what's okay and what's not okay, whether you've had one drink or seven, whether you know and trust the person you're with or have just met one another.

So I dressed the part of a young college girl trying to look cute for a date to a party with a guy she really liked.  I wore a short skirt and a low cut top and fixed my hair and makeup.  One of the guy's lines in the skit even referred to the fact that he thought she was "sending him signals that she was ready" because of the way she was dressed.  So I went with it.

We gave several performances, and during most of them the audience was so quiet you could literally hear a pin drop.

Then, during one of the final performances, a male student shouted from the audience, "She's obviously asking for it!" right after my male co-star and I gave our monologues detailing the events of that night.

This kid was probably 18 years old, right out of high school.  It was probably his first time away from his parents.  He was probably trying to look "cool" in front of his new friends.  But that comment?  Total bullshit.  I was pissed, and so was every other member of the leadership team.  Our leader, a faculty member at our school, was literally in tears backstage because she was so disturbed that someone would think it was okay to make a comment like that.  Because that kid missed the fucking point.

It was awful, and I will never forget going back onstage with the rest of the team (and our leader) and just talking to the audience about the comment.  We pointed out that the idea of the skit was to show that date rape can happen to anyone, and that the rapist isn't always some random scary guy ... It could just as easily be a guy the girl knows and feels comfortable with.  We also explained that a woman should never be made to feel like she couldn't or shouldn't dress a certain way or have a few drinks at a party if she wants to ... That in doing this, she's not saying "I want to have sex tonight."

I realize that experience pales in comparison to some of the things other women have dealt with, but it's one of the best examples I have of personal encounters with misogyny and gender-based harassment.  Like I said, that kid probably just wanted to look "cool" and doesn't actually hate women ... But you never know.  And the fact that someone I would be going to school with might actually feel like he was entitled to touch or even rape a woman simply because she was dressed a certain way and had a few too many drinks at a party was fucking terrifying.  I lived on campus and often walked back to my dorm alone after dark, so it made me start to question how safe it actually was to do this.

#yesallwomen: Because I constantly have to be aware of my surroundings and look over my shoulder if I'm walking alone whether it be day or night.

#yesallwomen: Because if I wear a top that's even remotely revealing, I'm suddenly less of a person ... Just a sexual object that doesn't even deserve a real name.

#yesallwomen: Because sexual assault victims are too often made to feel as though it's their fault ... Their fault for dressing a certain way, having too much to drink, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Newsflash: nobody wants to be sexually assaulted.  Nobody.

#yesallwomen: Because they don't offer a don't rape/sexually assault/harass/beat women class for men, I took a women's self defense class in college to learn how to protect myself.

#yesallwomen: Because if a woman takes time on her appearance it means she's "asking for it."  No, she isn't.  She just wants to look nice and feel good about herself.

#yesallwomen: Because saying "You're just flattering yourself" when a woman speaks out against harassment of any kind is complete bullshit.

#yesallwomen: Because "feminism" isn't a dirty word.

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