Yes, All of Us

So I don’t live completely under a rock anymore, and this weekend there was a whole lotta buzz about the #YesAllWomen hashtag on various social networks in response to the Santa Barbara killings.

And of course I thought about it.

Quite frankly I disagree with the person who posted, “I hate people who ‘don’t believe in feminism but in equality’ because feminism IS equality you ignorant snot.” (Paraphrase.) No, it is not. The construction of the word feminism implies an effort to advance the causes of women. Equality is for the balancing of the causes of all. Which means, in addition to equal pay for women and emphasizing the importance of sexual consent, that we make an effort to encourage men to go to college. Those numbers are falling. Most colleges across the US are 51-49 women-men. Some margins are steeper. That is not equality. And it is not okay. But it is a soapbox. (Also just let me point out that I frankly do think “equal pay for women” is bullshit; the pay should be equal to the worth of your work: thereby eliminating any need for your employer to look at your race, gender or anything else.)

But onto what I was actually going to say.

From what I gathered from the People magazine article (pardon my scholarly sources), the Santa Barbara killer was very vehement about his lack of attention from girls, and that is what inspired him to go shoot a bunch of them. Which is unfortunate, sad and very, very wrong, for a lot of reasons. For one, it shows that he never learned to accept people. Two, it shows that no one ever told him, as John Green says, “There will be people in your life who will not want to kiss you.” Three, it shows that he thought that meant there was something wrong with them. Four, it shows that he may also have thought it meant there was something wrong with him, which is also never the truth. I don’t mean to make it sound like he was just a misguided kid, but he was misguided. It is no one else’s fault that he acted on it, however. Five, this is what Ted Bundy did. A girl broke up with him, and the majority of his subsequent victims had hair styled the same way hers was. If your MO follows Ted Bundy’s at all, you may have a problem.

Then the People article listed a handful of the #YesAllWomen posts. I’m not going to cite the authors of these posts, but I am going to pick them apart to see what I can figure out about the meaning of #YesAllWomen. If you want to know who said what, the article is here: http://www.people.com/article/yes-all-women-hashtag-movement-santa-barbara-shooting

“Not ALL men harass women. But ALL women have at some point been harassed by men.”

Hm. I can’t think of a way to disprove this. I would like to point out that this probably depends on your definition of harassment, which might vary depending on the woman receiving it – and the man from whom she is receiving it. I am a good example of this. I had a boyfriend once, long ago (wink), and though I am pretty sure no one ever said, “I want to have sex with you,” there were the expressions of intense desire in that relationship. I never had sex with said boyfriend, and I did not feel harassed by him. Yet a month ago when a high school friend sends me a text (in the middle of a conversation; not out of the blue) which says that he would like to have intimate relations until neither of us could walk correctly (I’m editing his grammar), I was distinctly uncomfortable. Taken together, these two boys did the same thing: they expressed intense sexual desire. Why was it different? Because of the person to whom I was talking. The boyfriend was someone I had been around for eight hours a day for months by the time our relationship got to that point. I was comfortable with him. The high school booty text was not someone I was comfortable with (smoked too much weed and hardly bothered to talk to me in person). Does the definition of harassment depend on the person receiving/giving it? I would say it does.

And, for the record, though it is probably a teeny-tiny majority, this is a big universe, and there are probably those women who have not been harassed by men, or at least who do not count any of their interactions with men as having been harassed. And they are free to do that. People define their own interactions, and if a person tells you they weren’t harassed, maybe they didn’t feel harassed. Respect that, too.

“The cops…asked me, ‘Well, what were you wearing?’ when I reported an attack and attempted rape.”

Ugh – the “I can dress how I want” argument. I don’t like this one.

I am going to start from the bottom. The way you dress sends a message. Whether you like it or not. Now, you are not responsible for the way other people react to that message. Which also means that you cannot control them. Basically, if you dress a certain way, you are opening yourself up to the possibility that people will react a certain way.

THAT SAID, because I know if a die-hard feminist read that his or her head would pop off, on the other side of things, messages, once sent, do not have to be responded to. You know the little thing on Facebook with the checkmark that says SEEN 12:24 PM? Do that. I will say this only once, because it is important. You do not have to react to everything. And if you see a person dressed a certain way, see the message, and leave them alone. Because, as Charlie McDonnell says, why would you want to have sex if the person didn’t want to be doing that with you? (Paraphrase.) Maturity, as they say, is realizing how many things don’t require your comment (or your reaction, or your stamp of approval). See the message, and move on.

“I shouldn’t have to hold my car keys in hand like a weapon & check over my shoulder every few seconds when I walk at night.”

(I’m sorry for this one, feminists. I really am.) Why not?

Listen up, women. (And men too.) The universe makes no promises. You could be dead before you finish reading this sentence. (Oh good, you made it.) My father told me when I was eight that the most dangerous thing he did every day was walk out the front door. And my father is a teacher in a town of less than 12,000 people who are mostly too lazy, too high or not inclined to murder or rape anyone. (Not that it doesn’t happen here. But we aren’t exactly a crime hotspot.) The world is dangerous and scary, and if you want to continue living in it you should hold your car keys like a weapon and check over your shoulder every few seconds when you walk at night – men and women both!

THAT SAID, before the feminists’ heads blow apart again, another thing you should do is be kind to other people. Don’t be so unkind as to murder or rape someone. The reason we carry our car keys like weapons is because of each other. But if everyone sweeps in front of his own front door, the whole world will be clean. Everybody needs to try to be kinder. And if you can help somebody, do.

“Because women are taught to hate themselves if men reject them, and men are taught to hate women if women reject them.”

This one I have to agree with. This is a horrible aspect of society. To invoke John Green again, there will be people in your life who will not want to kiss you. And, which John Green did not add, THAT IS OKAY, and it does not mean there is anything wrong with you or them! My mother told me that dating is like trying clothes on in a department store. You try it on, and if it doesn’t fit, you put it back and hope that it will work for someone else. If one person does not work for you or you for them, IT IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD, and it is immature to think so.

“‘I have a boyfriend’ is the easiest way to get a man to leave you alone. Because he respects another man more than you.”

If this is true, it is sad. I don’t think it’s true of every man. But if it is true of a man, that man does have a problem. And if the reverse is true of a woman, that woman has a problem.

So again, listen up. If a person tells you they do not want to have sex with you, have a relationship with you, kiss you, let you touch them, send you naked pictures, fill in the blank, THAT’S IT. There is no more discussion. No “Why not?” Enda. Done. Stop asking.

“The #YesAllWomen hashtag is filled with hard, true, sad and angry things. I can empathise & try to understand & know I never entirely will.”

This one was by a man. Now, this is a nice thing for him to have said. What makes me mad about it is when women use gender violence as an excuse to get what they want out of men, including humble acknowledgment like the tweet above. I personally am more impressed with someone I know struggles who never talks about it than someone whom I also know struggles who talks about it all the time and uses it to solicit admiration from people. But that’s just me, and this person was very kind.

“Editor: Domestic homicides not newsworthy bc they happen all the time. Me: Aren’t they newsworthy BC they happen all the time?”

Yes. But this is not just about women. Don’t forget that.

“Because I shouldn’t have to wonder how posting my experiences to #YesAllWomen will affect my job. And it will.”

Okay. So I went and saw that movie Heaven is for Real. The religious reasons are not part of this discussion, but there was a line in it that made me sob more than any other. “You are not obligated to apologize to me for any broken piece you carry.” (Paraphrase.)

You are not obligated to apologize to me for any broken piece you carry.

Would that we were all that loving. That is what we need to be. Broken pieces – i.e., past horrible experiences – should not ruin our relationships or terminate our employments. Don’t break up with or fire someone because their past wasn’t the nicest place. If that broken piece makes them bitter or bitchy or otherwise difficult to deal with, don’t break up with or fire them as a knee-jerk reaction. Try to understand. Try to help them understand themselves. If you still get nowhere, then it may be that a breakup or a layoff is in order. But please, be understanding first. Also, person who tweeted that, don’t ever be afraid to be as broken as you are – or as whole.

“Because every single woman I know has a story about a man feeling entitled to access to her body. Every. Single. One.”

Well, if you’d like to talk to my thirteen-year-old sister, let me know. But I will accept the argument that she’s not necessarily a woman in the sense that her particular male peers are not sexually mature.

I would caution the women who have these stories to not exaggerate them. Frankly the high school booty text I mentioned above did not act like he was entitled to my body. He asked, yes; without any sort of signal from me. I said no thanks. He suggested I look at it a different way. I said no thanks again, and he said okay. He was perfectly respectful. The one guy who seemed like he thought he was entitled (and even that not very much) will remain unnamed, but he was the one who, when I asked him to not do something, would say “Why not?” I would say, “Because I asked you not to! Do you need another reason?” and to his credit, he would say, “Well, no.”

“Because I routinely get sexually harassed online (including rape threats) after my investigations air. Male reporters do not.”

Yikes. To this one I will say this: Don’t shoot the messenger. She’s a reporter for goodness sakes; she’s just doing her job. If you feel the need to take out your frustration with the information she presented you with on her, you do have a problem.

“Because you say ‘not all men are like that’ instead of saying “I’m sorry you have to put up with that” and actually empathize.”

This is a tricky one. There is a difficult choice between standing up for oneself and being kind. The best thing I can think of is to do both; failing that, try to gauge the thing you are responding to. If the person talking is really being vindictive and unnecessarily unkind and needs a perspective check, maybe saying ‘not all of us are like that’ is okay. And on the flip side, if you are the person talking about an offense, remember to not blow it out of proportion.

“Because the friendzone is the fictional exile of the entitled. ‘Sexual partner’ is not a woman’s default mode.”

I like this one! Sexual partner is not anyone’s default mode, and you shouldn’t expect it of anyone. Also, friendzone culture needs to die, and friendzoned males need to shut up. But that’s just me.

“Because society is more comfortable with people telling jokes about rape than it is with people revealing they have been raped”

Um. Okay, the feminists are going to hate me again. But for this one? DUH.

Humor is a defense mechanism, and for many people a default response. (Also, I have never heard a rape joke in my life.) And telling people you have been raped is a difficult thing. Of course society isn’t comfortable with it. And that’s okay: the day that we are comfortable with hearing that people have been raped is scary because it means that it will have happened all the time. I don’t want to get used to knowing that my friend has been raped. I do not want that to be something I am comfortable with. I vote it stays as rare as possible and that it makes all of us uncomfortable and sad when it happens, because it is an uncomfortable and sad thing, to understate it massively.

So, to sum up.

Be nice to each other. Don’t rape, don’t murder. Don’t do anything to a person that might be uncomfortable or miserable for them (platinum rule). Put yourself in their shoes.

Be okay with the fact that other people will not want to (       ) you. It’s life, it happens, and it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with them – or you!

Don’t make people suffer more for the broken pieces they carry. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. Try to be understanding of other people’s struggles before you manipulate their lives into line with your comfort zone.

Don’t overstate anything. Don’t understate anything. Or do both if it helps you make your point, but stress that the truth is in the middle. Don’t blame yourself; don’t blame everyone.

And, possibly the most important, for people on each side of the sexual harassment equation. You are not obligated to react to anything. Woman on the street with lots of cleavage? Walk on by. Man messaging you over and over again asking for sex? Ignore him (or, better yet, block him so you have to ignore him).

The only time you have to react is when someone is trying to harm you. And I say this not because I think we should take everyone who lets fly a wolf whistle and punch them in the nose, but because I think that once the assault reaches a level where the integrity of your emotional climate (got that?) is threatened, you should do your best to protect yourself from that. The world needs every one of us; be good to yourselves. And if you can’t get help in time to stop an attack and you have to live all the way through it, please, please, please remember that you have to open up again someday. Not before you’re ready, but don’t shut people out because you are hurt; you need them then more than ever. I wonder if that wasn’t what happened to the Santa Barbara killer.

The other only time you have to react is when someone needs your help. Not because it could be your mother, your wife, your sister, your daughter. Not because it could be you. Because it is someone, and that someone needs to be someone, and rape (and murder too) will dehumanize a someone, and if you can save someone from that, please do.

And, all that said, if you can save someone from dehumanizing themselves by committing acts of violence, do that too. What murderers and rapists do is not okay, and I will never say that it is. But no person is beyond saving. And I don’t say that you have to save everyone who crosses your path, and some people don’t want to be saved. How, then, to save people from themselves? I don’t know. I don’t know everything, much as I like to blog like I do. But I can maybe point out that explaining to them things like the John Green Law of Kissing that I cited forty billion times, and telling them that IT IS OKAY that that is true, and being understanding of people’s broken pieces, and reminding them that to be just as they are is completely okay.

And, all that also said, it is a big universe and we are but a small part, and our struggles will mostly be okay.

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