by - Sunday, May 25, 2014

Usually I try to make everything on here radically positive, but this gets a little darker. For the past two hours, I have been totally sucked into my twitter feed, reading other women's tweets about the all-too-familiar sexism they face on a daily basis as a response to the Santa Barbara shooting. Honestly, at first I just couldn't read too much about it. It is crushing that even as universities slowly and begrudgingly attempt to address the violence against women on their campuses (I mean, for serious Penn State, if you tell me 1 in 3 girls will be sexually assaulted at Freshman Orientation, you could probably restrategize your response?), that something would escalate to this level. I mean, I wish Santa Barbara murders could still be associated with Sean and Gus. I saw that the shooter's manifesto was circulating around the internet (along with a weird collection of selfies), and I felt like it was just the kind of thing my psyche didn't need.  I still haven't read it in its entirety.

Being a feminist currently feels a bit like being on a roller coaster where people still constantly claim that you don't even exist yet also that you are in their way- for every positive step that has been taken, it feels like there is another ugly legislative attempt to control women's bodies, another scary incident in my own life that I try to overcome with positivity, or something like this. Where a man, seemingly overcome with sexual frustration and misogyny went on a rampage, intentionally targeting women. Just crushing.

Once again, media outlets have mostly chalked up this incredible violence (once again by a young well-off man- guys are in trouble here too, people! There has to be a better way to teach them how to manage emotions) to mental illness. I think it is hard to imagine mental illness could not be a part of it, because who in their right mind would do such a thing? But it is impossible to deny that this shooting was motivated by misogyny- he said "You forced me to suffer all my life, now I will make you all suffer. I waited a long time for this. I'll give you exactly what you deserve, all of you. All you girls who rejected me, looked down upon me, you know, treated me like scum while you gave yourselves to other men." Jessica Valenti made an on-point argument about Rodgers, male-rights movements, and violence here, so I won't repeat it. 

The problem with ignoring Rodgers' misogyny and pointing only to mental illness is evading the fact that misogyny is a SYSTEMATIC problem, not an individual one. The language the shooter chose taps into the language of misogyny we see EVERYWHERE. From ads, to music, to films (do you know only 9 films have passed the Bechdel test this year?). Just fucking everywhere, it's ridiculous.

#Yesallwomen makes the profound (and now pretty hugely scaled- how cool that it has grown so large?) argument that even if all men aren't rapists or misogynists (AGREED, I know I married a badass feminist), all women live with violence and the threat of violence.  The feed is covered in statistics like:
 That since 9/11/2001, 3073 people died from terrorist attacks and 6,488 servicepeople have died serving overseas. In that same time, 11,766 women have been killed by their husbands and boyfriends.
Over half of the female victims of domestic violence are abused (much of the abuse starts) while they are pregnant. 
One in 4 women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime (1 in 4! Think about how many women you know!)

This is mixed into a seemingly neverending and repeatedly crushing line of personal narratives: Women who were raped and ignored by police officers when they looked for help.
Women who are afraid to walk to their car alone at night (TRUTH). 
Women who were asked "how were you dressed" as a response to assault
Women who were humiliated at work for giving their opinion
Women who are too afraid to even share their story.
And so on, and so on. Go read the feed, you will be a better person for it.

What is most crushing about reading these is that I get all of these not only an intellectual level, but as they tap into vulnerabilities I don't generally have the courage to talk about. I definitely have had moments where people touched me, often in public spaces, when I didn't want them near me (this happened on the bus 3 weeks ago). I have been trying to keep my pregnancy quiet because of how I feared it would negatively effect my career (much like my "femininity" garnered me criticism from professors in my PhD program in the past). I have felt too intimidated to say something when someone said something ugly or sexual about a woman because I didn't want to offend them (at a party last week with The Boy's coworkers). I have been afraid because a man was clearly following me around (this month, I had to ask a Rite Aid manager to intercept a man who had been following me around the store for 20 minutes). I am not some super model (in fact, I am a fifteen week prego wearing a conspicuous wedding ring) who seems to constantly have to fend off male attention. In fact, I actually find these attempts more disturbing because I have a babyface, and I am often mistaken for a teen, even at 28-years-old. All women really do go through these things.

All women have had a moment where they were afraid of a man who wasn't taking no for an answer. All women have been given persistent attention or even been chased by a man. All women have claimed a boyfriend, real or imaginary, because some men are more likely to respect other men than her straightforward no. All women have been belittled because of their looks. All women have experienced being compared to other women, rather than to everyone in the field. We internalize shame about these moments, wondering if it is our fault, and this shame makes the incidents feel individual. They just aren't.

The whole thing is fucking awful and wonderful at the same time, because you can see people learning, people calling others to pay some freaking attention, and parents thinking aloud about how they are raising their sons as well as their daughters. The more we can see these as shared, to be more open and supportive of each other, the more we can do to change the situation. That's what makes this hashtag so amazing. It feels like something big is happening if only because people are at least paying attention to the depth and breadth of misogyny.

Within myself, I am debating what to do/ where to go with this next. How do you stop these violent outbursts? How do we change expectations so that men can't mistakenly believe they are entitled to women's bodies? How do we give clear ideas of how men who are the rule, not these nasty exceptions, can model behavior worth seeing? How can we change perceptions of feminism so that young women (and men) aren't so afraid to claim it? Evil, nasty misogyny will keep going, but let's make sure it's their death throes, shall we?

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