Tuesday, May 27, 2014

#YesAllWomen

You may have seen the hashtag that was going around twitter this weekend.  If you were not aware, it sprung up in response to the shootings at UCSB this weekend which, according to the shooter were because he was a virgin since girls kept picking the wrong guys to sleep with.  Now, it seems that this man was mentallly ill, his parents were concerned, and so it might seem hyperbolic to extrapolate a cultural issue from one person's not entirely correct interpretation of how to address the world.  However, as many have said, there were a ton of things in that hastag that had me nodding.  Things like it's often easier to give out fake numbers or invent fake spouses/boyfriends/partners than to simply tell a man not interested because it can lead to explosive reactions.  I had one guy yell at me on the metro because he was too drunk to remember I had told him five minutes before that I had a (fake) boyfriend, so even that doesn't always help. 
Or the idea that when a male person is mean to you, it means they like you.  This isn't just limited to playgrounds (although that would be bad enough).  I was constantly pinched and bumped by a male at a music event.  He found my disinterest in becoming further bruised hilarious.  His wife asked me how they could get me to focus on my music.  She seemed to find my suggestion that perhaps not being constantly assaulted would help kind of cute.  When another guy thought assisting in pinching me was even funnier and I grabbed him and told him this could not continue, his freinds said I should lighten up and that maybe that first guy just thought I was cute.  Now, look, I've been super lucky.  I escaped these and other similar incidents pretty easily, even though part of me recognizes that describing being yelled at or having to leave an event to prevent further bruising is a pretty warped scale. 
And sure, this one shooter's reaction was hyperbolic.  And we definitely need to look at how we handle mental illness in this country.  And I realize that his victims were not all female.  But there is definitely a segment of the male population that believe they are owed sex, love, and companionship.  And they are screwing it up for all of us.  They ways I am forced to behave to try to avoid doing any of the things that get the above reactions or worse. Because I understand, having to avoid saying things straight out, having to avoid situations where I might have to fend for the right to remain unmolested not only restricts me, it impacts those who have to deal with me.  And cultural change is not a simple process.  But, my cyclist friends are always talking about how in cyclist vs. car incidents, they note whether or not the cyclist was wearing bright clothes, even when the motorist was clearly in the wrong.  Similarly, I think what I - or other women wear, whether we walk in pairs, the time of night, my sexual history - these things should not factor in to whether or not I am safe.  I should have the right to attend events, ride the metro, walk down the street, and to say yes or no to those whom I choose.  Crazy, but that's my dream. 

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