I’ve been reluctant to participate in the #YesAllWomen thing, namely because my experience is not the experience that “all women” have. Yes, one in four women is or will be the victim of domestic violence in her lifetime, and yes, that is a totally relevant thing, but it’s not the point of the hashtag, as far as I see it. #YesAllWomen is about the pervasive, constant, and suffocating stench of every day misogyny we all live in without acknowledgment.
Domestic violence is a whole other, completely psychotic bag of worms, and having been through it with my grandfather and my mother, I have a very real experience of that being a thing both men and women are not only capable of, but equally good at. In fact, if I had to choose, I’d much rather take wordless physical intimidation and punches to the head than the psychological carnival of horrors my mother put me through.
My abuse wasn’t a function of my femaleness. It came out of my lack of power. The sexual aspects of my grandfathers abusive attention were probably reserved for us girls, but to be honest, I haven’t asked. One of the functions of domestic violence is that you tend to not think of things as abuse. It took me years to figure out that getting threatened, chased, shoved, smacked, and full-force punched by a grown man might count. It seems ridiculous to think about it now, but abused kids on TV always sustained injuries. Because I’d never been put in the hospital, I felt it didn’t count.
I’m no stranger to the twists and turns we subject ourselves to in order to insulate ourselves from the reality we live in. What I see in the #YesAllWomen tag is a long list of things we let men do to us. Hell, we encourage it by not reacting.
Yeah, I’ve been told to smile by random paternalist asshats who decided they should have more say on what my face looks like than I should. I rolled my eyes. Yeah, I’ve had a creep try and follow me home, he turned back when I took a picture of him with my phone. And yeah, I’ve been groped by people I did not give permission to grope me. Usually right before I attack them. Although that’s been less true lately, as I’ve been trying to learn how to live without assaulting people. I will say that, having failed to react the last time someone touched my tit without permission, that was the wrong response, I don’t ever want to do that again, and I plan on going apeshit on the next one who tries.
I have a hard time understanding women who don’t try to fight dudes who encroach on their space like this. Maybe because I’ve always been pretty big (if not up and down, then definitely side to side) and maybe it’s because I’ve already been assaulted by a crazed maniac four times my size. I know from experience there are worse things in life than taking a beating. Not the least of which is being offered a beating and choosing cowardice instead.
There’s something about being made to take punches without being allowed to give them back. At every possible opportunity, I fight. Not just for me, but for the me I have been. Part of me becoming an adult was learning to consciously dial back my fight. Not every confrontation is a challenge. Sometimes compromise really is the best strategy, and all the other things you tell extremely young children to keep them from biting each other are lessons I learned well after I was grown. Well, not every situation is an opportunity for compromise. Certainly not the situation of women’s safety, or our right to safety.
And as much as my aggressive tendencies are an issue, I think they’ve also been a blessing in some areas. So many women act like prey. Is it any wonder predators target us? Now that #YesAllWomen is winding down, I think we need a new narrative. What do you do when men tell you to smile? Because if it’s nothing, you’re part of the problem. Are they bigger than you? Is that scary to you? Sack up. Because if you don’t, it will keep happening.
We can’t expect non-combatant men to ride to our rescue. If I am as competent as any man, if I am as worthy as any man, I have just as much responsibility to fight for my place as any man does. All growth is pain. I think this is a mantel we have to bear ourselves. It’s been said over and over in this thing. Men are afraid women will laugh at them; women are afraid men will kill them. Well, they’re already killing us. Stop looking away, stop increasing your pace, stop avoiding the confrontation. Turn and fight.