THIS IS REALLY LONG, AND THIS IS NOT ABOUT MY ART, AND I REALLY DON’T CARE.
I’m sad and tired. I have been trying and failing to articulate my sad and tired feelings for days now. I don’t know why I have such a need to say these things out loud – especially when I am so fortunate to be surrounded in life and in this corner of the Internet by bright, strong, incredible women and equally great men, many of whom who have already said what I am about to say in much better ways – but I can’t shake the feeling that not saying anything would be a failing on my part. I truly believe that not saying anything is being complacent in the problem, and on this issue I feel like I will never be able to say enough.
The wake of the Isla Vista massacre has been both emotionally exhausting and fundamentally terrifying. It’s heartening to watch the dialogue opening up in the form of #yesallwomen, whenwomenrefuse.tumblr.com, and myriad long-form articles and blogs and beautifully worded Facebook posts, but at the same time it also strikes me as horrifically sad. Sad because each and every woman I know is truly superlative. Women are seriously fucking incredible. We are smart and strong and beautiful and funny and talented and worthwhile. But more than all of those things we’re scared.
We’re scared we are still in danger. We are always in danger. We’re scared because men tweet things like “this #yesallwomen trend doesn’t mean shit, y’all still getting raped.” We’re scared because we know men who casually shrug and say things like “who hasn’t thought about doing what he did?” as if that isn’t a completely horrifying thing to say, as if the concept of exacting bloody revenge on the women who have rejected you isn’t a completely horrifying thing to consider. We’re scared because men in the public eye like Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow get defensive and tweet things like “how fucking dare you” to the women who point out that maybe the media suggesting that average-ass men are all entitled to Playmates MIGHT be part of the problem here. We’re scared because for every man that has stood in solidarity with us, we know for a fact there is another who fundamentally hates us. We’re scared because we know that right now, thousands of men are making a martyr out of Elliot Rodgers.
In my life I have been harassed, assaulted, stalked, insulted, demeaned, intimidated, and threatened by men more times than I can possibly count – and I consider myself lucky in that my experiences have been mild compared to far too many women. I don’t want to be afraid when I’m putting gas in my car by myself at night. I don’t want to have to carry weapons disguised as cutesy accessories everywhere I go. I don’t want to have to ask security guards to walk me across empty parking lots, I don’t want my defenses to automatically rise whenever I pass a man on the sidewalk, I don’t want my boyfriend to have to take up jogging if I want to take up jogging because he’s afraid of me running alone. I don’t want to have to think about whether the clothes I put on in the morning are going to invite unwelcome comments from strangers on the street. I don’t want to know three different women who have been told “I hope you get raped” in the past month alone. I don’t want to live in a world where people have sympathy for scum like Elliot Rodgers. I don’t want to be fundamentally fearful of men. But this is my everyday reality, and this is the reality of women everywhere.
I know that the world is not going to change, but I also know we can’t continue to sit in silence as casual misogyny continues to poison the world around us. So I beg you, when you see bullshit, say something. Please be an active part in the solution.
Women – this means speaking up about your experiences to whatever extent you feel comfortable. Speak up against problematic language and trains of thought — from people of all genders. Correct people when they express inaccurate views about feminism, rape culture and women in general. It’s so easy as a woman to want to fade into the background when this stuff comes up — to not want to be seen as a feminist killjoy, a bitch, or “that girl.” But we need more killjoys, we need more bitches, we need way more of “those girls.” The more we all stand up and say we are mad as shit, the more people have to listen.
I do understand that there are situations in which standing up or defending yourself as a woman is just too scary. That is super fucked up and indicative of the problem we face every day, and it is also where our male allies need to come in.
Men – BE AN ALLY. Don’t be defensive or derailing when women speak about the problems women face. Listen and learn. Do not attempt to conflate male issues with female ones. When your friends say shitty misogynistic stuff, tell them why it’s fucked up. When you are in public places and you see men acting aggressively toward women, be the dude that stands up and puts a stop to it. Do not expect a reward for being a non-terrible person. Being a non-terrible person is its own reward.
My friends, I am sad and tired. I don’t want to be sad and tired anymore. I don’t expect to ever not be pretty sad and pretty tired over this stuff, but I would like to one day bring some kids into a world that is not so scary for women. Maybe if we all try harder to be part of the solution, this could be a start.
SARA M. LYONS