On #YesAllWomen and Solidarity

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I have never been raped.

This does not deserve any kind of congratulations, because unlike my friends and acquaintances who have, I did not do anything differently. It is not an accomplishment that I have lived for a quarter of a century and somehow managed to make it unscathed thus far. I owe it to sheer dumb luck, because when I look back at my life, I can name plenty of instances where it could have happened, and almost did in one. Sometimes I trust too easily, and sometimes I get drunker than I should be around strangers. I have lived in bad neighborhoods and walked home alone in the dark.

When I was younger I felt guilty. This was something so many of my friends had experienced, and here I was. I didn’t know what to say. Sometimes I still don’t, but sometimes it’s not about the words. I’ve learned to be there for support when my friends need me. In those instances, it’s not about me.

This does not mean I have not been sexually assaulted and harassed, that I have not been propositioned  and grabbed. That I have not felt shame and anger and been told “it wasn’t a big deal” when my personal space was violated for someone’s amusement. That I do not carry ‘preventative’ measures in my purse and walk with my keys in my fist to my car after classes, even in the middle of the day. It has been during the day most of my harassers have touched me, all of them strangers.

There was the time I was thirteen, across the street from my own home. A man pulled up and beckoned for me to get inside his car, like he was a fucking taxi and I had hailed him over. My mom was less than twenty feet away, but she didn’t see any of this. When I shook my head and backed away from the curb, he scowled and drove off. To this day I still wonder ‘what if’, not if I had gotten in the car with him, but what if he had tried something? What if he liked young girls? What if he had done this to others?

In my sophomore year of high school a boy pinched my ass in the lunch line. At the time I blamed another boy, one who had bullied me but never touched me, but who when I turned around was grinning his stupid head off. I can still remember the rage inside of me, and how normalized it was, even to my own boyfriend at the time. I went to the dean, shaking and on the verge of tears. She handled it. When the boy was brought in to find out his side, he said it hadn’t been him, but another student. A older boy. When I went into the dean’s office, another friend joined me this time. The same boy had done the same to her. Nothing really came of the incident. They couldn’t prove anything, but at the end of the year they ‘asked’ his family not to re-enroll him for his senior year. I didn’t apologize to the boy I wrongly named, because his bullying didn’t stop, but the boy who did touch me pointed me out when I would walk by on my way to classes. ‘That’s the girl who reported me for grabbing her butt.’

There was the man who propositioned me when I was fourteen with a group of friends. There was the time I was nineteen, waiting outside my apartment, when a man I did not know pinched my hip as he walked by, and laughed when I screamed ‘FUCK YOU’ after him. There was the man who circled me in the bookstore, making sounds like I was something delicious to eat as he commented on my pink hair. There have been whistles and catcalls and not-so-strange men at parties who have tried to carry me away to somewhere more private in my then-boyfriend’s own home. I have been threatened and ogled.

This is a sample of the everyday crap I have put up with for being a woman, and sometimes I don’t even have to leave the house for it to happen. After all, this is the internet.

Time for a fun fact: I don’t hate men. I know they’re not all bad. But it is hard for me to trust ones I have just met, and even then, some of the ones I’ve known as long as ten years are suspect. I’ve put up with too much shit to care about hurting someone’s feelings because I don’t want to hang out alone with them in their apartment. I use ‘creepy’ as a litmus test, because if you get offended by the use of it and say I’m giving feminism a bad name, that probably means I don’t want anything to do with you.

Not all men are scum, but yes, all women have stories like mine. Don’t be offended and butt-in how you’ve never hurt, touched, or done anything derogatory to a woman in your life. Do raise your voice if you have been assaulted or harassed, because sexual harassment, while skewed heavily towards one gender from another, is not exclusive to us. This is a movement of solidarity to say ‘we are tired of being afraid,’ not a fight to see who has it worse, and we all have to work together to get stuff done.

Purple-haired Pepper Potts.

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