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  arrow pointing to the right   Home arrow My Thoughts arrow Pop Culture arrow Pop Culture arrow Yes All Women!

Yes All Women! PDF Print E-mail

Yes All Women

What can you do to help make the world a better place for everyone.

Treat Women as Fully Human

Yes all women. And yes all blacks. And yes all choose your minority. And yes all marginalized people.  Yes. We all live with harassment and discrimination not because of something we’ve done, but just because we exist.  Some of us experience it more than others.
The Yes all women meme started after the Isla Vista shooting. It’s been a long time coming. And this is because every time women try to talk about this – we are told by well-meaning men – who think what we are experiencing is other well-meaning men being inept at hitting on us, that our experiences aren’t what we thought they were and that we should be nicer to guys who are, well, inept.

And yes, white folks do this to black people. ALL THE TIME!  It’s the same problem. I don’t experience it – so your experience must be similar to mine and therefore I have the right to tell you why all the myriad of experiences you have personally experienced are not what you think they were and you were just misinterpreting the honest good intentions of other people.

But that’s not the reality for women. To me, the anthem of what’s wrong about the experience of women is summed up by this song by No Doubt I’m Just a Girl. Here is the video:

Even when we get some recognition that yeah girls get raped, but why should that make every woman on the planet scared of men she doesn’t know when most men don’t rape and this fear is preventing these nice men from getting to know these women so that they can eventually have sex with them, and well, yeah – it’s annoying to have to have those conversations. It really is. And I feel like I need to apologize to every person of color I ever discussed the black experience with whom I responded with the standard, yeah but , not all white people. I was younger then and didn’t really understand what you were trying to say to me.  I get it now.

Back to the topic of misogyny and violence against women and how it impacts women’s lives all over the world.

There are several wonderful essays about Yes All Women. Here are some.

When do We Talk about the unpleasant truth  - by Soraya Chemaly -

Why men don’t see harassment – even when they see it happening – by Amanda Hess -

And my essay – on how we women might change our behavior to help the good men around us more readily see what is happening so they can help us -

What’s stopping us from stopping sexual predation and harassment.

Part of the problem is entitlement. But the other problem is that anytime you don’t reward someone who feels entitled, you risk violence directed at you. You don’t know if the guy is just flirting and will back off when you ask, or if this is a guy who is used to getting his way and who will use violence to get his way. We women, have no way of knowing that. And no woman wants to risk being raped or killed!  So, we hem and haw and try to let guys down without overtly saying, no we aren’t interested, so that he doesn’t know we’ve truly rejected him so that we can get away to safety before he figures it out.

Men – please understand – we women really are too scared to be more aggressive in saying no – because – men don’t accept no! Let me give you a couple of examples. I am a married woman. And occassional I have complete strangers approach me on the web asking for my information.  I recently had a guy hit on me on my facebook fan page. I told him I wasn’t interested. He said – well, you never know, he kept at me.  It was only when I mentioned I was happily married that he backed off. And this is really typical. My polite direct no, not interested wasn’t accepted by this guy.  I had to belong to another man before he would back off.

Want a more direct and scarier example of this sort of – don’t respect the girl, only respect the property of other men?  Here’s one. When I was a college student in Hawaii, I was out at a club. A military officer asked me to dance, we went onto the floor. He told me he was an officer, grabbed my hand and started dragging me to the door to take me out of the club. He didn’t ask me if I was interested in him. He didn’t ask me if I wanted to leave with him. He just grabbed my arm and started dragging me to the door. I knew if he got me out of the building, I would be raped, at a minimum. So, I grabbed the hand of a man I didn’t know as we passed and with a look of panic in my eyes started talking to him as if he were an old friend I hadn’t seen in ages.  The “officer” realized I was speaking to another guy and let me go.  I then had to ditch the new guy who for some reason was under the impression I was into him.  I have no idea what my savior thought was going on or even if he realized how much danger I was in when I reached out to him to quite literally save me.  I even thanked him profusely and told him I probably would have been raped had he not helped me. He still hit on me. Figures. No concern for my mental health given the terrifying experience I had just had – just – thinking of himself and whether or not he could get lucky with me.

What’s astonishing to me now is that I didn’t start screaming for help!  I should have. I was being dragged in a cave mannish way off to be raped by a guy who clearly thought he was entitled to do so by virtue of his status as an “officer.” But I didn’t scream because I doubted that would have helped. It seemed safer to get another guy to claim ownership of me temporarily so that the guy planning to rape me would let me go. And it worked. Rather quickly. Yes, I then had to deal with the other guy – but I was banking and hoping that he was one of the nice ones who would not then turn around and try to rape me, and he didn’t. I was able to ditch him without any trouble at all. 

Here’s why we women are tired.  Our safest options shouldn’t be to let another man claim ownership of us.  That carries with it – it’s own risk. I happened to luck out that the guy whose arm I randomly grabbed while being dragged against my will out the door of a crowded club where I knew the bouncers and bartenders and where I was out with my firends, was not a psychopath. Our safest option should be to yell – Stop! Leave me alone!  But, in reality, that isn’t the safest option.  Because most people would hear that and think it was a domestic dispute and leave us to work it out. They would also view this man’s visible display of ownership over me and assume he did have ownership over me, and so, again, would not have interfered.

If I had tried to fight him, I would have lost.  Saying no to a guy who thinks he has the right to possesses you can get you killed. And that’s not a risk I am willing to take.  Women who try to escape abusive relationships get killed. Often. The stats are horrifying. Most violence in our country is men harming women because of this ownership/possession/entitlement issue.

What’s the solution?

So – to all the good men who read my blog. What can good men do to change the culture so that women feel safe? Stop tolerating denigrating talk about women in your men’s groups. Stop talking about women as nothing more than sex objects and stop tolerating such talk.  Allowing such talk perpetuates the idea that women exist primarily for the sexual gratification of men.  It perpetuates the idea that women really aren’t or shouldn’t be in control of their sexual lives.  It’s not ok and it causes real harm to us women because it enables those men with real mental health problems, those men who pose a real danger to us women, to think that what they think is normal. And it’s not.  Don’t encourage it through silence.

Also, if you see a woman who is uncomfortable, or who you aren’t sure if she is having trouble or not, ask her openly if she needs help. Not in a creepy – I’m hoping to get to know you sort of way – but just because you are a human and another human looks like they might be in danger. Seriously – I should have felt comfortable screaming for help in Hawaii. Someone who witnessed me being dragged towards the door in the way I was should have intervened without me having to grasp at random arms in a desperate attempt to keep myself from being taken away. 

Don’t assume things that don’t seem right are consensual.  They may be. But asking if they are isn’t going to offend anyone, well maybe the guy.  Don’t assume, this isn’t your problem.  It is.  Half of the human race is scared of the other half.  If you don’t want us to be scared of men, stop allowing other men to terrorize us. Step up and defend our right to say no. Not because you own us – but because we are human and that’s our right.

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