The #YesAllWomen hashtag got me thinking. Which obviously, besides opening dialogue, is the point of ‘social media movements’, if you believe in that sort of thing. I have always felt a little bit special, and in a way left out from some feminist discussions because I have been rarely victimized. But then I remembered, I had an incident or two I could parse down to 140 characters
Yup, that shit happened to me. A friend of mine, in the midst of a debate about women’s rights, reached out with both heads and tried to shut me up by choking me. At my best friend’s birthday party. And no one did anything. Or at least, I did something first. You see, I don’t remember it through the lens of being victimized because my hands were free, and so I reached out and punched at his face with both hands as hard as I could until he stopped, and then told him he was fucked up and got another drink. Because I was raised in a home where my father told me the only reason I couldn’t be a professional football player was because I ran with my tongue out, and because I grew up with a mother who never stood up for herself, so she never tolerated me not standing up for myself, and I was raised with boys who taught me how to use my body sometimes, instead of my words, because sometimes that just works better. So, even though this incredibly fucked up thing happened, it never stuck in my head as a time of fear and helplessness. But only because I was fine, I was able to handle it, and I had been taught to do so repeatedly in life.
When I look back over the record of my life, there are thousands of moments like this. Moments walking down a dark street alone at night, where I have to remind myself to throw my shoulders back confidently, and shift my keys in my hand just in case I need a weapon, and the color is as an example of my strength. Moments when I decided it was easier to just give in to a guy’s advances and chalk it up to the story or the experience, because fighting it could have ended badly. Moments where something happens that I shake off, and tell myself I how strong I am rather than ask why I have to wear armor in social situations. These choices have been mine, and would not work for everyone. Which means that I am not immune to the prevalent, violent misogyny, I have just developed coping mechanisms for the hundreds of small and large ways that my gender and sex can make me a target. I’m like the person in a stock photo of China, wearing my air mask as I bike through the city. I’m not breathing different air, the fact that my lungs are cleaner doesn’t mean there is not pollution. I have just found a way to mitigate the unpleasant reality to the point where it doesn’t affect me as much. Except that is does. I am wearing a mask. I have to take measures. I know how to hold keys as a weapon, that’s called Being a Woman 101. I have worked my whole life to feel strong, confident, and independent, and that I am and can sit here and write relatively unscathed is not an example of how fair and just the world is. It is simply evidence of my luck and my work to not let the harsh environment I exist in control me.