I know I don’t have sufficient energy to discuss the shootings in Santa Barbara or get into the hatred towards women that has poured over the internet in response to women finally speaking out in force against the misogyny that exists in our culture today. But I wanted to say that I am proud to read through the #YesAllWomen tag and see the courage in the posts, both women for speaking out, some for the first time, and men for admitting that this whole experience has taught them aspects of being female that they never knew. And I want to step up and add my voice, sharing my experience of marginalization and fear, but I find I don’t know where to begin. Because it is so deeply ingrained in me, to constantly be aware, to depend on my being married to protect me from unwanted attention without wounding a man’s pride and angering him, to depend physically on my husband and male friends to watch out for me, to not feel safe being alone some places even in daylight, to always be guarded on elevators and streets and stores, to always try to have escape routes planned in public places, to perfect being oblivious to unwanted attention, that I don’t know if I can really pull out specific incidents.
There was the time I was 13 and two carloads of college boys pulled up and cat called me for the first time in my life and invited me to go with them while I was standing on a street in Cape Cod with my mother and sister, and all my mother could do was laugh and tell me it was a compliment. And the time I was chased three blocks down a busy city street in broad daylight by some scumbag I had never seen before, and the only way I escaped him was by darting into oncoming traffic. The kid in college who asked me out on a date, and when I tried politely to refuse, took it as a yes, asked me if I carried a knife with me, and when I said no but I do have pepper spray, his response was ‘Good, I’m immune to that’. These are just a handful, and I’m sure I could come up with many more.
Bottom line, I shouldn’t have to feel proud that my husband is a decent man and becoming more and more of a feminist daily in response to our horrible culture. I shouldn’t be glad that I’m married because I can banter with my male friends and let out my bawdy sense of humor and just be myself without risk of anyone expecting me to have sex with them. I shouldn’t be afraid that I’m eventually going to get catcalled in front of my son and have to finally respond to the men for his sake. I shouldn’t feel safer in the knowledge that I met my life mate at 18 and avoided singlehood in my twenties.
I shouldn’t have to live a life of prey, going about my daily activities with constant awareness of my fragility in the back of mind. But I do. All women do.