I’ve read a lot of posts like this one over the last twenty-four hours since the UCSB shooter incident. I’m going to add my voice to what I hope will become a cacophony because it’s important that we – women – are heard. It’s also important to remember that each of us has his or her own unique experience, that these problems are faced by other minorities and oppressed classes besides women, and that it is vital that any and all people who experience abuse, harassment, and threat for being who and what they are deserve basic human dignity, be they men or women or trans, be they gay or straight, be they white, black, purple, blue, yellow, tan, brown, orange, red, pink, green, or multicolored.
As far as life experience goes, I’ve led a fairly privileged one. I am white, from an upper-middle-class background, went to private school, and am overeducated (I’m an academic, that last one goes without saying). I have a job, cats, a husband. The life I lead is heteronormative and privileged. I have food every day, whatever I want, and I own more electronic devices than I know what to do with. In the grand scheme of things, I have it pretty damn good.
But none of that means I’m immune from the plethora of things that are now being hashtaged #Yesallwomen. I stopped counting the number of catcalls and offers of dates I’ve received a long, long time ago. Some were polite. Many were not.
In grade school, my best friend and I were taunted for being lesbians because we only ever hung out with each other.
In high school, I was verbally harassed on a daily basis. Sometimes sexually, sometimes not.
When I was 19, I was groped in a bar in England. Yes, I’d been drinking. This is when I learned that my instinctive response to this is violence, and I left the groper lying on the floor while my companions hustled me out of the club. That same year I was thrown across a room in my dorm for refusing to obey orders from one of my drunken “friends.”
While at work on the Freedom Trail, I received a variety of offers to “do it like the Puritans,” offers to help me out of my colonial dress, and to “engage in reenactment” with a man in a Redcoat uniform from another site whose response when I said “No thanks, I’m married,” was “That’s okay, me, too.”
Once on my way home from work (while in grad school), I was used as a masturbatory aid by a man whose face I never saw on a very crowded T.
Over the last two years, I have dressed up as a gold statue and been harassed repeatedly while working. One man pressured me for my hotel room number. Another offered to help scrub the gold paint off me. Others just made general lewd comments. Most of us had our butts grabbed more than once per evening.
Last week, while wearing running shoes, jeans, and a rainbow tie-dyed tshirt, I was told to “work it baby, yeah” while walking down the street to the grocery store.
I am not a particularly “sexy” person. If you saw me on the street, that horrible phrase that should never be uttered (“She’s asking for it”) would never occur to you. I use power tools, I play videogames, and I lift weights. I’d rather be called buff than hot. And yet, I can’t go to the grocery store closest to my house after 8pm without being propositioned (in three years – if I go after 8pm, someone has to hit on me, sometimes politely, more often not).
I am not telling these stories for pity. There are far more people out there who are far more deserving of sympathy than I am – I tell these stories precisely because they are seen as so very banal. Because I don’t really think about them unless someone brings up the fact that our culture not only permits, but even encourages such behavior.
These stories of mine are so ordinary, so pervasive, that every woman who reads this will have a dozen more just like them, and many women will have stories that are far, far worse.
That that is unacceptable.