As usual, I’m late to the #YesAllWomen party (?). Or am I. I was thinking about it as I cleaned house yesterday, thought about all that I told my daughters as they left for college: “don’t accept open drinks from anyone,” “don’t leave any friends behind,” “don’t leave your drink behind,” and especially, “don’t ever think that it is your fault.”
What “don’ts” are the mothers of boys telling their children as they send them off to college or out into the world? I know it is not all men; I know it from experience, but I do know that every single woman I know has been harassed at some point in her life.
I thought about the old lie that women will sometimes report a rape when they wake up the next day with remorse. I know no such women. I do, on the other hand, know many women who contemplated going to the police to try to get help with unwanted attention from someone they had said “yes” to but no longer wanted in their life. And I say “contemplated” because I know many fewer who actually did, because they weren’t sure if seeking help would be more traumatic than putting up with the harassment.
And there it is. What is more trouble? What is more dangerous? Is it worth it? These are the questions on the lips of most women I know who spend any amount of time out in the world.
We don’t call it “bullying” when it is men’s attention on women. But it is the constant undercurrent of our days. Whether we say it out loud or not; whether we know it “out loud” or not.
I remember when my daughters were too little to know about such things–or so I thought–and I taught them to scream “No” as loud as they could as I pushed them on the swings in our backyard. Was I indoctrinating them too early? I don’t know. But I was teaching them to use their voices because I knew not “if” but “when” they needed it, they needed it to be a part of their DNA. It needed to be an instinctive reaction.
I want something different for my daughters who hear the street shit every day. I want #YesAllWomen to mean something entirely different. I want my daughters to see a shift and I applaud the young and old women who are shining light–big, strong light–on the depth of this and how your right to say what you want where ever you want limits our own brilliance. We share these stories not so you will feel sorry or shame, but that you will stop and see us not as body parts but as whole human beings with a right to walk public streets and ride public transportation and sit in private space without you seeing our inattention to you as a personal affront that threatens our safety.