Everywhere and every day, women learn to adapt to boys and men leering, hissing obscenities, making sexual suggestions, touching us, lurking on stoops, staring from benches, following us on foot and in cars, and generally refusing to keep their hands, thoughts, and desires to themselves.
Yet still, we look away, put our heads down, take protective measures, and learn to try and safeguard ourselves. Because we have been given no other choice.
Speak up and risk anger, the inviting of aggression, and further terrible treatment. Or, say nothing, and it continues.
The point though is this: we as women should not have to “be careful”, to carry pepper spray, to fear walking our neighborhood during day or night, to smile and be silent, to say nothing at sexist jokes or degradation, to swallow and remain quiet when a man grabs us in public or speaks inappropriately toward us.
The perpetrators of these behaviors and lines of thought must instead be called out, taken to task, told it’s not ok, and shown that we do not accept it.
They must be forced to reap consequences. Only then might any significant change be evoked.
They should be made to understand that instead of staying silent, we will yell, draw attention, make a scene, get angry, speak out, and push back.
Until we start standing up and refusing to quietly accept such, our current status quo will continue in much the same way.
It is insane and enraging that every day, women have to contend with the possibility that they will be attacked either verbally or physically. Or, that as women, we routinely must bear the discomfort and burden pressed upon us of other men’s desires, whether we like it or not.
Our learning of said desires in frequently having them flat out pressed upon us via leering, whispers, spoken or even shouted comments, jeers, unsolicited touches, degrading comments and language, harassment, or even via flat out violence.
As women, we can lose our dignity, sense of safety, or feelings of a right to public space, all on someone else’s whim (almost always a man) and at the drop of a hat.
Meanwhile, we bite our tongues to avoid the routine stereotype that will most certainly be slapped upon us on speaking out or making a scene over such ill treatment, a stereotype that almost immediately garners and results in the dismissal and ridicule of a “shrill, angry, out-of-control women.”
When really, what is truly surprising or illogical about a person getting angry on their being treated horribly, unjustly, offensively, with degradation or cruelty? This is the natural reaction. Yet, women who react with anything other than silence and a smile are the recipients of further venom, anger, and attack.
This must stop. We should not have to bite our tongues to harassment, degradation, sexism, maltreatment, the oppressive thrust of men’s desires upon us (when we haven’t had a say in the matter), or abuse. That needs to cease.
And yet, how might we avoid the danger to ourselves, both physical and emotional, on choosing to speak up and get angry where it’s deserved?
How can we protect ourselves?
In considering the question, we are met with the two options: stay silent and nothing changes, or get loud, possibly get hurt, and it likely still continues.
This of course goes without saying, but it is not the responsibility or the job of women to accept and handle this. It has been made into our burden to bear, and this is a gross misplacement of weight and finger-pointing.
It is not our job to dress in ways that do not evoke the desires of men, “or else.” It is not our responsibility to stay silent and smile, so as not to anger men. It is not our issue that men feel pissed off when we stand up and challenge these still obscenely imbalanced methods of treatment and perception between the genders. We should not have to be quiet to avoid being hurt. We should not have to “be careful.”
It is the perpetrator's fault and responsibility always. It is their issue and their problem. They are the ones who need to stop pushing their desires inappropriately and oppressively on us, where not invited. They are the ones who need to redirect their anger, to get a grip and accept that women deserve the same rights, respect, and privileges as men.
Why because we have different genitals, are we less than? How does simply having different biological structures make us any less intelligent, less worthwhile, less deserving of respect, less able, or less than in general? The answer is a big, fat: it doesn't.
Inequality between the sexes is a f*cked up social construct, and it needs to stop, now. Further, the continued mistreatment of women is one of the more significant crimes against humanity, and it’s still very much in motion.
It continues to be a hugely prominent issue and a life altering, significant detriment to women, both emotionally and physically. It affects, hinders, and diminishes their lives. It is a major problem. And it’s about time we started getting pissed about it, as well as, speaking up and taking more action.
For further inspiration on this topic, check out “Rage Becomes Her” by Soraya Chemaly. This read having been named a “best book of 2018” by NPR, The Washington Post, Book Riot, Autostraddle, and Psychology Today. I highly recommend this rage-inducing, informative, thought-provoking read.