Pardon my unplanned hiatus. I have been working constantly and am 99% done with the new version of the self care book. It will be out this week.
And now I want to contribute to the #yesallwomen thing. I am putting a general TW on this entry for everything.
Read it at your own risk.
First I want to address the idea of not all men.
Not all men have threatened to rape, murder or otherwise harm men. Enough have done so and more have been a witness to it and said nothing.
So while yes, not all literal men, it is all men.
I remember the first time I felt reasonably certain something was going to happen to me.
I was a little girl, small and stout and it was summer. I remember it was brightly colored, skirted and flounced as I ran around on the beach. I spent much of the day in and out of the cold water, draping myself in Seaweed and pretending to be a mermaid, rolling around in the sand and being entirely happy the way little kids can.
I remember the man, he was wearing cammo Bermuda shorts and he had thin pale hairy legs. I remember he smiled at me and told me what a little flirt I was. He told me I looked delicious in my swim suit. He called me sweetie and licked his lips.
I remember it wasn't what he said but how he said it, I remember feeling scared and nervous. I remember his looking between my legs when I sat down to try and go back to digging a hole.
I remember the fear that made it hard to yell. I didn't know what to do. I felt guilty, I felt dirtied. I felt like I had done something wrong but was afraid to do anything else wrong and make the man angry.
When he looked away (I assume looking back to see if someone who looked like my parent was nearby) I grabbed my bucket and ran back to my Mom.
I had strange nightmares about the man and his lip licking for weeks.
I didn't tell anyone because I thought that I had done something to make it happen.
Later, when puberty was going crazy in my body I was a 13 year old girl with huge tits. I'm talking an F cup on my small at the time frame. Most of the time I felt weird and ugly.
I remember I had a band concert and I wore a tight black skirt, black nylons, kitten heels, black cummerbund and a billowy white tux shirt with a black bowtie. I remember feeling the giddy beginnings of how it feels to feel sexy. I felt pretty and grown up. I had on eyeliner and I thought my legs looked nice.
I stood outside with other kids, waiting for the bandroom to be opened up with my head held high.
It took one grown man, someone else's Dad to stop, look me up and down and proclaim me "slutbait" and to chastise me for having such "big titties" to make me feel afraid and loathed. I slunk away and hid in the bathroom trying vainly to unslutbait myself.
When I was a little girl, before I understood the nature of sexual harassment and what it means to have a strange man proposition, demand or otherwise need to abuse me sexually all I knew was fear and guilt.
I was afraid because those men were big like my Daddy. I was small. I did not know how to defend myself. I did not know how to tell someone that I felt sexually endangered because that is not language I had.
I felt guilty because somehow I felt like I had provoked it. Every time. From the time I walked home from the library with books in my arms and eating an apple and a man tried to lure me into his car, to when I was told by a group of big boys (I was still a little girl) that they wanted to "tear off my bra and see if my tits were real".
It was my fault.
No one ever told me it wasn't.
When I was older and knew what rape was when I was walking home from school in my cheerleading uniform thinking only about having a hot pocket I threw an orange at a car full of boys my age because they drove past me yelling about how they wanted to get under my skirt.
That was the first time my terror was followed by rage.
I remember realizing that no matter what I was doing, I was supposed to be fair game for any man to have. That if I was walking by myself, or wearing make up, or showing some cleavage that men thought it was their right to claim my body or threaten me.
Between that realization and right now, so much and yet so little has changed.
Now when I am catcalled, when I am cornered when I am afraid my immediate desire is to commit an act of violence.
I want to hit, I want to stab, I forget that I am 5'4 and not as physically strong as I imagine myself to be. In those moments I feel like I am the biggest blackest mother fucker on the planet and I want to pick up a car and throw it.
I can't of course so I do what I know how to do.
Inside I feel the same things other women feel.
I wonder almost daily if that is the night I don't make it home to my partner.
I am afraid every time I see a car slowing down. I am thinking about getting the license plate, about seeing the driver/passengers, I put my 911 speed dial on the front screen of my phone, I wonder if there will be witnesses.
I wonder if that night will be the night I am assaulted, I am raped, I am murdered.
I wonder if I do get assaulted, raped how will I explain to the court that I did not want this man's touch but have had sex with a lot of other men.
Will the defense find the topless pictures of me on the internet, will the erotica I have written come up, will they find the one night stands I had in my early twenties, will they find my words talking about my kinks, will they bring up the essay I wrote about Female Privilege and decide that my snark is the literal truth?
Because I am a Black woman will it be assumed that I was hooking?
I think about these things. I seethe with rage because I am afraid of being killed or raped or dragged into a stranger's car that I zig zag through Belltown and wind up missing my bus.
I get angry because I've seen my best friend cry because she was afraid for my safety.
I get angry because when I say that it is not my duty to look nice for, to be nice to strange men, men tell me I'm being a stuck up cunt.
I am angry because it is presumed that my desire to be in absolute control of who I am sexually available to is a literally laughable concept to too many men.
I am tired of hearing about men or boys killing women for saying no.
I am tired of being told that I am a feminzai nigger bitch (quoted verbatim from a recent encounter) because I have the nerve to take up some space in public.
The man who said this to me about two/three weeks ago decided that me sitting on a bus bench reading a book and listening to music meant I was available to be groped. I haven't told anybody about this incident (one in a long string) and I am just tired. This man crowded me into the corner of a bench and was upset that I did not move my bag out of my lap because he wanted to "check out my thighs" with his hands.
I am angry and tired because every woman I know. Yes every single woman I know either on the internet or in meatspace, has told me that these things happen to them too.
They wear fake wedding rings, they travel only established routes, they don't go to events alone. Some of them have told me in secret that the only reason they drive is because they are afraid of being alone on a bus and having to walk.
They tell me they are afraid for their daughters.
They tell me they are sad.
Women, ALL women are suffering because it is so often more important (as we are taught) to spare the feelings of a man, than it is for us to be or feel safe.
That is why #yesallwomen is important.
That is why, I have no chill about this shit anymore.
That is why, I will keep writing my snarky essays.
That is why I will at every opportunity put the smack down on any boys will be boys behavior.
That is why I am angry.
That is why I am scared.
That is why I feel solidarity with women who in any other circumstance I would avoid like the plague. I'm talking about racists. I'm talking about women who would sooner see me die in a fire than walk around talking.
That is what #notallmen drives me to.
I am exhausted.
I am not okay.
We are not okay.
Before anything can change, #allmen need to get their fucking shit together.
#allmen need to start actively and passionately making sure that no more women have to say these things.
I have hope, however thin and ragged that someday we won't have to have #yesallwomen.
I hope that #allofus can work hard to make this a thing of the past.
My hope is small and cracked but it remains.