It’s been giving me palpitations and stomach aches, trying to figure out how to write for women right now. To write for myself. There’s so much to cover and I don’t want to get it wrong. I’ve gotten bogged down in research a few times, gone down some deep rabbit holes. Here’s where I’ll start:
In many ways, this is the MOST amazing time to be a woman. Incredible the way we’re finding each other, banding together, dismissing the shit culture has told us we’re supposed to feel about ourselves, looking for roles in leadership, taking credit for and insisting on compensation and respect for the roles we already have- in careers and at home. Momentum is building and you can feel the energy of it. You can hear the echoes of our foremothers who tink-tink-tinked at the structure of men on top so that it was possible for us to collapse and expose it.
As we discussed in the last post, it’s been this way, keeping women’s power in check under men’s (patriarchy), keeping us vulnerable, hyper-sexualized, and exploited (rape culture), since forever. We all knew it, but it didn’t seem to matter. We didn’t seem to matter.
Suddenly, curiously, crimes against women are being considered…crimes. Workplace violations are grounds for losing one’s job- but NOT the person violated losing her job, for a change! Now, the perp has to pay….consequences. It’s wild! If you act aggressively and unprofessionally, abusing your position of power, rank, or influence…you’re gonna lose something. Even if it was a woman you violated!
What!? This is all new and novel! I don’t quite trust it yet.
Also, it feels a bit de-stablizing. Like, it’s ABOUT FUCKING TIME, but also, we’re removing the pillars of industries, is everything going to fall? I mean, it won’t. It’ll get better. And they’r being removed and prosecuted for their own crimes and misdeeds, but it still all seems surprising and bizarre. We’re so used to protecting the leaders, hiding their wrong-doing to keep the machine working, it feels…uncertain. Thrilling that women matter suddenly, but uncertain.
I saw a triumphant photo of a protestor standing against police violence in Charlotte, NC, a year ago, who just ran for, and won, a seat on the town’s city council. One of the comments (never read the comments) was something like, “Oh, great. Hope you look forward to disruption of the peace.” It’s like, WHO’S PEACE?? Yes, it’s going to take some shaking up, some extremely uncomfortable conversations, some voting and speaking against the status quo, some total reckoning of who we are and how we work, and a shift in power, to fix this sexist, racist place in which we live.
We are changing the status quo, and that feels scary, but the status quo was bad for most of us.
And it’s all we know. The patriarchy is all that we’ve ever known, and rape culture is everywhere. You see that and start to question everything you understand, all of your experiences, relationships, and concept of history. You re-evaluate it all.
How many times have we shrugged off being violated or misused as people, because we’re women, ‘it wasn’t that bad,’ and ‘it is the way it is.’ We women are taught to sacrifice pieces of ourselves to everyone else. We have to present our bodies for the dissection and consumption of the world. We have to do ALL THE WORK at home and at work, or we’re not caring enough. With a smile on your face, thank you very much. We have to keep the peace, and if that means covering up for someone else’s mistreatment of you, so be it.
Men are used to being the dominant class. They’re used to being catered to, respected, in charge, not questioned. They’re used to getting away with treating women like less than they expect to be treated. Because that’s just how it is. We’re used to it, too.
So, if things are as bad for women, why don’t we “do something about it?” Well. We are. And, it’s the whole damned universe we have to turn upside down. It’s gonna take a minute. You fellas are going to need to help, too.
Also, until THIS VERY SECOND, when we speak up about our experiences, we’re not believed, or we’re punished. I mean, even if we are blatantly attacked and injured, crimes against us are historically not well prosecuted. We are also embarrassed. We are afraid to hurt our reputation, our family, even the person who harassed or assaulted us. We are afraid we did something wrong. We want it to go away because it hurts. Also, our job on the planet is to be accommodating and selfless and quiet, so standing up for ourselves when it’s something as treacherous as harassment or assault, when it may negatively impact someone else….flies in the face of everything we’ve been taught.
We think, we can deal with it. Others have had worse. That man hurt me, but “he doesn’t know any better,” or “maybe I misinterpreted the situation,” “somehow it’s my fault, or “I’ll psychologically analyze and excuse him,” etc, etc.
I don’t know if any other heterosexual couples are finding it hard to talk about this stuff. Or if women, in general, are struggling to talk to men about this. Women having to use their brave words to express the ways we’ve felt minimized, hurt by individual men, and the power structure over the years. It’s…difficult to male partners and loved ones to hear and accept it. It can feel like an attack.
So, there’s a backing away, a “well, not me!” from the man, an instinct that makes it difficult for women to continue describing their experiences, because we want to comfort our poor wounded male person. In response to #notallmen, women have said, #yesallwomen….and so, if you do the math- carry the 3, and divide by an eternity…we’re hurting and you men need to hear us.
I don’t want an impasse on something so important with my husband. We both end up mad and dissatisfied. It’s not just my husband. Other men who love me deeply have shut me up when I talk about women’s issues because it’s ‘unpleasant’ and I seem upset.
You’re telling me I’m not allowed to be angry? Not allowed to be hurt and yelling for change? You want me quiet and polite about this?
I am fucking upset.
I talk about my own experiences, or my friends’, colleagues’, authors I follow, I start dropping stats on un-tested rape kits for trials that will never happen, or deaths from domestic violence, or on the poor representation of women in leadership roles in business and entertainment, the wage gap, etc, and eventually the men who love me most get uncomfortable. So I stop. And then I feel hollow.
For my husband and I, we’ve run into this on more than a few occasions. It happened again recently. On our way back from our blissful anniversary trip, when we were at our most in sync, most trusting and vulnerable with each other, the conversation again veered to the systemic problems keeping women down. I started discussing how I have always been exclusively on the hook for our contraception- physically, financially, time-wise, worry-wise. It’s always been me. I think that’s not fair. Biologically practical, maybe, but not necessary or fair. He felt the need to defend himself. “But I would have/but you never said/but how could I have known,” etc. I felt myself droop. I wanted to just let it go then.
But, I didn’t. I was criticizing the whole system that puts contraception on the shoulders of the women in the couples, and he and I were just my closest example, and I thought it reasonable that he hear that. That it was true, and right. His push-back, his anger at being called out would have previously shut me down, made me feel dismissed and elicited my primal urge to shut up and make him feel better.
But I didn’t. We were in a good place, we were trusting and loving and it was crucial to me that he heard and understood me, and that I could make a sound point about injustice, that affected us, without having to worry about his butthurt over it.
I didn’t want to argue, but I didn’t want my words un-said.
And, eventually, in terrible traffic and with some loud and awkward moments, I felt heard. It was productive and we both gained from it. He wanted to understand what I was saying, did not want me to feel shut down. Since then, he’s basically tried to constantly gut check and respond maturely, reasonably, but sometimes acknowledges he gets emotional and defensive. What he’s promised me, is that it’s not my job to save him. If what I’m saying is true and needs to be said, I don’t have to be on the hook for his butthurt.
Fantastic! But I’m still sorry. Wait, no! Sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. Oops, I did it again. Sorry. Ay!
Similar conversations being had between friends, lovers, family members that contain the white people in power and POC not in power at this present time. There has to be so much grace and patiences and, we have to be so mindful of who shoulders the pain that is experienced as the system is assessed and dismantled. We’re all going to get hurt feelings, going to have to be really real with our egos and our privilege. Not easy.
We’re working on it. We’re all sexist. We’re all racist. We have to accept that, realize we’re living inside this system, then start working on taking it apart, together. Those not in power at present have the most pressure on them to EVER SO PATIENTLY be brave and articulate the pain. Those in power in the present state have to listen and ego check.
I have more to say, in another post.
Here are the things I’d still like to cover. I reserve the right to add to this list as shit goes down in the news at a breakneck speed.
- Even though women make up half the population, we’re “othered” by men, and women
- Women are worth more than sex
- ‘Men are pigs’ is a bullshit excuse for women getting hurt
- It’s worse for women of color
Thanks for reading, comment if you have thoughts you’d like to share.