While I was sleeping, all of my sisters and aunts and mothers and cousins and daughters and friends took to Twitter with a hashtag started by the Everyday Sexism Project entitled #ShoutingBack. It’s a jarring thing to wake up to, reading all of these tweets about how women and girls are subjected to harassment on a seemingly never-ending basis, but in light of recent events it seems that everyone is speaking out against things like this. And even though it is sort of jarring, it isn’t very shocking, because this is the life of women, from birth to death. This is our reality. I don’t care how old you are, or how you look, or what you are wearing, or where you are, chances are pretty good that you will encounter this.
I love this conversation about sexual harassment, about how we can raise our girls not to be victims and how we can raise our boys not to be rapists, about how we can – how the world can – start viewing sexual assault and harassment for how damaging it really is.
But I hate this conversation. I’m tired. And even though I know that rapes happen every minute of every day the world over, and that women have been writing about this and speaking out about this and protesting about this since the dawn of time, after awhile it seems like no matter how loud and heartfelt and angry you are about the situation, you are still sort of screaming into the ether.
But, you know, fuck me and being tired and whatever cry-baby thoughts flash through my mind as I think and write about these things, because at the end of the day, this has been another 24 hours that I wasn’t raped. It’s been another week that I wasn’t raped. Which is more than I can say for thousands of women and girls the world over.
I didn’t write yesterday. I took a personal day and dumped my work on my co-worker and took care of some household business and vowed that I was going to have a rape-free day. And that worked to an extent, but as so many of you know, we don’t really have rape-free days. We talk about it a lot lately.
I called my mom, because I hadn’t talked to her in a few days. We talked about rape, and about girls, and about all of it. And my almost 70-year-old mother told me she tried to watch the video and she kept crying. So fuck you Michael Nodianos for making my mother cry. And for probably making your own mother cry. And for making strangers cry and my friends cry. And even though the Stuebenville case is horrible and awful, and the comments on Twitter about #ShoutingBack are horrible and awful, we aren’t shocked by this, because this is our reality. Only now, we are speaking out about it at a greater frequency.
We all have our stories. I have a pile of terrible, awful, horrifying stories. But they aren’t that different from everyone else’s. I think about rapes and unwanted sexual advances. I think about me age nine, how tall I was at age nine. You should have seen me, tall and beautiful and awkward with waist-length hair and a mouth full of braces and riding my bike. I was cornered by some man on a bike, much older than me and unzipping his pants and asking me if I wanted to touch him, his hand stroking himself and my face hot with my tears as I escaped home. I remember the smell of my pillow as I buried my face in it, calico flowers and gingham as I shoved my small mouth into the fabric and tried to breathe.
Years later, my sister and I, teenagers, our bellies full of mall parmesan pretzels and foamy Orange Julius, girls with streaked hair and multiple earrings out for a day of shopping. We were finding our car in the mall parking lot, only to glance over and see a man with his cock pressed to his car window, his toothless grin as he ejaculated on the glass. We found a pay phone and waited for the police, our fun Saturday ruined by some habitual sexual offender who had done this thing many times before.
These are just fleeting thoughts, and nowhere near a dent in the big, bad pile of awful stories. But you can ask any woman, any girl, and she will tell you her own fleeting thoughts and memories, her own terrible stories about harassment. And about rape. And all of our rapes. And my mother’s rapes. And her mother’s rapes. And the rapes of strangers. And the never-ending barrage of sexual harassment we receive from birth until death forever and ever amen.
I know boys deal with their own levels of bullshit. I realize that men and boys are raped, and objectified, and made to feel terrible in ways that women aren’t. I know it can be hard for everyone. But overall, this bullshit is a lot more frequently directed towards women. And no matter how much we speak up about it, and how much media attention it gets, this will probably be something my own daughter has to deal with. No one knows what the answer is yet. We don’t know how we can stop the reasons for #ShoutingBack, how we can protect ourselves and our daughters from harassment, from rape. But I do know even though I am tired, and so many of you are tired, that these conversations make me proud. I am in awe of the bravery of so many. My mother. My sister. You.