We are people, just like them
August 26, 2015 9:41 PM   Subscribe

 
I saw this yesterday, and I think it broke me a little. I'm male, feminist, and slowly trying to get rid of all the poison that I soaked up just by growing up in this world. I read what I can, and I'm getting much better at ignoring the little voice of the patriarchy that reads a piece like this looking for errors, inconsistencies, any small thing that would rationalise it away. I'm listening a lot more, and speaking a lot less. I'm learning so much more.

I'm often optimistic, and I know many young men who hate the idea of manhood that they've been sold, and who are actively working to change it. I know many incredible women who do the same, but with much more on the line. I'm usually upbeat about it.

Something about this piece just cracked that a little. Maybe not this woman's story in particular, but her story in aggregate - I've read similar things so many times. So many women getting slowly borne down by the million small cuts. So many women getting eroded away by this ceaseless background radiation of our world. So many women who have sold themselves short, who have stayed quiet, who have backed down because it wasn't worth the hassle. So many voices the world has missed.

I'm not going to stop working in my small way, and I know that things are getting better. This story just made me acutrely aware of how many million little sufferings are still going to happen while the 'getting better' slowly carries on.
posted by twirlypen at 10:09 PM on August 26, 2015 [26 favorites]


Thanks for posting this!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:15 PM on August 26, 2015


What made this all the more intense was how, while I read each vignette, I simultaneously remembered very vividly events that were of course not identical but very similar, and wondered "how the hell does she remember all these things, when I've forgotten or explained away so much?"

I can't help but hope that the 7 year age gap between our ages represents some kind of answer to that: maybe, maybe there's been enough progress at a rapid enough rate that young women can and will start to really remember and speak about these things more and more and more until we can't be dismissed as outliers or bitches or sluts or "oh well, those were less enlightened times" and we won't dismiss our own memories just to get on with our days. I forgot so much to protect myself, but that kind of amnesia has never really helped us.
posted by zinful at 10:55 PM on August 26, 2015 [22 favorites]


This has been shared by enough women on my facebook that I finally read it. And as I was reading it, I was thinking to myself that I don't even really need to read it. Because it's all so familiar to me - it's basically my story, with slightly different situations. The grabbing, the groping, the rubbing-up-against-me; the lewd comments, the boys in my school sidling up to me and hissing in my ear - "sssssssluuuuuut" because one of them decided it would be funny to start a rumor that a lonely boy I had befriended had paid me $25 to give him a blowjob; the lecherous gazes and inappropriate comments; the slut-shaming I got just by virtue of being a girl; the body-shaming that started even before I hit puberty; the prank calls, nasty anonymous notes, disgusting graffiti on my locker; the being followed by strangers both on foot and driving, being asked if I wanted a ride somewhere...all of this before I even got to high school and by both men and boys. This constant stream of harassment affected me well into my adult years and though I feel mostly recovered from that stuff and pretty good about things in general, I still find myself sometimes needing to work at deprogramming myself from the things I learned when I was too young to know any better. And because I was too young to have the skills to deal with it I ended up internalizing it. And I think that a lot of women do this and we end up carrying these fucked up ideas about our bodies, our sexuality, our agency, etc., into our adulthoods, which can cause a lot of other problems, sometimes making it a sad and depressing cycle. Gah.

Anyway, I have dozens of stories like this. I think most women do.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:01 PM on August 26, 2015 [47 favorites]


I got linked to this story the other day on facebook and have been paging through the questions since. The people running this are incredible; given what they do post I shudder to think what they must read that they don't. Thank you for posting this.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:35 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think back to how easy it was for me, in first grade, to feel fearless and strong in my conviction to stomp on John’s glasses. I felt right in reacting how I did, because John’s behavior was wrong. But his was an elementary learning of the wide boundaries his gender would go on to afford him. For me, it would never again be so easy.

The whole post made me alternately angry and nauseous, but that last paragraphs slayed me. The awful truth of boys being taught how far the world will allow them to push the boundaries - so far, much further than women can take - and girls being taught to take it. Sometimes I wish I had a daughter but today is one of the days I'm glad I don't.
posted by billiebee at 1:00 AM on August 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


That is a powerful essay. It deserves to be read widely; the author chose to be anonymous but she is clearly a good writer with a lot to say, and I hope her future writing also gets shared here.

The awful truth of boys being taught how far the world will allow them to push the boundaries - so far, much further than women can take - and girls being taught to take it.

I had a relatively enlightened upbringing, especially by the standards of the time, but I definitely can recognize my socialization in that sentence. Pushing boundaries of all kinds, not just with girls, was (and I am sure still is) a strongly encouraged path for boys. Things may be slightly different now with the zero tolerance policies towards bullying, but I can't recall anyone facing any serious consequences for even quite awful or damaging actions, including causing serious injury or trauma.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:18 AM on August 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


I can't help but hope that the 7 year age gap between our ages represents some kind of answer to that: maybe, maybe there's been enough progress at a rapid enough rate that young women can and will start to really remember and speak about these things more and more and more until we can't be dismissed as outliers or bitches or sluts

I'm the authors age, and at least in my experience with my peers, yes. It could very well be the people i'm friends with, but this stuff really gets talked about. Friends write about it. I know someone who does photo shoots on the theme of growing up as a girl, and in all her interviews so far discusses it.

I don't think a single day goes by where offline, online, or both this kind of stuff isn't a topic of discussion at least in passing. It's really getting talked about. And i'm a guy, so i imagine there's a hell of a lot more conversation i'm not even around or privy to.

I can't see this as anything but great. I mean, the cause of the conversation is depressing and fucked, but the fact that it's happening so continuously makes me at least feel like shits going to change.
posted by emptythought at 4:35 AM on August 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


One of the most wonderful -- and yet simultaneously dismaying -- things about getting married was that I got to escape all this shit. (Well, not all of it. Most of it.) Once I was married, these kinds of things STOPPED HAPPENING to me (very often), and it was such an incredible relief, and suddenly my relationships with men were so much more friendly and uncomplicated.

And then you pause for a moment and realize why that is: It's not so much that they respect my decision not to have sex with them ever ever ever; it's that they respect my husband's decision to have sex exclusively with me.

And then my feelings get very mixed because on the one hand, I'm grateful not to have to deal with all that shit and to be able to enjoy friendships with men without them being idiots. But on the other hand, the reason I can do that now is creepy and weird and undermining and in fact has nothing to do with them recognizing me as an autonomous person with autonomous desires, but with men respecting other men.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:53 AM on August 27, 2015 [40 favorites]


"One of the most wonderful -- and yet simultaneously dismaying -- things about getting married"

Of course the test case here about whether creeper men actually respect marriage (and permanent public commitments to another person (in a way they fail to respect temporary public commitments, or just statements that $woman does not want to sleep with them)) or just respect other dudes is whether women in same-sex marriages experience the same drop in creepers as women in opposite-sex marriage do.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:56 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I definitely have a couple of stories like this, but I think not being 'conventionally beautiful' has allowed me to escape most of these experiences (at the cost of being completely invisible). I do recall seeing things like this happen to my friends when I was (much) younger and wishing for that kind of validation, which, in retrospect, is horrifying.
posted by torisaur at 6:23 AM on August 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


I have these stories.
We all have these stories.
We didn't all know the same men.
We didn't all grow up in the same cities.
Why do we all have these stories?
Our fathers. Our father's fathers.
All of their fathers.
Opting out.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:23 AM on August 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


Reading this felt like déjà vu - so similar to my adolescence with just the names and details changed. I spent so long feeling guilty and embarrassed for these experiences. At some point, I realized that these weren't things that I did, but rather, things done to me. It still doesn't make me feel better about any of it.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 8:29 AM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


@Eyebrows McGee

"Of course the test case here about whether creeper men actually respect marriage (and permanent public commitments to another person (in a way they fail to respect temporary public commitments, or just statements that $woman does not want to sleep with them)) or just respect other dudes is whether women in same-sex marriages experience the same drop in creepers as women in opposite-sex marriage do."

I can tell you that they do not, at least not in my experience and the experiences of the women I know who have married other women. The creepers get more insistent when their targets turn out to be lesbians. AnecData to this point suggest there is not much difference in creeper brain between married or unmarried lesbian couples(But SSM only became law here in January, so the data-set for times including legal marriage is much smaller.) I suspect there is a combination of the threesome fantasy, and the decreased likelihood of having to contest the property rights of any other men.
posted by Vigilant at 9:14 AM on August 27, 2015


Condolences to our younger selves, our adult selves. I only recently broke my rose colored glasses and have renamed some occurences.
posted by Oyéah at 10:01 AM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


That, ladies and gentlemen, is what compelling writing looks like. If that was twice as long, I would have still read it all the way to the end.
posted by prepmonkey at 10:02 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


About 7 years ago, my partner at the time told me her stories like this. I reacted badly, unable to really comprehend them, with a host of unhelpful comments like "Why didn't you just tell them no?" and "Why didn't you get a taxi/walk home?", and "Why didn't you tell your parents?", and worst of all, "Well I don't think you can call that rape", as if pedantically quibbling about what exact category the sexual assaults she felt secure enough to share with me were in was in any way appropriate or helpful. I was, obviously, an idiot, and I'm deeply sorry for that. Stories like the linked page just underline how common and depressingly unexceptional her stories were, but I think sharing them and speaking up about them is incredibly important.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:40 AM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wow, just wow. I too had a Thomas in my life. Only my Thomas' name was something else. I forgot it, as well as forgetting about most of the other incidents similar in my life to the anonymous author's, until I read the article.

As I am nearly three times older than that author, I've had decades longer to process these incidents that seemingly happen to most, if not all women, somewhere, sooner or later. I still have no answers, no conclusions, just guilt (I blamed myself for my "Thomas" incident) and sorrow. Does it ever get better?
posted by Lynsey at 10:52 AM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Men have no idea what it takes to be a woman. To grin and bear it and persevere. The constant state of war, navigating the relentless obstacle course of testosterone and misogyny, where they think we are property to be owned and plowed. But we’re not. We are people, just like them.

I keep coming back to this, stunned that we keep having to state that we are people.
We keep having to proclaim, declare, remind, announce and demonstrate that we are people. Not a sock to be filled with cum. Not a sponge to soak up frustrations. Not a toy to be played with on the subway and left inanimate for the next user.

People.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:46 PM on August 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


Reading this also made me think of the scene in True Detective (Season 1) where Marty and Maggie are arguing after they had to talk to their young daughter about drawings she had done of naked people and sexual situations:

Marty: "Jesus, how do they even know about that stuff yet?"
Maggie: "Girls always know before boys."
Marty: "Why is that?"
Maggie: "Because they have to."

posted by triggerfinger at 2:51 PM on August 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


I am double the age of the author and I have had every experience of hers, plus some.

Earlier this year, I was sitting on my back deck with my (now ex) housemate (who lived with me on weekdays) and her boyfriend who was up for a quick visit from their home town. All of us are over 50yrs old. Boyfriend said something about life being easy for women due to men wanting to fuck them all the time. I replied, in a light-hearted voice, that he had NO IDEA about the pressures and violence women have to thwart on a daily basis.

Well. You'd think that I'd said that he was so dumb he didn't know how to walk and chew gum. He jumped from his seat, stood legs apart in front of me, grabbed his crotch, thrust his hips forward, and said something like "fuck you! My big balls are bigger than your brain!" stormed off into the garden and berated his (now ex) girlfriend for not standing up for him when I so rudely criticised him.

Part from shock, part from disbelief, I laughed out loud. He stormed back onto the deck and shouted "how dare I tell him what he didn't know!"

He was starting to scare me by this stage. Fortunately he realised that his welcome was rescinded and left. He spent the next three weeks (until they broke up) harranging his girlfriend for letting me talk to him like that. Each recounting of his diatribes was both hilarious and pathetic.

So fellas. If you want women to like you, never ever ever think that you know more about mens' behaviour towards women that women do themselves. You will just show yourself up to be a hilariously pathetic ballsack.

And to all my young and old sisters, remember: Women are the experts on male on female harassment. If you think/feel/sense you are being harassed, you are. And don't let anyone, especially a man, tell you otherwise. Trusts yourselves, not them.
posted by Thella at 3:28 PM on August 27, 2015 [22 favorites]


The internet is such a fantastic tool for spreading awareness. I am quite jealous that it wasn't around when I was a young woman. We all have these stories to tell but it isn't often that we have a safe place to tell them; each girl and each woman goes through these things not knowing how common it is. That's why it is such a relief to see it all laid out so that we know we are not losers or freaks or doing something wrong or shameful. Existing and being around males-- that is all it takes.

IRL I don't often talk about the bad things that happened to me because they turn me into a victim and because they make people sad. I've learned from experience that telling the wrong people is actually harmful to my self-esteem. However I would be willing to bet that if you pulled 100 random women off the street and asked them to list all of the abuse, the harassment, the violations they have endured my own story would not be the most shocking or the most damaging.

I'm actually gnashing my teeth at the moment getting angry at all of the shit that women put up with. Have put up with. Will put up with in the future.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:04 PM on August 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


Just blown away by this; brings back lots of memories that I try not to think about. I'm glad I read it...I think.
posted by GrammarMoses at 6:01 AM on August 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was nodding along with so many of her experiences. What a powerful piece.
posted by biggreenplant at 5:40 PM on August 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


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