Why do people do things like this?
No one deserves this feeling, I’m so angry at the world. It’s not fair, it’s not fucking fair. Girls are taught to keep it quiet, that things like this is normal and to get over it. It’s not fucking okay that we are taken advantage of and fed shit to make us forget about it. And yet, I still have lingering thoughts of “What if I wasn’t drinking?” And “what if I wasn’t so quiet?” And “what if I said no instead of keeping my mouth shut?” That is why this is so hard, that I’m regretting things that I shouldn’t have dealt with in the first place. No one deserves to feel like this. There’s times where I’m crying and crying at night and telling my self to stop thinking, to stop hearing the words he said, to stop thinking about how he smelled, just to stop. So I won’t stand down, because I won’t allow this to happen to other girls.
Tonight I had my first argument on twitter with a men’s rights activist. He wasn’t particularly aggressive with his views and I call him a men’s rights activist but he wasn’t actually aware of what MRA stands for. However, he tried the whole condescending ‘not all men are like that’ and ‘you’re too young to understand.’ I felt so angry. Writing this now, I still feel so angry.
Whilst replying to him I felt like I was doing the right thing. I’d seen other people I follow get into discussions and arguments with people like him and I always thought that they’d kept replying until finishing the argument either having persuaded the other person round to their point of view or leaving them stumped as for what to say next. However, I wasted two hours of my evening to no avail. Two hours that I had planned to spend writing another article and then getting an early night because I need to be awake reasonably early tomorrow. It was a complete waste of time, which makes me feel even angrier. Another wise tweeter said that there was no point arguing with this guy because he was going to keep making circular arguments and think that he’s won. She said that my time was more important than his ego. I carried on for a while because I’d already wasted enough time so it seemed as though that ship had already sailed. However, when he said that all poor people were poor (we began to talk about privilege and social class also) because of bad life decisions and no other factors I terminated our conversation with ‘you make me feel sick k bye’ and blocked him. Perhaps not the most mature reply but he was already treating me like a nine year old so I owed him nothing.
It made me think though that there is no way to persuade someone like him. He was so fixed in his views. It’s sad and terrible that people remain to be so ignorant. I feel so depressed now about all of society. This man I was arguing with said that male privilege (and any other privilege at all) doesn’t exist but I saw it in that conversation. Men are more likely than women to think that they are right because they have been raised to believe so. If you are a cis, white heterosexual male then you’ve hit the jackpot. You are perfect as far as society is concerned; fairly represented in the media, socialised through toys and hobbies representing masculine strength and favoured by everyone else because they too have seen this media representation.
It was such a culture shock to be actually engaging with someone with such toxically ignorant views. Although a lot of my school peers would not call themselves feminists, if discussing certain topics they would agree with feminist views. Everyone else I talk to definitely is a feminist (boys included.) It is impossible to pretend that sexism doesn’t exist in modern society. I have experienced it and every girl and woman I know has experienced it also. You only need to search through the #YesAllWomen trend (the one that got me into this discussion in the first place) to see that.
So is there any point at all in trying to persuade individuals through a twitter war about this? Perhaps not. I certainly would not engage in a lengthy twitter argument ever again. I think that what is needed is something on a larger scale. It’s about informing and persuading groups of people that to assume that society has achieved gender equality is a gross injustice against all women have experienced sexual assault of any degree, women of colour and trans women who have experienced further discrimination and even teenage girls who have been belittled by being catcalled whilst walking to and from school. What we are doing now is definitely the right kind of thing. Publications like fab-fem and twitter trends like #YesAllWomen are the best ways to permeate people’s consciousness until they realise that, yes, this is an issue and, yes, teenage girls know what they are talking about because we all experience it.
#YesAllWomen because I should not have thought that extreme male violence in the home was “normal” until middle school.
#YesAllWomen because after long scary nights I had to go to school and face the all-too-real rape jokes, domestic violence and sexual assault based “humor” of my classmates who spat” feminist” like a dirty word when I tried to finally say enough. Because I was told to “calm down” and “take a joke” when it was already something I lived in.
#YesAllWomen because yes I am a victim but sadly my experience is not rare or unique
#YesAllWomen because the catastrophic history of my body, and the body of women everywhere is not your comedic material and your normalization and tolerance of sexual violence is not funny OR harmless
#YesAllWomen because to some, my mother’s fear of going to the police equates her guilt
#YesAllWomen because I am not allowed to talk about ending the violence that has destroyed my family and others without people trying to silence me with “femininazi”, mocking me and calling me a “man hater”
#YesAllWomen because sexual violence is still called “a women’s issue”
#YesAllWomen because people prefer to focus on the insignificantly small statistic of false reports as opposed to the sexual assault that occurs every 113 seconds, then use that fixation to invalidate and call into question my own trauma and the trauma of others
#YesAllWomen because men still think that not physically being perpetrators means “not my problem”
#YesAllWomen because a man who gunned down six has launched conversations on the validity of his misogynistic motivations. Because there are people talking about “the friend zone” and not lives lost. Because somehow women are being blamed for murder for the right to say “no” to a racist and misogynistic man and have ownership of their bodies. Because people are talking about gun laws but not the weapon of misogyny and rape culture that fueled attacks on my child body, teenage body and woman body.
#YesAllWomen because men who grope and physically violate/assault women at parties are considered “rowdy”, “fun”, “hilarious” and “endearing”
#YesAllWomen because men yell about how not all men are rapists and I should not be afraid or assume I will be assaulted but then talk about how sexual violence is “natural” and “evolutionary” and wonder why I fear men
#YesAllWomen because people are more accepting of rape jokes than college students coming forward with their rape
#YesAllWomen because my experience with sexual violence and domestic abuse is called a “political opinion” and I am told to keep it to myself
#YesAllWomen because “it has always happened and it won’t change” is an okay rebuttal to my stories of assault
#YesAllWomen because talking about creating safe spaces for victims somehow incites anger
#YesAllWomen because upon positing this to facebook a male classmate commented “lol” and then “Who r u to say what isnt funny, humor is a matter of opinion”
#YesAllWomen because his ability to find these jokes funny is evidence of his ignorance and removal from the horrors of sexual and domestic violence. because He is laughing at and creating jokes that he honestly do not even understand. Because his joking comments illustrated perfectly why these jokes are not okay… because they are so often used to silence stories of victims. Because he prioritized achieving some sort of “facebook coolness” and throwing in his stance on humor before facing the realities of sexual assault and violence. Because out of all the things talked about in this status he choose to talk about “humor”. Because once again the real issue was evaded to talk about the rights of men to corner me, and other women, with cartoonized versions of our life-changing assaults.. not the victims.. not the perpetrators.
#YesAllWomen because “Who I am” is a victim and survivor. That is who I am. Who are you to tell me that my assault is comedic material? Who are YOU to tell me that your opinion matters more than the ripples of my sexual assault the permeate my life and the lives of others everyday? Who are YOU to tell me that your “rape joke” is more important than my flashbacks to assault? Than your contribution to the very system that enabled my attacker? Because there will still be those that agree with him. Because somehow me coming forward with my assault publicly via this post put me on the defensive.. not the man who hurt me. Because the fear does not end with the assault.
#YesAllWomen because my mother and I have “bonded” at the dinner table over stories of rape
#YesAllWomen because I am a survivor that is told routinely that there is nothing to survive.
I often find myself using the Blemish fix button on Photobucket a lot…asking my friends to take down unedited pictures of myself…I often find myself covering up about cover-up.
In this story, I will show you my world over the course of eight years. A miserable eight years brought to you by my low self esteem, genetics, Revlon, Maybelline, and every other cosmetic under the sun.
It all began towards the end of 4th grade, I still remember watching my mother in the mirror applying her seemingly never ending routine of concealers, pressed powders and bronzers. “I’m not young anymore…you know, you never had to worry about any of this when you’re a little girl.”, I believed her.
Summer had ended, and it was time to enter 5th grade…with a face full of acne. My combined family genetics had kicked in full force over the summer. My first day, I was teased about it, called “pizza face” and “dirty”, even though I showered every day. How could they call me such things? Weeks went by, the same insults and pointing out of flaws, literally…girls would point to every little blemish. I became extremely low socially, shy, almost unresponsive in class…this would carry on through my high school years. But one day in the fall, my entire world would change while my mother was at work, I would be introduced to one of my very best friends, still to this day, make-up. I was curious and began rummaging through my mother’s mountain of make-up, using a whole tube of concealer in a matter of a week…bringing it to school and applying and re-applying every hour. I became envious of every girl in my grade. Such soft faces, naturally blushed… with little peach fuzz hairs that would gleam in the afternoon sun. That year, my weight would also drop drastically, I refused to eat and became full blown anorexic at the age of 12.
Middle school was worse, and my mother seemed to not notice the turmoil I was going through. A little girl should never have to go through this, right? So why me? Why? That thought danced in my head daily, along with harming myself. In 6th grade, I cut myself for the first time, good thing it was wintertime and long sleeves were expected. How could the teachers let them hurt me like this? They spoke so loud, but every time I looked over to see if they heard, it was as if nothing was ever spoken. Did they even care? And so, as my grades declined…my collection of make-up grew to a heap. My mirrors were covered in sparkly dust and my fingers matted in beige goo. As I slowly drifted into high school, I knew one thing for certain, this is not what I had expected from my teenage years. To be in a constant hell, triggered by flawless magazine covers and flashing make-up ads on television, living in a bubble of anxiety and fear of the future. How long would this go on for?
As it turns out, my genetic misfortunes would last all the way through high school, my face looks like a battle zone. Scars from years of picking and harsh chemicals. All covered up by an uncomfortable layer of product. It’s not worth it now. Everybody knows what I deal with. You may say that it’s just a little blemish or it’s no big deal, but to me it’s every little flaw that I look at in the mirror at 7:30 am when I go through a ten minute process of making it somewhat presentable. For who? Who am I trying to impress? Nobody now, I do it because I feel I need to. It makes me feel better, makes me feel cute. I have grown too attached to it all, it’s all I’ve known for eight years, a daily routine, just like brushing your teeth or letting the dog outside. For some make-up is something fun that you wear to express yourself and be creative, for me it is a necessity. I don’t go out unless I have any on.
Now for the advice I would give to anyone in a similar situation as mine. Don’t let anyone tell you to not wear any. For a large portion of my life I always heard “You shouldn’t wear it.” But, I realized I was not doing it for them anymore, it was for me, it made me feel beautiful and that’s all that matters. Just as there is natural beauty in all of us, beauty for some also comes from a bottle, and that is okay. We are often told that make-up isn’t real beauty, but that couldn’t be more false.
Make-up, in a sense, is an art. The way we wisp our eyeliner is an art, it takes skill. Finding the right color lipstick is just as difficult as finding the right shade for a painting of a sunset. I feel like a walking piece of art.
There is nothing wrong with it at all, I just wish I would have realized that years ago.
Another frustrating reaction is when men’s rights are immediately brought up in response to discussion about violence against women. My issue here is not that these are not legitimate, as it has been reported that men do indeed make up a rough 10% of reported victims. There are serious men’s issues, especially around gender norms, custody and societal expectations. However, I do have issue when these topics seem to be exclusively brought up to silence conversations about women. These topics deserve consideration, but bringing them up as if they eradicate the experiences of women gets us nowhere. I recognize that all crimes are not perpetrated by men. I recognize that all victims are not women. However, there are very clear overwhelming patterns that need to be addressed.
When I talk about sexual/domestic violence I am not attacking men. I am attacking a culture and a pattern that creates abusers who are usually male. I need help from all gender identities to commit to dismantling this culture. That means that everybody think about whether or not you are respecting consent. That means that you call out peers who perpetuate the acceptance of sexual violence and create acts of sexual violence. That means getting to the bottom of why sexual violence and domestic abuse are so frequent. That means making safe spaces for victims of all gender identities. That also means looking at the demographic that makes up most perpetrators (men) and figuring out what in our society is creating men that communicate through violence. Most men are not rapists, but yes most rapists are men. It is impossible to advance towards a safer culture if everyone who tried to address the issue of rapists does not acknowledge and work to change this fact. It is not effective to call people who wish to dialogue about how to create a society that breaks the chain “man-haters” or grossly offensive terms such as “femi-nazi”. The goal is to stop the bystander effect. A huge part of this is having the majority of men who are not abusive call out the men who are. When you support the movement to eradicate domestic abuse and sexual violence you are not simply “supporting women”. You are not “helping a women’s issue”. You are dealing with a human issue, this issue is far too complicated to think about using binaries. We need everybody on board.
Reed is currently working with her university to create more resources for victims, change school policies and incorporate consent-based education into the curriculum with a focus on undergrad students. Her upcoming projects include organizing a “Speak Out”website, poetry open mics dealing with violence, leading consent education for orientation classes and curating a feminist art show.
Anne Frank collage I made after visiting The Anne Frank Huis in Amsterdam a few years ago.