I've been reluctant to participate in the #YesAllWomen movement that trended up, up, up on Twitter in the wake of Elliot Rodger's deadly shooting spree in California. Though I love the idea of women sharing their stories of (sometimes violent, sometimes everyday) misogyny to combat the rhetoric of hatred spewed forth in Rodger's "manifesto," the vitriol that accompanied the hashtag was disheartening to say the least. So these two tweets on the gender politics of my personal world went un-tweeted:
#YesAllWomen because my six-year-old daughter already knows that the toy section in Target has a "boy section" and a "girl section," and because she thinks that's ridiculous.
#YesAllWomen because once, at a party, a federal judge thought it OK to tell 21-year-old me, with a wink and a leer and a lick of his lips, that I'd be "a fine addition to the Harvard student body."
How did that add to the discussion anyway? And where could the discussion even take us, considering the inevitable, defensive responses that #NotAllMen rape and #NotAllMen are violent. Besides, I thought, I've never been attacked. What can I contribute?
Still, the trend made me think about my life as a woman, and it made me think about why I've never been attacked. Here's what I came up with (using my own new hashtag):
I've #NeverBeenAttacked because I've taken care to surround myself with good boyfriends and, far more importantly, good guy friends. Some of my guy friends have been in my life since I was three-years-old. Others are newer, but are the type of guys who'd go to the mat for any of the women they love, platonically or otherwise.
I've #NeverBeenAttacked because my dad had a beard that apparently scared all the fellas in my high school. And I've #NeverBeenAttacked because one of my brothers is a big guy who'd have killed anyone who touched me.
I've #NeverBeenAttacked because I'm a city girl. I learned early on: don't make eye contact. Don't respond to catcalls. Don't look like a victim. Don't forget to carry your keys in your hands in that special way that allows you to stab a would-be-rapist in the eye.
I've #NeverBeenAttacked because I try not to be out after dark by myself, not even in my comparatively safe suburban neighborhood.
I've #NeverBeenAttacked because I've been lucky.
That's where I stopped. That's where I saw the light. I re-thought everything, over and over again. I thought about the precautions I've taken, the care with which I've chosen my friends, and the fact that, in the end, especially after hearing friends use the term "date rape," as if a rape by any other name is something sweeter, I consider myself really, really lucky.
Do I want my daughter to grow up taking all these precautions? More importantly, do I want my daughter relying on luck to keep her out of trouble as she grows up? Because that's really what it still comes down to in this culture of ours. Of course #NotAllMen rape, but some men do. And I don't know about you, but at a glance I can't tell the rapists from the not. And I definitely can't tell, even over dinner, how violent a guy might get when he's had a few too many drinks. If men are growing up feeling entitled to women, there's no way my daughter will ever be safe.
Incidentally, if you don't believe there are men who feel entitled to women, take a bone-chilling glimpse into the chat rooms frequented by Elliot Rodger before his death. It'll make you rethink everything you thought you knew.
No, #NotAllMen are violent, and #NotAllMen rape, but something I've come to realize as I've looked at my own life and the lives shared on Twitter, is this: #YesAllWomen face some misogyny throughout their lives. #YesAllWomen face the threat of violent men. Whether it's an attack on a college campus or a stoning in the Middle East, it's the same throughout the world. And yes, I need to add my voice to the fray. Yes, I need to speak up and try to help.
And as for all the anger and vitriol spewing forth across the internet, I can say only this: Methinks the men doth protest too much. Come on, you guys, you anger-mongers, let us women talk. Let us women share our stories. It may not change anything — yet — but at least it lets us know we're not alone.