Just because you’re paranoid don’t mean they’re not after you. – Kurt Cobain
I think that many of my female readers share my feelings of paranoia but if not please let me know I’m just crazy. With this post it is my male readers I hope to speak to. The purpose of this post is in no way to blame all men for the immoral and illegal choices of some men, rather, the aim of this post is to put more fire in the bellies of male allies in the fight for women’s equality. I also in no way mean to diminish or minimize the experiences of men, boys and transgender individuals who have been sexually assaulted or raped. Their traumas are just as real as any woman’s and certainly are not given the weight in our society that they should be. With this post I want you to know specifically what my grievances are, how I feel as a woman on a daily basis, and, most importantly, what you can do to help. With everything in the news lately and all the statistics available surrounding the heinous rates of violence against women and sexual assault and rape around the world, it’s easy for me to feel like women, and our rights, are under attack.
For most of my life I have felt vulnerable simply because I am female, to the point that I’ve taken self defense classes. I’m sure some of this fear comes from having been repeatedly sexually assaulted by male relatives as a girl, but even now, as an adult woman, I find my mind shift to dark thoughts quite often when I am in the company of strangers. To live in constant fear of violence is absurd and ultimately will make you crazy, and I hate that I buy into the rape culture myth that violence against women, especially sexual violence, happens at night when a stranger jumps out from around a corner and tackles you.
Most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows and 50% of all rape/sexual assaults occur within 1 mile of the victim’s home! The Service Women’s Action Network also explains how prevalent rape and sexual assault against members of the US military is in this publication. See previous posts on violence against women including Violence Against Women in the US, The Clothesline Project, Take Back the Night, the V-Day Movement, RAINN and NDVH, and others for more information on the situation of women in the US.
Women in other parts of the world are in even more frightening situations. Today Al-Jazeera posted this article explaining why Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, India and Somalia are the top five most dangerous places in the world to be a woman. Reasons ranging from the feminization of poverty, rape as a weapon of war, and harmful religious and cultural practices, to female infanticide and female genital mutilation affect the safety and livelihoods of women in these places.
Back in the US, Republicans are taking their misogyny global by trying to defund Planned Parenthood at home and abroad, using “states’ rights” rhetoric to make abortion unattainable for the most vulnerable women in their districts, and trying to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, which really does just make me want to gag. But women and men are standing up for equality and human rights, including the 373 people who sent in pictures of themselves to NARAL Pro-Choice’s Stop the War on Women video to the US Senate, the fierce founders and participants of the Hollaback! movement to stop street harassment, and the thousands (millions?) of people who have participated in SlutWalks around the world to protest a culture of victim-blaming surrounding sexual assault. SlutWalk deserves its very own post, despite the massive amount of press it’s already received, so look out for that.
I think our biggest issue in victim-blaming comes from our rape culture myth that what women wear or do or say affects their chances of being raped: it doesn’t. Women should not have to protect themselves or change the way they want to appear for fear of rape: People should not rape. Period. Women have been objectified by American society for quite some time and while reinforcing that women are objects to be seen is not ideal, women should be allowed to be seen however they want, and should be able to have sex with whomever they want, without any individual thinking that anything other than clear and sober consent means yes to sex. And in the spirit of Hollaback! what I choose to wear does not give you permission to yell at me either.
So, with all this in mind, am I just paranoid or
-do you wonder whenever you’re in the shower or using a public restroom or having sex with someone for the first time if a webcam is broadcasting your nakedness all over the internet?
-do you also check your backseat whenever you get in your car to make sure a stranger or stalker isn’t waiting to rape and/or kill you?
-do you get nervous when you step into a full elevator, worried that someone might touch you in an unwanted and sexual way?
-do you think twice before going somewhere you are unfamiliar with, in case there are dark corners for bad people to hide in?
-do you feel like you’re being watched in a disgusting, lustful way by men of all ages all the time?
-do you remind yourself that yelling “fire” is more likely to garner help than yelling “rape” when you feel like someone is following you?
-do you carry your keys in your hands, extended between your fingers as you make a fist when you walk home after dark?
-do you avoid making eye contact with strangers for fear that they will misread your friendliness for a sexual advance and then rape you?
-do you wonder, whenever you’re in a group, how many of the people with you have raped someone, or have been raped?
-do you have any idea what it’s like to feel like you’re the constant target of society’s violent sexual urges and need to control?
But cheer up, there are lots of ways you can help!
-Don’t rape anyone: passed out, drunk, wearing next-to-nothing, came onto you before, had sex with you before, started a sexual encounter and then changed her/his mind, is underage… just don’t.
-If that isn’t clear, read this.
-If you still don’t get it, watch this.
-Don’t tell rape jokes.
-Don’t use the word rape to complain about the way your school, bank, job, or government is treating you.
-Don’t let your friends get away with telling rape jokes. Explain to them why it is hurtful, wrong and dangerous.
-Don’t let your friends get away with using rape to complain about institutions.
-If you hear someone bragging about a sexual assault or rape, call the police.
-If you’re in public and you hear/see someone harassing/assaulting someone else, call the police.
-If you hear/see domestic violence taking place, call the police.
-March in rallies for human rights, healthcare, immigration rights, economic freedom and marriage equality.
-Call or email your lawmakers and tell them to end the backlog of untested rape kits in your local police departments.
-Call or email your lawmakers and tell them to support the International Violence Against Women Act.
-Sign this petition to demand that the FBI change the definition of rape from “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will” to something that includes date rape, oral, anal and statutory rape, rape with an object, finger or fist and rape of men.
-And share this post, and the many others out there like it written by feminist who are tired of being afraid, with anyone who can and will read it. Thanks for your support!