The #YesAllWomen hashtag is demonstrative of the power of the Internet as an outlet for expression while also highlighting the exact reason it needs to exist. Misogyny exists, sexism is rampant, and I’d wager that every woman has experienced sexual harassment on some level at some point in her life. It’s true; most men are not the ones we are describing — but enough of them exist and we, as females, are taught as young girls to protect ourselves from them.
I’ve experienced it — when a group of Senior guys cornered me my Freshmen year of high school and asked me why I wouldn’t date their friend. A male stranger has wrapped his arm around my waist, pulled me into him, and informed me of “how much prettier I’d be if I just smiled for [him].” I carry pepper spray on my keychain and don’t walk to my car alone at night if I don’t have to (when I do, I have 9-1 already dialed and keep a key between my fingers). Before beginning college, my father insisted I take a self-defense course to protect myself — and I’ve had to threaten to use it. My friends and I instinctively keep a close eye on one another’s drinks so nothing can be slipped in them.
The worst thing of all, however, is that I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t have similar or more of these same chilling experiences. Being a woman means encountering men who feel it’s their right to deny and manipulate our self-worth, general well-being, and physical safety. It sounds like an exaggeration but it’s the harsh reality we live in.
As a female, I am not paid as much as a male for doing the same job with the same credentials and experience. My employer may try to prevent me access to basic reproductive health services, while there appears to be no controversy over erectile dysfunction drugs for men. The Madonna-Whore paradox still exists and the double standard of male and female behaviors continues to permeate society. It’s 2014, but women’s rights are still regularly under attack — and we experience it in a myriad of ways every day.
I’ve been fortunate to experience this only a few times in my life. I’ve had the privilege of meeting and incorporating kind, compassionate, respectful men in my life. Further, I’ve been raised by strong women and a father who made sure I was going to be well-prepared for whatever the world might throw at me.
I am a feminist. I cringe every time I hear a female celebrity deny feminism because she “loves men.” Guess what? Me too! They’re not exclusive camps.
I’ve never burned my bra or berated a man. I don’t hate men at all and I don’t believe they’re all bad. I do believe that I should have the same rights as them, however, and be afforded the same opportunities. I believe it should be a woman’s choice what she decides to do in her life and she should not be limited merely because of her gender. I don’t believe feminism is a bad word and I’ll proclaim my affiliation from the rooftops while maintaining my love of romantic comedies and search for The One — because in addition to being female, I am also a human being and humans are complex and contradictory.
Feminism isn’t scary but what it is in opposition to is –- I don’t know how to fix it…but I’m not going to pretend a problem doesn’t exist. What are you going to do?