I wasn’t one of the millions of women who marched last weekend. Sadly, my social anxiety and claustrophobia kept me bound to my home.
I was so torn whether to force myself to attend or let myself be okay with contributing to the cause in another way that I spent a week consulting with friends and family about what to do.
In the end, I wasn’t able to march. Instead I sat in my living room and listened to the remarkable lineup of rally speakers in D.C., donated to a few women organizations and wrote some postcards to my senators. But most importantly I reflected. I took the time to really understand my place in this movement and the struggles of other women who are of a different race, religion, income, sexual orientation, and disability than myself. Why we all joined forces to fight for what we believe is right.
I read a lot of articles about women’s issue, intersectionality in this movement and personal narratives. Honestly, it wasn’t easy. At times it was painful. I had to face unfair judgments that I’ve made about others and the biases of my family and friends. I also had to admit to myself that I wasn’t meeting the standard needed to truly fight for justice. But most importantly, I revisited dark moments from my own past that I once tried to forget.
I’ve always steered my thoughts away from this corner of my brain. Memories would creep up at vulnerable moments and I would forcibly tuck them away. But then I was confronted, on social media of course, about why I identify as a feminist and why I support women in this nation. I read things like, “women just want an advantage” and “what rights don’t you already have that you want?” As if the justice we’re asking for is a sacrifice for men to make—something we’re trying to take away from them.
Suddenly, the dam broke and all the memories rushed back. I was so angry and wanted to go into a long Facebook rant and remind this man that he couldn’t possibly understand. Why? Because he’s simply not a woman.
Every point just rolled through my mind at the speed of light:
Have you ever been taken advantage of while unable to give consent? And then your insurance didn’t cover STD testing or birth control and you had to find a free clinic?
Were you too scared to tell anyone what happen because of the stigma about women and date rape?
Have you ever been blocked in by a truck driver at a gas station who wouldn’t let you leave until you gave him your number? All while on the phone with your mom crying because you didn’t know what to do?
Have you ever been on public transportation minding your own business while the guy next to you keeps slipping his hand under your butt?
Have you been repeatedly catcalled at while walking down the street?
Have you had a man follow you off the train and repeatedly ask if you have a boyfriend until you plead with him to leave you alone? And even though he’s “gone,” you constantly look over your shoulder for the rest of the walk home?
Do you even have to look over your shoulder while walking home alone?
Have you been told your depression is just PMS?
Have you been referred to as “Honey,” “Baby,” “Barbie,” “Beautiful” at the workplace instead of by your name?
Have you been asked by your boss to go outside to “show some leg to bring in business?”
Or had your boss—not so jokingly—ask you to change because you were tempting him and he’s married? As if it’s your fault he can’t keep it together.
Have you been given a good grade by a professor and then he immediately asks you on a date?
Have you been called “bossy” when being assertive? A “gossip” when reporting incidents at work? A “bitch” when you exercise your right to say no? Or “unreasonable” when you’re just asking for respect?
But I didn’t rant. I just left the misogyny to linger in the air. I just moved on, put one foot in front of the other—as my mother would say when I asked her how she moved on after the multiple sexual assaults and injustices she endured.
But I’m going to make an assumption about that man—like he made assumptions about women—that the answers to my questions are “no.” But, you know what? All of those things happened to me. And many other women I know and care about have similar stories.
The worst part is, during all those moments, I blamed myself. I told myself it was what I was wearing, I had too much makeup on, I probably came off as flirtatious, it was my attitude, it was my fault. I always moved on expecting more from myself, not from the person who wronged me.
So maybe you don’t think women deserve to earn equal pay or that the fact that they currently aren’t is a delusion we tell ourselves to “get an advantage.” But regardless of the fact that you’re wrong, that women do deserve equal pay, the government is still trying to control what we do with our bodies and sexual assault is real. Very real.