It’s unfair that you should get to shrink me down into palatable pieces when I must live with the whole of me, day in and day out. You can never truly get inside another’s mind, but I suppose I could tell you about the amount of dreams I’ve had about bleeding, crumbling teeth. About the amount of times I’ve thought about opening a vein on the floor of a grimy nightclub toilet. About the fact that going to the shop to buy milk has lately made my hands shake and my heart race. These are the things you cannot have in small, convenient handfuls; if you are to have them at all, they will be poured into your ear all at once. You will not make me into a story but a lesson.
So, teach your sons that women don’t need to be fuckable to seem worthy enough to be listened to.
The difference between a compliment and an assertion of your perceived ownership of me is the difference between a real conversation and a stranger who says to me, “I think you’re really hot, can I have your number?” The difference between a compliment and an assault is the mutual agreement that I am a whole person. The difference between a compliment and an attack is whether or not I have the option to respond.
So, teach your sons that a woman’s body is not their property.
It’s a power thing. The men who encounter women in public feel like it’s their right to assert their power over the passive objects and to control the access they have to women’s bodies. Your proposed inability to fix this reality is my confirmed inability to wear a skirt without feeling like I’m wearing a bullseye. Your abstract understanding of our shared situation is my concrete knowledge that teachers do not tell you to have the campus police on speed dial. Your awkward position in a conversation is never quite as awkward as my position on the ground after I am pulled out of car and thrown onto the street. Your desire to compliment me is nothing like my desire to have one day, any day, where my body is a safe space to live in.
So, teach your sons that a woman’s body does not dictate her worth.
You spend your time policing my skin, my hair, my stretch mark, my lack of this, my too much of that, my attitude, my smile, my education, my demeanor, yet you have never acknowledged that no matter how I identify, I am still a woman.
I am a woman who deserves to be heard. I know you can hear my howl and whimper and feel my bite. My venom will consume you. My tears and happiness are all valid, yet none of you look like me. The noose around our tongues are tight. No matter how hard we squeal, you choose to ignore us, but I promise you that we are strong.
So, teach your sons that this is not a battle between men and women.
To the men out there who feel like they were not given as much attention as women, I hear you, we hear you. Many of you have been victims too. You’ve known the fear of an unsolicited lingering touch on the rear of the bus after dark when you’ve stayed too late catching up in the chemistry lab. You recall the glances you make to remember the faces of the three drunken men who just entered the same elevator as you while all alone in a building you’ve never been in before. You know the weight of a man as he lays just above you begging, “Baby, please just let me put it inside you,” no matter how many times you say, “No, I don’t want to.”
We hear you, we see you, we sympathize with you to our very cores if you have ever been scared or dehumanized like this.
Now, please hear us, hear me.
When women say “Me Too”, this is what we are saying: I see you and this bullshit is my reality too because we were born into a world in which our gender is still being oppressed to this very day by the ancient system of patriarchy that gives men the power using sexual abuse to keep things that way.
Please acknowledge this reality without having to say, “Abuse happens to men too, include us in your struggle, we suffer too, look at us for a while.” We’ve spent the ages looking at you, putting you first, letting you make decisions for us, leaving our lives in your hands because we had no other choice.
When you hear us, when you truly hear us, the healing process can begin, and real equality will then be at hand.
But until then, please don’t forget it is not up to you to decide that you’ve heard enough.
Because until society understands that no one should not have to stand somewhere, bleeding and raw and exposed, for people to believe that there is a problem, it will never be enough.