“The only way to be heard is to say something loud enough for people to hear it.”
For women everywhere, I stand with you.
I recently became an activist against violence toward women and, quite frankly, there is too much at stake right now in our world for self-proclaimed activists to be silent.
October was a polarizing month for me. On the one hand, it is dedicated to domestic violence awareness as well as preventing sexual assault and rape. On the other hand, it also happens to be the month that I lost one of my loved ones to a domestic homicide incident just one year ago. She was a wonderful woman and I was blessed to have her in my life while she was here. She was an amazing mother and teacher who touched her community in positive ways and inspired everyone whose path she crossed. I looked up to her as a role model not just as a strong, independent, and empowered woman, but also as a person who embodied definitive goodness. She was simply a good person. Her smile lit up the entire room and her presence in of itself was a bright light. When she was killed, the world became a little duller. Her family, friends, and community were devastated. I was devastated. For the first time in my life, I was uncertain about our world. Perhaps up to that point I had not experienced something both personally significant and negative enough to ever really make me question the world we live in, but I know that her murder instilled a painstaking doubt in me about it.
In the months following her death, I did not want to live in a world where somebody like her ends up being murdered by her own husband. However, after she died, life went on and, although the grief still lingers today, the world continues to spin.
So the world spins, albeit flawed—and the fact that her life was taken by domestic violence, just as many other women’s lives are taken by domestic violence, is not the only flaw of the world that has become apparent to me since her death. Not only am I entering adulthood as a young woman, which has alone made me more cognizant of many women’s issues, but I have grown very conscious of problems that largely affect women after grieving a tragedy of domestic violence.
This flawed aspect of our world is not singularly about domestic violence against women, or sexual assault, or rape, or relationship abuse, or sexism; it stems from an interplay of these violent acts and discriminatory ideologies.
What is so important for people to realize is that these behaviors and schools of thought gain more ground when they become accepted and regarded as normal, or okay. It is important that people realize this because when what is not okay becomes acceptable, women become victimized and their resulting helplessness becomes status-quo. Unfortunately, I have just described our world in a nutshell, and this is exactly why more people should be questioning it like I am. Why is the victimization of women acceptable when it should not be? Why are undue and adverse daily experiences of women seen as okay when they should not be? More questions like this need to be raised and more thought needs to be put into their answers, most of which we are farther from obtaining than we would actually assume.
Until we do obtain these answers—because I sure do not have them all—I just want to say this:
For women everywhere, I stand with you. I stand with you when you scream, cry, protest, confide in your friends, or think to yourselves about an undue or adverse experience that you have endured. I stand with you and I am sorry.
I am sorry that whatever happened to you, happened. I stand with you because whatever it is that happened to you was not okay. Moreover, I stand with you when others give you reasons why it WAS okay, as if it was their job to destruct the validity of your feeling that it was not.
I stand with you when others give you impossible criteria of proving that it even happened at all, as if your reflections are not convincing enough to confirm that, yes, it did happen and, no, it was not okay. If you are still thinking about what happened to you, or if you are still bothered by it, or if you just remembered that it happened to you after suppressing it for some time, then whatever it was, was not okay. And to those who might argue under some skewed process of justification that it was, here is a list of things for you to reference that are undoubtedly NOT okay.
It is not okay when a husband kills his wife. It is not okay when a boyfriend hits his girlfriend—and no, it is not okay even when she makes him angry. It is not okay when a stalker threatens the girl he has been following—and no, it is not okay even when she rejects him and hurts his feelings.
It is not okay when a man at a nice dinner drugs his date and takes advantage of her limp body. It is not okay when a college guy at a party takes a girl upstairs and rapes her—and no, it is not okay even when both of them are drunk.
It is not okay when a cashier at a gas station makes an unwanted pass at a woman who, for the love of god, just wanted to buy a coffee—and no, it is not okay even if she is dressed in a really tight pencil skirt and is wearing red lipstick.
It is not okay when a woman on her way to work is cat-called just trying to walk down the street—and no, she does not think it is flattering, she is just trying to get to work only to be paid less than her male coworkers at the end of the pay period.
It is not okay when a man at the office makes an inappropriate sexual remark to one of his female coworkers—and no, it is not okay even when it was “only a joke.” Why? Because it is not funny, it is disrespectful, and it is not okay to make disrespectful sexual remarks to women. It is not okay to make disrespectful sexual remarks ABOUT women—and no, not even in the “locker room,” or on a bus, or at a sports bar, or at a friend’s house, or at the workplace.
Because making these remarks in a casual manner is exactly what perpetuates the idea that it is okay to act on them—and by the way, it is not okay to do that, either.
For example, when a powerful and famous man makes casual remarks about grabbing women anywhere on their bodies just because he feels like it, other men might start to think that grabbing women anywhere on their bodies is okay just because THEY feel like it, but here is the kicker: It is not okay when a man grabs a woman anywhere on her body just because he feels like it.
Here is the other kicker: This is not okay even when the woman is beautiful and the man is rich. Looking a certain way is not “asking for it” and having a certain amount of money, or power, or public sway, or whatever weapon, is not a wright of passage into a world in which any of the above behaviors are okay.
They are never okay—and no, it is not okay that many of us accept that they are.