You know, if you asked me a few years ago if misogyny was a problem, I probably would have said no.
I would have said: I’m a modern woman, I take responsibility for my own life, I don’t play the victim, I haven’t been held back, I’m strong, I’m successful, blah, blah, blah. I would have said: men have it tough too. It’s hard to be a man these days. Where are the great male role models?
I would have said: it’s time for a men’s movement now. I see men in crisis. I see women stronger than ever, but the pendulum has shifted, and we’ve left men in our dust. It’s time to lift men up to where we are.
But I also ignored it when my boss, a man in his fifties, said “Nice ass,” to me in the hallway at work. And then called me in to his office and gave me a pretty scarf as a hush present. I ignored it when I had my ass grabbed on the subway. I ignored the hundreds of times I’ve had my body space invaded – on the street, in the bar, at a store, in an elevator, or the number of times I’ve been catcalled or hit on – on the street, in the bar, in an elevator, in my apartment building etc. Or the number of times I’ve flashed my wedding ring to say, “Already taken,” instead of “Not interested.”
Or the time when I ignored two drunk guys while walking to my car after dark. Sure, I reacted by kneeing one of them in the balls when he reached out to grab my boob, but I sure didn’t bother to call the cops or tell anyone other than my boyfriend once I made it safely to my car.
I also stayed silent for years after being coerced to perform unwanted sexual acts for fear of being “kicked out of the group.” And I tried not to be too hurt when I did speak up, and when I was kicked out. I tried to pretend that it was normal – and unfortunately, it was normal – to feel unloved and afraid that terrible things would happen if I didn’t smile and play along.
And I still try not to be too hurt when the primary perpetrator of this coercion is warmly embraced by even my closest friends. “He’s changed,” they tell me, as though that could erode my pain.
And I didn’t say a word when a man angrily shook his finger at me in a meeting last week and addressed me as “young lady.” (I’m 37).
I don’t make this list to suggest that (all) men are terrible people. Or that women are better than men. Or that my silence did anyone any favours. In fact, I'm ashamed that I stayed silent for so long. I make this list as part of the “#yesallwomen” movement. I make this list because I don’t have any close female friends who haven’t been affected by all of these kinds of things – or worse. And that’s a crisis. For all of us.
In light of recent events and the conversations they’ve spurred, I finally feel ready to not shut up any more. In the famous words of Howard Beale: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
I realize I’ve been a lousy feminist. It’s time for that to change.