Yes All Women

I’m not usually one for the feminist ranting, but I’ve had some thoughts bouncing around in my head for months now, and, in light of recent events, now seems like the time, because I am a feminist (in the Equality for Everyone way, not the Men are Evil way).
We’re going to preface this with a statement for the record that I do not hate men; in fact, I rather like them.

So bear with me; this is a long one. There are many links, and they’re worth a few minutes of your time.

The internet has been abuzz with talk of misogyny, male entitlement, harassment, sexism, rape culture, and related topics. Many women have stood up under the hashtag #YesAllWomen as a response to the continual outcry of #NotAllMen that springs up whenever some guy harasses, abuses, attacks, rapes, or kills a woman because she did not provide to him whatever it was he wanted from her. I have seen women I know personally post under this tag about their own experiences with harassment, abuse, violence, and/or rape.

Maybe you’ve been living under an Internet-Rock lately and are thinking, “what’s this #NotAllMen #YesAllWomen thing all about?”

Here’s a quick break down:

#NotAllMen* – The response to commentary regarding an incident of harassment, abuse, violence, and/or rape against a woman that argues that “not all men are misogynistic or violent or whatever”

#YesAllWomen* – The response to the #NotAllMen commentary that argues that while not all men harass, attack, or rape (because no one is arguing that ALL men are rapists, etc.), ALL women have been (or will be) the victims of such actions during their lifetimes, myself included.

*Note: My definitions attempt to speak to the majority of posts, not 100% of posts.

Some food for thought:

I know some dudes who are horrible, misogynistic asshats.
Everyone does.

I also happen to know that not all men are like that; in fact, one of my very best friends in the whole world, closer to me than many of my female friends, happens to also have a penis. I also know many other men who are great guys – really amazing, wonderful, caring, all-around fantastic people.
Everyone knows guys like this too.

We know that not all men are violent, abusive rapists. So what’s the problem with this #NotAllMen thing? The problem is that when the #NotAllMen argument is pushed, it isn’t pointing out new information, instead it’s moving the focus away from the victim and conversations about how to stop this massive problem in our culture. (Paraphrased from Laci Green)

The problem is that we live in a culture where it is normal for a woman to evaluate the potential risk of violence or harassment in every situation she enters into, including dating. Fear is a constant emotion for women. I don’t speak about my fears often, partially because I try to maintain a positive upbeat persona, but also because some of them are so deeply ingrained that I do not perceive them to be out-of-the-ordinary.

I’ve been joking a lot lately about being in the phase of my life called “Meeting Boys on the Internet” and I talk to my friends about the nice people I’ve met and about the over-the-top weird messages I receive through the site I use.

What I don’t talk about is how cautious I am, or my risk assessment of every message I receive. I don’t talk about the inner dialogue that I hold when I try to assess whether this seemingly nice guy is actually a good person or if he’s just really good at appearing to be. I don’t talk about how, if I get any kind of creeper vibe from a guy, I cut off communication immediately, even if he might be a swell guy and it was just a miscommunication, because I’m not willing to take that risk. I don’t talk about the precautions I take when I agree to meet someone in person for the first time (daytime; public place – preferably crowded; at least one friend who knows where I am, who I’m with, and is on standby waiting for a text to confirm that everything is ok or a code word that means I need help).

Does this seem like a pretty dismal way to approach meeting new people? Maybe. To me, it seems normal. I, like many women, am caught between a desire to meet new people (men included) and a desire to not be attacked, molested, raped, or killed. It’s the Schrödinger’s Rapist problem.

So I am cautious, very cautious, and so far, it seems to have paid off.

I have met some pretty amazing folks on the internet. People who never set off my creeper-vibe, who are kind, respectful, and all-around fantastic people. That male friend I mentioned above, one of my best friends in the whole world? I met him online, and I will forever be grateful that I took that risk and met him in person (and it was a risk – because no matter how sure I was that he wasn’t a creeper, it’s hard to shake the nagging doubt: ‘what if I’m wrong?’).

I wonder how many amazing, wonderful connections people miss out on every day because of fear? But fear is not the problem. Fear is a symptom. Telling women to not be afraid, to not judge all men on the actions of a few, doesn’t solve the problem.

Consider this analogy (full post here):
Imagine a bowl of M&Ms. 10% of them are poisoned.
Go ahead. Eat a handful.
Not all M&Ms are poison.

It is impossible to know at first glance whether a person is one of those poisoned M&Ms. If we want to eliminate this fear, if we want to create a world where a woman doesn’t have to wonder whether every man she meets is going to rape her, we have to change the way our culture perceives not only women, but men as well.