I read a bunch of friends’ status messages and comments with this hashtag on Facebook, so I was inspired to do a little research, read a few articles/blog posts and check out #YesAllWomen on Twitter for an hour or so. I think I need a shower.
Perhaps the strangest part about writing this is that I feel kind of awkward and almost guilty. It feels like this is women’s territory for sharing their feelings and experiences and a lot of guys using the hashtag #YesAllWomen sound like major assholes.
“Are all of you on the rag or something?”
“send nudes to me please all are accepted and appreciated”
“Because these bitches need to get off Twitter and back into the kitchen.”
“its mentally unstable women writing about their irrational fears of men because of what the media says.”
But the other almost guilty part is that I looked back through my blog archives and linking to this entry back in 2005 feels kinda like I’m bragging. I discovered firsthand how poorly guys can treat girls in social settings. I’m not going to speculate what anyone’s mindset was that night, but I just knew that the situation was bad. It felt wrong. I shouldn’t be patting myself on the back about that, but after spending a couple hours online tonight, it seems almost appropriate.
Years after that incident, I went to a fundraiser. It was kind of expensive for my budget, but the organizer was a friend of mine and she talked me into attending. It turned out to be mostly older people, but there was a Russian singer who was supposed to perform for a bit. (I don’t remember if it was because she had a sore throat, but they had to play a few of her songs off a CD instead.) Then they started playing regular dance music and I ended up joining her on the tiny dance floor.
It was just the two of us out there together and the only thing vaguely resembling “bumping and grinding” was when we were back to back with our shoulders together. It was lots of fun and she thanked me for dancing with her before she and the guy accompanying her took off. Now I’m thinking back at how innocent it seemed to me and how not innocent it might have seemed to her or anyone else who’s currently writing about #YesAllWomen.
The guy with her was a local newscaster who gave a brief speech before they played the singer’s CD. She asked him if it was okay for us to dance; he shrugged it off and said, “Sure.” At the time, I couldn’t imagine why she’d ask for permission. Now I think about how she might have been letting him know she’d be on the dance floor, she might have wanted to check if he thought it was safe… her question might have been worthy of shrugging off. But it might not have been.
I like to think I have good and pure intentions, but that’s what’s going through my head. What about a woman’s head? I have no idea. The more I’ve learned tonight, the more I’ve realized that I know even less than what I thought. I wave at passing strangers, I make eye contact, I smile when I talk to people. I have never, ever been afraid of doing these things. A lot of women have.
I’ll probably never be able to really appreciate that point of view, but what I can do is avoid perpetuating the problem, so I’m writing this blog post. Yes, it could be interpreted as bragging, but it could also be… if you’ll bear with this analogy, it could be like being a writer. When you first get started, you don’t know what you’re doing, you draw the basic framework of a story and barely scratch the surface. With more time and experience, you learn to dig deeper into implications and mindsets and make it more thorough, more complete.
And maybe that’s what this is. A story about how my viewpoint is becoming more complete. I’m learning more about what women experience on a regular basis and it’s kinda scary. I can’t exactly apologize for my gender, but I can be more cognizant on my own. I can keep pretend-drunkenly shoving guys away from girls who say “No.” I can remember that her not waving back at me doesn’t mean she’s not nice. I can avoid fighting with people who are developing a sense of mutual respect and support on Twitter. I can ignore hashtags that men are using to defend themselves and focus on the one that’s most important and deserves the most respect: #YesAllWomen.