How often my conversations about feminism have spiraled into requests for assault. I say, “Women don’t need men to defend them,” and am asked, “Can I punch you, then?” And I say, “Women belong in movies and video games and everything,” and I hear terrible things, unprintable slurs and demands for my assault, the threatening of a young woman to shut up: What they would do to silence me. The things they’d shove between my teeth. I say, “Men cannot threaten any woman they disagrees with,” and I’m told, “Women are just as cruel. Am I not supposed to respond in kind?” In my inbox today I have deleted sixteen messages asking for my life. When I say, “Your virginity only means what you want it to mean,” I’m asked, “If you believe in sexual freedom can I fuck you?” When I say “All it takes to be a woman is to want to be a woman,” I am asked, “So if I just say that I’m a woman, can I watch you in the shower?” As if women stand shadowy behind each other in our private moments. As if being woman means sexually assaulting each other.
Part of me - cynical, unwilling to be frightened, says that it might be a nice dose of reality. My shower where I am naked but my hair becomes streaky and thin, where my body sags, where my makeup smears. To witness a woman less than sexy, legs akimbo while shaving, pulling up flab thighs to reach the underside. Part of me dares them to punch me because I fight to win and am small but I’ll kill a man if he touches me. Once I dropped a U.S Marine. Part of me, hellfire and ice queen - says come on, then. You want a fight? Come fight me.
But more is scared. More timidly deletes messages, makes sure my name is hidden, doesn’t answer the endless antifeminist comments. The insertion of men and their opinion on simple things like “I teach children to ask before hugging.” When I close my eyes sometimes I wonder if they’re right and that scares me. How much am I going to change when my voice only echoes around me.
Why are you angry. Why are you angry. What do you think we are taking from you? If it’s not already equal why would equality frighten you.
The ancient art of being a woman and trying to get your voice heard: the gentle suggestion, the peaceful comment. The quiet listening to another opinion and the fact we must acknowledge it before we can continue. That I must educate, be sweet, be feminine in my feminism or else it’s “invalid.” I must present my declaration as a timid thing: “Women maybe should be part of more things.” And then the apologies: of course I don’t hate men, yes I like plenty of things with men in them, no I don’t think women are better. And then the explanations: women are people, here is the number of women in media, here is the number of dead women in media, here are the number of shows led by men. And then I brace for it. For the bullying.
Every time I speak it’s from a flinch. From “maybe this isn’t always the case but for me it is.” From please listen. From less demanding. God forbid I state factually that men are violent. If I speak about our fathers and brothers and the cycle of anger unfolding. God forbid I suggest that just once we should cut the bullshit and treat women well without pandering to men about how that helps them. What if I say “Men shouldn’t hit anyone. Hitting isn’t an answer.”
I’ll tell you what happens. The post was up for four seconds with three notes. The message I get is “If hitting isn’t allowed I’ll just go ahead and shove a gun down your throat.”