The first time a man slapped me on the ass, I was fourteen years old, bussing tables at a family restaurant.
Catcalls make me jump out of my skin. I have never figured out how to take them as a compliment.
When I learned that “no” did not always stop slipping lips and wandering hands, I was sixteen. I was told that it was my fault for being tempting. I haven’t left the house with shorts on for years. It makes me nervous to be alone somewhere with another person when I have a dress on.
I always get uncomfortable when men make jokes about why women go to the bathroom in groups. Nobody likes to hear that we are taught from the youngest age that we should never go anywhere alone.
The second time that “no” did not stop someone, my date pulled up in front of my house and hit the door lock, wrapped his hand around my throat because I told him I just thought we should be friends.
The third time, I was sprawled out on a hammock in the front lawn with a man I’d been out with a handful of times. When I first said “no”, I thought maybe he didn’t hear me. “Please no, please don’t”. “Please no, please don’t.” “Please no, please don’t.”
Once I was told by a man that it was my fault if he ever went too far because his brain was wired like an animal. I didn’t argue. Can you believe that I didn’t argue? I wanted to say that even my dogs recognize the word “no”, but I was afraid of how he would react. I had to sit through the rest of the date with a smile on my face.
I carry my keys just to walk to the mailbox at night. I’m too paranoid to jog down my street alone.
I have been groped on the sidewalk. I have been groped at the bar. I have been groped on the bus.
The time I was followed all the way to my friend’s car by a group of men who stood around laughing and jeering and banging on the windows, not letting us pull out of the parking garage, was the last time I ever let a man buy me a drink at a bar.
I have men in my life who would call themselves my friends who have put their hands on my hips and my thighs without my permission. There is no question. They do not think they have to ask. They laugh when I bristle.
It took twenty-two years to realize only I had a right to my body.
I used to bite my tongue, but I do not say “no” quietly anymore. I bark my discomfort like an old dog, weary and uncomfortable even in its sleep.
“this is not a fucking poem; it is an outrage (I Spent Twenty-Two Years Trying To Be Nice About It)” Trista Mateer
I was feeling profoundly depressed about the UCSB shootings and equally depressed about the number of men who just don’t get why women are horribly upset and scared by this. Then I found the #YesallWomen hashtag on twitter and it helped.
Because, well, yes. Not all men are predators. But every woman you know has had experience with men who are. Every woman. Me. Your mother. That lady in the upstairs apartment with the dog with the annoying clicky nails ALL NIGHT ALL DAMN NIGHT PUT BOOTS ON THAT THING.
All of us.
I’m not even talking about rape or threats of violence here, though of course that’s part of it. It’s not just being taught from an early age that we’re prey animals, and we always have to be ready to fight or flee. It’s that creepy fifty-something guy who tried to pick me up on a city bus when I was fourteen. The fellow writer who stared down my shirt after his third glass of wine. The mail carrier who pulled over to ask me out on a date, and when I told him I was married, argued with me. (Notice, I told him “I’m married,” not “That’s flattering, but no thank you.” Because belonging to another man is safer than saying no.) There was the airport shuttle driver who bugged me for my phone number all the way from Hartford to New York, until another passenger entered the van.
That wasn’t scary at all. Nuh uh.
I’m not saying that it’s always inappropriate to pay a compliment. I was never offended by the guy who stopped me in the supermarket to tell me I had pretty hair and carried myself well, and it brightened his day–because he so patently did not want anything from me. He was complimenting, not coming on.
We can tell the difference.
If we’re conventionally attractive, we’re abused when we refuse to cater to men–when we don’t want to be bothered when we’re reading on the train or give them our phone number if they stop us on the street. If we’re dyky or fat or old, we’re abused for being ugly lesbo bitches, which is to say, not fuckable. Because being fuckable is the only excuse a woman has to exist, to these dudes.
It makes me fucking tired. It makes a lot of women tired.
And what you’re hearing right now is a lot of tired women asking for a little fucking respect. If you haven’t behaved that way, well then. It’s not directed at you, is it?
After seeing some of the very brilliant statements made as #YesAllWomen continues to trend on Twitter, I came across this rather ridiculous article via a post in my feed on Facebook. Following it’s prompt to go view the “narcissistic” thread of tweets on Twitter myself, I stumbled upon Charles Clymer. After reading a good hoard of messages from men attempting to derail the conversations being brought about by #YesAllWomen, I wanted to share a refreshing bushel of tweets from someone very much so doing the opposite.
Thank you to any and all men like this who are willing to fight for women. Who in doing so, directly prove that Not All Men are like that - without having to say it.