It’s always a scary time for women

TW: Mentions of domestic abuse, sexual violence, mental health and suicide. Ranty. Reader discretion is advised.

‘It’s always been a scary time for women. What we need is more self-aware men.’

This quote above is something my Dad said to me in the wake of the 2018 Toronto van attack, where a man ran over and killed ten people, leaving several more injured. The man responsible had links to the incel movement, and allegedly planned the attack as retribution after being rejected by women multiple times.

Around this time, the term ‘incel’ was just coming into the mainstream and becoming more widely known. I’d heard of other attacks by disgruntled, entitled men in the years before with the same link, but this particular attack stood out for me. It stood out because it was one of many in quick succession, all sporting the same reason: Misogyny.

This was one of the novel-long list of things that scare me as a woman. I’m not the first and sadly won’t be the last, to have first hand experience of a man that doesn’t like the word ‘No.’

The catcallers. The gropers. The harassers who look at you like they’re going to tear you to pieces. The curb crawlers. The ex-boyfriend who told me it was ‘his right’ to be able to have sex with me without a condom, because if I took birth control, why should he have to? The strangers. The former friends. The teachers. People I thought I could trust. Yet somehow, in the eyes of society and system stacked against us purely on the basis of sex and gender, it’s always, for some nonsensical reason, blamed on us. And I’m sick of it.

A day or two after the attack, I was at my parents’. Me and my Dad were in the kitchen, the radio was on, the news reporter giving us listeners further developments. My Dad, like most of the decent people in the world, was horrified.

We spoke and I expressed my concerns about this growing movement of angry entitled men, empowered by each other to act on verbal or physical violence to us just because they can’t get laid (Maybe them being a jerk is the problem? But as always, they fail to consider this).

The MeToo movement had broke the year before, blowing the lid on systemic sexual violence and harassment within the entertainment industry, something that as someone who has been in it, was always treated as an open secret knowing none of us, regardless of gender, could do anything about it, especially if you were a ‘nobody’. I said, with that scared feeling in my gut I am not a stranger to:

‘It’s a really scary time for women right now.’

We were looking out the window to the garden. My Dad looks at me before looking back out and says very matter-of-factly:

‘It’s always been a scary time for women. What we need is more self-aware men.’

He wasn’t dismissing what I said. Far from it. He stated the obvious and what society often seems to bury its head in the sand over. What us women have now, we’ve had to really fight for, with the help of our male friends, family members, colleagues etc. who want us to have equality. Throughout history to now, the system of sexism runs deep from the top into everyday life, and that’s not even starting on systemic racism, homophobia, classism etc. The list of injustices are endless.

With a system that favours above all others, the demographic of middle class to wealthy, white, cisgender heterosexual, Christian (this is particular in countries like the USA and UK) men, everyone else is at some varying degree of loss. That’s not to say the men in the aforementioned demographic don’t have their own set of problems, because they do.

Our society also has expectations of men and masculinity that unless you fit into a small, precise box, those men outside it suffer too. The obscene lacking of access for male DV and sexual violence survivors to support and emergency housing, along with to mental health and suicide prevention services, and the derision of any man outside of what is considered a ‘real man’, are very real problems.

But in this post, I am talking solely about the problems women, both cisgender and transgender, face: Even now, in 2021, there is a societal and systemic issue of predatory men (before anyone starts ‘not all men’-ing me: I know, hence the descriptive) believing they are perfectly entitled to a woman.

Here’s the truth of the matter: You are not.

You might think you are. Society may have told you so in one way or another. But you are not. It doesn’t matter what we wear, how we behave, whether we’re the innocent looking woman you want to ‘corrupt’ or the ‘fucking bitch’ who wouldn’t give you her number at the bar. You are not entitled to us just because we exist.

Most men know that and are wonderful people. I’m talking about the shitty people that always seem to crawl out of the woodwork and make themselves known, before scurrying back to hovel they came from, or lashing out at us, or worse, calling us every name under the sun as they do. All because as a woman, with these kinds of people, especially the worst of them, just one word could get us killed:

No.

Does pointing this out make me, in your eyes, a sad little feminist who just needs to get back in the kitchen? Does it make you mad? Good. Stay mad. And while you’re at it, check yourself and your sexism, because this sad little feminist is busy.

What I have been seeing over the last couple of years is how much more discussion has been happening about this. Especially so, among the men around me both IRL and online, on how if they didn’t already know, realising just how bad this problem is. I’m not mad at them for not knowing the full extent. In my case, I assumed they already did, and were just being blasé about it. Turns out not. Many haven’t experienced this to the extent us women have, if at all, or they may not have been in a position where they’ve had to deal with it.

It’s not the first time I’ve been met with genuine shock and horror from a male friend or family member on telling them safety tips us women have passed down to each other: not wearing our hair up, not having long hair, not having short hair, not wearing heels, not wearing ballet flats, the keys between our fingers, avoiding strong perfumes, wearing strong perfumes, not talking back or talking back depending, leaving something in a taxi (along with texting the license plate, taxi number, driver ID etc.) so if we, God forbid, go missing, our DNA might (might being the optimum word) be found etc. just to name a few.

So to those who are listening, thank you. Thank you for helping us get home safe. Thank you for telling the entitled man at the bar to back off. Thank you for treating us like human beings and not something to just fuck and toss (you’d be surprised how common that treatment is) and respecting our ‘No’ in whatever way it portrays.

Thank you for your anger towards this. We’re so angry at the system failing us (you need only look at the recent technicality that released Bill Cosby, a predator proved with a mountain of evidence and confessed to be guilty) and without your help along the way, we won’t get change as quick as we need it. Because as so many women will tell you, these people won’t listen to us, but they’ll listen to another man.

Not that without men we are useless. That’s obviously not the case. But we need the ally-ship of good men so together, we can change the system from the ground up. That’s the sad reality of it all. A woman’s ‘No’ is never enough for these people. They like it like that, and we can’t allow it to continue.

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3 thoughts on “It’s always a scary time for women

  1. Robert Bitttner

    Eloquently poignant. The prejudices baked into daily life from wealth, power and cultural differences are long term issues that will never be fully eliminated. Guys who can acknowledge that baseline are miles ahead and need to display the mannerisms most aspire to. Some jerks, whether by ignorance or upbringing. will remain. We guys need to call them out, not maliciously (at least at first), but to make them aware & drive towards equitable respect.

    Liked by 1 person

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