PLEASE NOTE: TRIGGER WARNING
I know that I haven't done any book reviews in a while. There'll be more soon I promise! In light of recent events, with so many rape cases hitting the news and victims speaking about sexual abuse, I wanted to talk a little about my experiences with rape culture. I reiterate a possible trigger warning.
I am pretty. I'm not a supermodel, and I don't consider myself beautiful. I'm curvy and a little overweight, but I still consider myself pretty. I get noticed sometimes. That's okay, good even. It's when being noticed becomes a line being crossed, or a threat, that the problem occurrs.
I have a couple of stories from my life that I want to tell you in order to make my point.
The first happened my junior year of college, on the night of my Junior Senior banquet. There was a mix-up with the group of people I was going with, and I ended up having to drive to the location alone, which wasn't a big deal. However, when I got there, I got lost. I ended up parking on the wrong side of the conference center. A CONFERENCE CENTER. So...not a small building. It was dusk, and the inner city. Because I had mistakenly parked on the wrong side, I had to walk all the way around this giant building by myself.
I was wearing a strapless blue dress that went down to my knees, full length leggings, high-heels, and a scarf that covered pretty much all of my shoulders. But still, you could tell I was dressed up and going somewhere. While I was walking, I got 'cat called.' Not once, not twice, but three times. The third time involved the car slowing down, and the guys in it yelling in graphic detail what they wanted to do to me in my pretty dress.
I did what all girls are trained to do: I put my head down, I walked faster, they walked away laughing. My friends were obviously upset when I told them, and (God bless them) the guys in my party all worked extra hard to make sure I had a good time, and I did. But underneath it all I was sad. I no longer felt pretty. I felt exposed.
Someone drove me back to the garage I was parked in at the end of the night. And in the two minutes between their car and mine, it happened again. A car full of guys, drunk this time, drove by (in a now abandoned parking garage) and were yelling inappropriate things. I made it home safely, but the night will never be a 'fun' memory for me like it should be.
This happened last night.
I had a very long, and not very good day yesterday. I had already planned on ordering a pizza, buying some ice cream, and just chilling. I forgot to stop for the ice cream on the way home, so I thought I'd order the pizza to make sure they'd still deliver, and then run out to the 24-hour store and grab the ice cream. I live in the suburbs, so I didn't think anything would be the problem.
So I live across the street some poeple I'm not particularly fond of. They party, they're loud, they set off fireworks in the middle of the night. Yeah. One of the guys that lives there is like 6'5" and between 250-300 pounds. Very large man. I've always felt that he looked at me strangely, and I try to avoid him as much as possible. Luckily, he's never engaged with me. Until last night.
I had to park across the street from my house last night. The partiers, including this guy, were all outside. It was only 10:15, but I could tell he was already drunk. I was wearing a sweater, leggings and combat boots. As I was crossing the street he yelled 'HEY! How are you?' Very quietly I said, "I'm fine, thank you." I was very matter of fact. I kept walking. I didn't want to ignore him because he is my neighbor, but I didn't want to interact. Next thing out of his mouth--"You should come party with us!' I replied 'No, thank you.' as I entered my driveway.
That pissed him off. He started yelling, 'AWWW, WHY NOT? That's F**** UP! WHAT ARE YOU TOO GOOD FOR US?" By that time I had the door unlocked, and I had the deadbolt slammed seconds later. I had been about five feet from him at the closest point. My heart was racing.
Understand, I am not weak. I am probably physically the strongest person among my female friends. My father was in the military, I know basic defense skills. I carry pepper spray. I was so afraid of that man, that I didn't go out to get the ice cream. I barely wanted to step outside to meet the delievery guy.
Those are the two stories. I know that compared to a lot of women, these stories are tame. I have never been raped, I have never been sexually abused. But what makes me sick? I have to consider myself lucky that it's never happened to me. That there are so many victims of sexual crimes now, that the status of victim is almost more common than not.
Don't get me wrong, I am lucky. Either of those stories could have turned badly very quickly. But I don't want to be afraid. I don't want to have to think about whether I can step outside of the house to go get ice cream. I don't want to have to think about whether or not my leggings that I wear every day give the idea of 'easy access.' If these things sound selfish, they are.
On behalf of every woman--victim or not--I am angry, and I am tired. I am angry that men think it's okay to tell me they want to take me against my will, to comment on my pictures online and say they want to 'cum all over your face.' I'm tired off having 911 pre-dialed on my phone when I walk to my car at night. I'm angry that my body makes me an object. I'm tired of looking over my shoulder and reciting the 'rules' of how not to be assaulted whenever I am walking--even in the day time.
And I am angry that if something had happened to me, most of the world would consider it my fault.
I am a person that believes the only way things can change is if you know about it, and talk about it. So that's what this is. Rape culture isn't going to change unless we MAKE it change. This isn't a rant against men, I know that there are some great guys out there. And if you're reading this, help us. When your friends say derogatory things, say something. Set an example and look into our eyes when we talk. Say we look beautiful instead of just our bodies.
So here's to change. Keep it going.