Allow me to preface this post by saying that I am talking about biological men and biological women. No one has mentioned this, but I don’t want to leave transgender folks out. Some men were indeed born with women parts, and so women’s rights do affect them and their bodies. I think transgender men are often overlooked in the issues of women’s rights. The men and women I’m talking about here are biological, their sex rather than gender.
I shared my last post on Facebook, Twitter, and through e-mail. The downside to this is commenting isn’t in one location. The general gist of them is that women understand and agree, none of the men who’ve commented understand what the big deal is, and a couple women agreed with defending men because somehow women’s birth control, bodily autonomy, and threats of rape and murder (and some follow through) just for daring to speak, are somehow issues that affect men too in such a way that these issues need their involvement as far as making sure their rights are protected. Let me repeat: Men need their rights protected as far as women’s birth control, women’s bodily autonomy, and other issues that involve men in no way, and issues that do not negatively affect them.
I admit to being stunned at the belief that men have any rights at all regarding our birth control. I don’t understand how they can possibly have rights regarding uteri and periods when they don’t have them. And how can any man, or any woman for that matter, have a say over my body, or your body, without our prior consent as part of an advanced directive/living will? Again, what rights do men even have here that need to be protected?
To my dear men:
I know that most men are good people and have good intentions, and would jump in if they witnessed a woman being beaten. Before settling down, I was a “men’s lady,” I guess you could say, though there is hypocrisy in that women who are “men’s ladies” are sluts while “ladies’ men” are studs. Since I couldn’t avoid being treated like meat as a woman in the pre-recession Silicon Valley tech world, I took what control I could. Different conversation for another time. I do love you guys.
I can appreciate how difficult it must be to be in a society where a third of women are victimized, and to have people think this must mean a third of men are bad guys instead of realizing that it’s generally the same few men striking again and again. But let me tell you, having some people in society have the wrong idea about your sex that in no way actually impacts your life is nothing compared to the wrong idea about women being property of a society where death threats for speaking up is becoming common. You don’t have to fear for your safety and life. We do.
As author Jennifer Troemner said on one of my Facebook posts, “[A]ny woman who speaks loudly enough is going to be treated this way. And as a writer, that means that if I’m actually successful, my life will be in danger.” How unfortunate that she is right. That stalking I dealt with started online, and became in-person stalking where I had to get the police and apartment management involved. To this day, I try to be ambiguous about where I am exactly, and absolutely nothing in my name comes to my residence. Even my taxes are filed with my PO box’s street address. What Jennifer said is the very real truth.
It’s terrifying to be a woman, and to have these sort of fears be a part of life that we have had to accept. Were men targeted in the hack and release of celebrity selfies? No. Women were the targets. Women who gain any profile are targets. Gentlemen, this is a part of life for us. It’s something we have to consider before opening our mouths to say a single word. We’re the ones who have to fear men walking along the road at night if a man is nearby. We have to keep keys protruding between our fingers in our fists as we walk to our cars at night. True, any given man is more likely to be fine and decent, but when a third of women will be assaulted, it’s scary to realize there is a decent chance of being harmed.
Also frightening is how our rights to access medical care and birth control, which are personal decisions between women and their doctors, can now legally be blocked by employers who claim certain medical care is against their religious beliefs. True, there’s a part of the Affordable Care Act that will cover women whose employers say hell-to-the-no to birth control, as long as women have a form signed verifying the denied coverage; but in a court case that made next to no news, SCOTUS ruled that employers don’t even have to sign the form that states they won’t cover birth control. The most-hotly debated topics at the state and national levels regard women and our rights to autonomy, medical decisions, and medical care, without employers or anyone else being a part of it without our consent. Before too long, I fear we may as well be declared property of the US government and whichever big names are buying politicians. Turn on the news and watch for ten minutes. I bet you’ll see a story about someone trying to further trample our rights.
This is the reality of being a woman. This is without adding in the threats we face for daring to be women who use the internet and have something to say.
Another issue raised in the comments I received is that, somehow, Gamergate implies that all gamers, regardless of sex, must be running women off the internet. Well, we know it’s not everyone with XY chromosomes. Gamergate is only called that because the event that made this explode involves gamers, and that sort of X-gate title immediately makes people remember which it is. That is all.
Interestingly, one man who stated this also said that the problem with calling feminism feminism is that people think of man-hating, butch lesbians with a bunch of tats. Hm. Well, if you know that not all gamers are the bad guys, then you should know that not all feminists are a stereotype, and that real feminists generally don’t like the man-haters. We’re your typical at-home mothers, business woman, doctors, retail clerks, grandmas, and college students. We are your wives, girlfriends, sisters, daughters, mothers, and friends. And we know not all men are the jerks who think women should tape our mouths shut and stay off their interwebz.
Anyone with reasonable sense knows that not all gamers and not all men are the sexist, scary people issuing terrorist threats. We should not need to declare a caveat to protect the delicate sensibilities of those who are looking to be offended, or who think they’re oppressed while enjoying rights women still don’t have. We know that it’s not all of you, and the implication that we women are going to think it’s every man breathing insults us. We are generally smarter than that.
After writing that last post, I thought about how to better explain it to my husband. He still didn’t understand how it was so wrong to simply not participate in harassment and oppression of women. I told him that that was exactly the problem. Doing nothing. Nothing. Not even stepping in to defend the victim. I asked him if he would sit there content with doing nothing if a gay person was being attacked, or if he’d intervene and defend the person. A look of understanding came over his face.
Gentlemen, would you sit idly by, content in your belief that you’re doing right by simply not participating in the harassment of a gay person or someone of a minority race? Or would you step in and try to stop it? I’m sure most of you would try to. If you saw someone bulling a kid, would you so anything? If a few people are seriously razzing someone for being a fan of a different football team, usually someone will speak up. So why is it any different with women? You have nothing at stake by telling a jerk to quit harassing a woman, just respect to earn. No, we can’t always defend ourselves when we’re being dogpiled. When you see this happening, speak up. Simply not participating in the harassment isn’t enough. Envision your daughter receiving that treatment. What would you do? See red? Feel enraged? All of us women are someone’s daughter. Our own daughters are at extreme risk of having it worse than we do.
Heh. Guess what. Stepping in does good in two areas. First, it does help us. Speaking out for our rights to be treated with dignity and equality helps progress take a bit of a step, and can help give us strength in a society where it’s tiring being a woman. Second, you know that concern about how Gamergate may make it seem like all gamers and all men are the bad guys? By helping us, you are showing that you are the good guy. Anyone can claim to be one. Only the truth-tellers can show it. We writers are told to show rather than tell. The same applies here. You will help women as well as yourselves. This is a win-win situation!
Since some of you may still need to hear this from a man, Polygon’s editor-in-chief, Christopher Grant, bluntly discusses the problems I’m addressing in this interview. Listen to it. Think.
Take a look at a little girl you love, so innocent and ignorant of the world at large. Maybe she’s your little girl, your precious daughter. Would you be all right with her one day being told to shut up because she’s a girl and girls shouldn’t be online, and math and science are for boys, and passed up for promotions and raises because she’s of childbearing age, and having to worry about her being hurt? You know that stereotype of parents waiting anxiously for their daughters to return from first dates? There’s truth in that. Our daughters face risks and dangers our sons simply don’t. Speak up and speak out now, and you may help prevent your sweet baby girl from having to go through what today’s women have had to accept as a hazard of being a woman.
Those with a privilege bestowed upon them often don’t want to see the truth of their privilege. White privilege. Orientation privilege. Christian privilege. Sex privilege. Realizing you have a privilege often comes with feelings of guilt because you’re benefitting for something you can’t choose. Having a privilege doesn’t make someone a bad person. Ignoring it because you don’t care to change the status quo is another matter. You may have a harder time seeing your privilege because you’ve never been told you don’t deserve equal pay, or been told no, you can’t do that because of your sex. Life can be pretty sweet when you’re sailing above the water, even while others are drowning below you. You may not be able to see the people down there from atop the SS Privilege, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t sinking and needing help. Throw us a life preserver.