Posted by: Hannah | 05/28/2014

#yesallwomen

By now we’ve all seen the #yesallwomen campaign that continues to trend on Twitter. For a place that traditionally abandons causes after a few hours, the staying power of this discussion is noteworthy all by itself.

I haven’t added my own tweets, because as I thought about it (and read about it, and pondered it) I realized that it would take an ocean of tweets to tell all of my stories. Despite the fact that the stream updates so fast you almost can’t read it, I wonder how many other women are not posting because it’s just too much to deal with.

Here’s the thing.

I have never been raped, and I still say all the time that I’ve been lucky. I put myself in dangerous situations. I made bad decisions and bad choices. I was naive. I craved male attention as balm for my low self-esteem. I dressed and acted in ways designed to attract that attention and looking back, I cringe at all the near-misses and could-have-been-worse moments in my life.

But even then, shit happened all the goddamn time. Shit that no one took seriously because it was just expected that these things would happen.

In grade six, I was taken aside by a teacher and told to make sure my t-shirt didn’t slide off my shoulders, showing my bra straps. “It’s just not appropriate,” she said, as if I were yanking that sucker down on purpose so the boys would have more reasons to make fun of my rapidly-developing chest.

In grade nine, a male classmate leaned across the aisle one day and grabbed my breasts. When I swatted him away, his defense was “well, they’re huge! I just wanted to see if they were real!” My female teacher smiled at him and shook her head, in the way I do when George eats his mashed potatoes with his hands.

In high school, a male student (and supposed friend) asked me out a few times and was politely turned down. He showed up to school drunk one day and made a big show out of ripping branches off of trees and threatening to cut himself. “He’s drinking because he feels so bad that you won’t go out with him,” said one of his friends, helpfully. And I ended up feeling bad and sitting with him for an entire free period, trying to console him.

And then there was the one “Nice Guy” that was in my life through junior high, high school, and university. He was good friends with my first boyfriend. He was in the circle. There was no avoiding him.

He would fall madly “in love” with one of his female friends after another. None of us wanted him back. He was needy. He wasn’t as smart as he thought he was. We liked him just fine as one of our group, but none of us felt romantically toward him at all. And this was somehow our fault.

You girls have never been attracted to me … I don’t know why … I don’t know what you don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourself at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman. – from Elliot Rodger’s YouTube manifesto

I heard that speech from Nice Guy half a dozen times, at least. I heard it about my three closest female friends. When I stopped hearing it and he started sneaking up behind me to suddenly rub my neck & shoulders because I “seemed tense”, I knew he was saying those words about me.

I tried shutting that shit down. One day when he went for the unwanted touching I shrugged him off, annoyed – and he turned on the hurt-puppy I-was-only-trying-to-be-NICE act. I defended myself weakly before I ended up apologizing to him because oh sweetie, you need to be kind. Let him down easy. He can’t help the way he feels about you and god forbid you should ever cause anyone pain.

Meanwhile he was still friends with almost everyone I knew. He was buddies with my male roommate for a while. He’d come by our flat practically every day and if we weren’t home, he’d wait on the deck until we got there.

It fucking sucked, is what I’m saying, and the only time he didn’t drip all over me in an inappropriate and unwelcome fashion was when I had a boyfriend, because he respected the boundaries of ‘ownership’ laid down by another man, but not the ones laid down by me.

The events of this week have stirred up a lot of feelings I’d thought I had dealt with, but apparently haven’t. I am sad. I am frustrated. I am feeling the responsibility of raising my boys to NOT feel that sense of entitlement.

Most of all I am angry that boys & men who claimed to be my friends, who claimed to care for me, used my basic decency and desire to not hurt anyone against me. I am angry that I felt guilty because I didn’t love these people just because they loved me. I am angry that I’m now disappointed in myself for not taking a stronger stand. I remember once saying “fuck, am I glad he’s decided he has a crush on Other Friend now instead of me” and then doing nothing to protect her, because I was so relieved to be out of his clutches myself.

So no, #notallmen. But #yesallwomen.

 

 

 

 

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Responses

  1. Thank you for writing this. It has been sobering for me to look back on just how many times lines were crossed. It doesn’t have to be rape to not be right. Just this morning I had a man ask why I was wearing heels. “You are already so tall.” I chuckled Awkwardly, then he laughed and said, “I looked over and was like, she’s already so tall, what’s she doing in those shoes?” Then he ran his hand along my shoulder and laughed. Not ten minutes later a man on the street looked at my sleeveless shirt and told me that I needed winter clothes. How is it that I am an object for them to make commentary on? Question my decisions? I’m not telling them that there inseam is too short and tracing my finger along their ankles. Maddening.

    Thank you for thinking about all of this and for sharing.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting. I get what you’re saying, exactly. It’s like when total strangers will tell you to “smile!” and I always feel like chucking something at their heads. If I’m feeling smiley, I’ll smile, you douche. >:/

      I have to admit that the image of you tracing your finger along their ankles after commenting on their inseam made me laugh, though.

  2. This #YesAllWomen has dredged up so much, which is hard, but it has been good for me. It’s clarified my boundaries and why some things I tried to shrug off are still not okay.

    The nice guys? Are sometimes the worst guys.

    • The Nice Guys are the worst guys, for me. Out & out crudery and grossness, I can handle easily, because I feel justified in telling them right where to go and how to get there. Plus when it used to happen in bars or clubs, it was very easy to get bouncers to take aggressive behaviour seriously. But imagine saying “that guy won’t stop trying to buy me drinks and telling me I’m sexy! DO SOMETHING!!” you’ll get nowhere, because you’re supposed to feel flattered in that scenario. If you don’t, YOU’RE the bitch.

  3. My eyes have been suddenly opened wide. WIDE. What saddens me most is I didn’t see this before. That I didn’t know what it was. That I thought it was just me. It’s one big reason why I don’t dress up – so not to be mistaken, ever again, as “a tease”.
    It makes me sad that these stories are never ending – per every woman I know.
    So I’ll be with you in raising boys that are #notallmen.
    But, #yesallwomen.

    • Hugs to you, my friend. It’s hard. I didn’t see it for what it was until the last few years, I guess, and I struggled with it, too. I had a male friend ask me once which “crazy left-wing lesbian feminazi blogs are you reading?” when I dared bring up these kinds of issues.

  4. So, I join the bunches of us who don’t blog anymore due to controversy. But, my mind is still full of it. I have so many instances: The time my best friend at last pulled into a deserted office park and tried to kiss me. Was this innocent or was he exploiting the trust I had in our “safe” relationship. I don’t know. We hardly ever talked after that following 4 years of friendship. Was it the time I got drunk in high school and was powerless to get a bumbling sophomore off of me? Fortunately I wasn’t raped. That time. Was it the days following when I was lampooned for being a slut while he was laughing? Was it when my long time boyfriend raped me in my dorm room? So, #yesallwomen, but let’s address all women in this. Because the time that women made fun of me for what a guy did? Or the time my own mother shrugged her shoulders after I told her what happened at college? Women are often equal perpetrators in this zero sum game. When we sweep what men and boys do under the rug we are guilty. When we call each other prudes or sluts, we are guilty. When we roll our eyes at another woman wearing too little or too much we are guilty. So, while I think it’s fine that we’re rallying around a buzz-y hashtag, I want to know what happens when this goes away like every other thing on the internet. Will we have learned anything after we’ve spilled our guts, pounded out 140 characters ten times each, and retweeted each others’ words? I’d like to believe that, but I’ve also been to this rodeo before.

    What would I say to any of you who’ve posted on this page? I won’t minimize your upset or outrage. If you message me or cry out, I’ll listen more and talk less. In between I’ll be trying to raise 1 daughter to be staunchly FOR women, and working on my 3 boys that they may not be like all the men who we are talking about.

    • I do not disagree that everyone is complicit in this. This is not a “man problem” – misogyny is everywhere, and if society didn’t condone it this shit would stop happening.

      I dislike buzzy hashtags as much as the next person, but in this particular case I think the good discussion and relevant comments far outweigh the bad. I can only hope that we keep having this discussion after the world has moved on.

  5. I thought I could comment on this, it turns out I can’t. But just know that it’s true, and I think we’ve all been there. I was a cute smart girl who dated big dumb jocks and had a lot of nerdy guy friends. And that’s all I can say about that right now. Sorry.

    • You don’t have to comment if you don’t want to. Honestly. There are a lot of stories I *didn’t* tell, and probably never will except over a glass of wine in a safe space.

  6. I had my eyes opened by the yesallwomen hashtag. It’s not that I didn’t have many similar experiences, it’s that for most my life I just chalked them up to that’s ” just how it is.”

    I’ve spent the last several days mentally going from pillar to post trying to figure out how to both communicate to my son that the subtle bullshit is unacceptable (he already has heard loud and clear that the overt things like rape, groping, and textbook sexual harassment are right out) and to communicate to my daughter that all the things are unacceptable and she is never to feel out of line or wrong when she sets the boundaries she is comfortable with and sticks to them.

    This has dredged up a lot of things I’d forgotten and passed over years ago. It’s both good and painful.

    • I know. It’s so draining and sad to know that this is all of us, all the time. And yet also comforting to realize that we all share these experiences in common.

      I struggle too with how to communicate this to my kids. I’ve always been big on personal space, on accepting that each other person is entitled to their autonomy, etc etc. But it’s hard, especially when those lessons are *not* reinforced by society at large. How many adults in positions of authority tell children to apologize when they aren’t sorry, for example? That’s how it begins, I think.

  7. When I was in high school, I was smart, keen and a bit of a goody two-shoes. (I know, I know, quel surprise.) My friends were all pretty straight-laced as well. Towards the end of my graduating year, I befriended a group of guys who were part of the stoner/D&D crowd: these were guys who had above average intelligence but who lacked the kind of social skills you need to survive high school. They were fantasy heads and poets and they concerned themselves with soulful matters. I liked them. In many ways, it felt as if I had found my people. We went to see Laser Floyd together at the planetarium…that kind of thing.

    When I started University, I struck up an epistolary friendship with one of these guys. He was brilliant and sensitve and could write fantastic letters. We exchanged poetry, of which he was a prolific writer and I was a dabbler. We were both pretentious and desperately young. We talked in song lyrics and of art, life and death, and I really felt as if I had found one of those rare and precious friends with whom you can be as moony and sincere as possible. As far as we were both concerned, this was a very special friendship.

    But then he fell in love with me.

    I was (platonically, innocently) dating someone else, but even if I wasn’t, I would not have had a romantic interest in this boy. He was physically repulsive to me and the level of intensity in our friendship scared me away from anything beyond what could be put in letters. He knew I didn’t have a romantic attraction to him, I had made that clear, and still he pursued me. I was young, naive, flattered, low in self-esteem, and really wanted to continue this intense friendship. In short, I was neither my own nor his best ally in managing the situation. This doesn’t make any of what happened my fault, but it is part of the reality of it all.

    He wrote me letters that went on and on about his love for me. He offered to take me to Paris on a whim. He wrote poems for me. He told me I was his everything. I tried to be a good friend. I tried to talk him down and through it, but his attentions only escalated. We lived in cites that were two hours apart and sometimes his letters arrived without postmarks. That’s when I started to get scared. He showed up on my mom’s doorstep with a gigantic teddy bear (like 4′ tall) for me. There seemed to be nothing I could do to stop him. He found a girlfriend and still he wrote love letters to me. He got her pregnant, and still he wrote love letters to me. He married her, because, he claimed she threatened to kill herself if he didn’t, and still he wrote love letters to me.

    At some point, his letters stopped coming and for the longest time I wasn’t sure why even though I was relieved. I had assumed he’d moved on.

    Four years later, I started my Master’s at a different university. Maybe by this time my mom had reasoned that I was safe or that I had grown up enough to defend myself, for it was then that she told me his letters had kept coming to my home address. She had taken it on herself to throw them out rather than forwarding them on to me. I was furious but grateful but scared but all sorts of other emotions all at the same time. She told me that eventually he stopped writing.

    And then, another letter arrived. It was the last one I ever received from him. He wrote it from jail where he was serving a short sentence for assaulting his wife. In it, he told me that he still loved me and that his wife saw me as a rival and that if I gave him the word, he would leave her and his kids for me.

    I never wrote back. I never heard from him again.

    Last fall when I found the stack of his letters, I googled his name. He leaves almost no trace on the web. From what I can very crypically glean, he is still alive, still married to the same woman and still living in the same city where he settled after high school.

    _______________________________

    The latest misogyny-driven shooting and its #yesallwomen aftermath have brougt forward all sorts of painful memories for me…and for you and for all of us. I have a friend who served time in the military and her #yesallwomen FB post struck me to the core. I’ve followed the hashtag and clicked on the articles. These past few days, I’ve relived so many of the emotions that I experienced post-Lepine. There were so many tweets I could have written this week that have nothing to do with the situation I described above. Among them:

    #yesallwomen have had their mothers bar the door against pedophiles
    #yesallwomen sleep with one eye open at extended family gatherings
    #yesallwomen have been diddled with while still a child
    #yesallwomen have been shown pornography by an adut male relative before the age of 13
    #yesallwomn have been called a fucking feminist that deserves to be shot
    #yesallwomen have been called fat and ugly while walking down the street
    #yesallwomen have seen a penis they never asked to see
    #yesallwomen have been dismissed sexually, intellectually, emotionally
    #yesallwomen refuse to let their daughters go to sleepovers and feel conflicted about it
    #yesallwomen get consumed with fear as they raise a sensitive daughter.

    Those #yesallwomen speak for one woman, and one woman only, but #yes, all women have their own stories to tell.

    But here is the thing that still eats me up today. I liked this guy. He was special and smart and sensitive in so many ways. He had so much that was so good about him and he showed it to me in his writing, … and I saw it and I saw him. It would be so easy for me to simply write him off as an intense, creepy abuser (which he was and I make no excuse for his behaviours nor do I accept any responsibilty for what transpired. His actions are on him). But he was not born an emotionally intense and abusive man. As a teenager, he was an outcast and his physical appearance and emotional intensity colluded to alienate him. I can’t help but wonder how and when things might have changed for him. I can’t help but wonder where interventions in his teen years might have spared him, me and, more to the point, the wife he went to jail for abusing. I can’t help but want to reclaim the intelligence, caring and wonder that lived in that friendship before it all went to hell.

    I watch my daughter, who is a mini-me, someone who feels things profoundly and wants to be a good friend to everyone. I listen to myself encouraging kindness in her and wondering about the price of doing so versus the price of not doing so. And it’s all so messed up and we all, men and women (as Liv rightly points out), live in this misogynist culture and perpetuate it even as we look for the road maps to find our way out.

    • First of all, Sue, I want to thank you for sharing this story with us. I am humbled that you feel this is a safe space to talk about what happened to you.

      So many good points you’ve touched on here, but your last paragraph is really the gut-punch, because you’re right – we are all perpetrating it, every day, without even meaning to, and just how do we unpack that? I don’t know. I don’t know how to teach my boys how to be better. I don’t know how to guide the little girls in my care. I don’t know how to forgive myself for my past mistakes and I don’t know how to get it across to the (lovely, kind, warm) men in my life what I’m talking about when I get upset about misogyny.

      This is such an important conversation. I hope it continues.

      • Sue, thank you for writing this. It made me remember aspects of myself that I’ve almost quite forgotten. I’d also note that I’ve worked very hard to make them disappear when I glance at the horizon. The details of things don’t matter much anymore, but I find myself pondering what emptiness in myself caused me to cultivate a relationship with the person who would end up raping and subsequently stalking me. I wasn’t stupid. I just did not know any better, and I wanted something that felt real and grown up and no longer a part of a teenage life that I loathed. I got it. This is not to say I deserved it, but I did promote the relationship with someone who was ultimately a horrible person. How has he been repaid in this life for his actions? Well, now he’s the CIO of a large corporation.

        This makes me ponder some peculiarities. Who is the man who does these awful things and goes on to do so well materially, and by all appearances, professionally? What missteps or happenstances occurred with my upbringing that pushed me in the direction of man seeking?

        Since you mentioned my reference to our misogynistic culture, I’d like to add a refinement. I should have separated what I believe to be different things by anthropological standards. Women behaving competitively is different from the culturally built misogyny that we experience. Deriding behavior that is considered “female” or “feminine” is so part of our world that I don’t know where to begin to undo that.

        I also want to touch on Hannah’s response to my first comment. I was not angry about the buzz of the current hashtag. What I was saying is that I’m always dismayed when we get on the cusp of something that could really change lives through awareness, and then drop it like it’s hot for a new thing that inspires outrage. In essence, I’m hoping that we continue to think about these cultural drivers and be kinder to one another.

        • I should have read your first comment more carefully and without kids nearby. On second reading it was very clear what you meant. And yes, I also hope that this conversation will continue, although today I’m feeling less hopeful about it. Seems like a lot of people have already moved on.

          “I just did not know any better, and I wanted something that felt real and grown up and no longer a part of a teenage life that I loathed. I got it. This is not to say I deserved it, but I did promote the relationship with someone who was ultimately a horrible person.” – This really resonated with me, because yes, this was me. My first boyfriend was a wonderful, caring person, but then there were several who were NOT, and I was with them for these reasons (and they were with me because I had a reputation by then and they figured they could get somewhere). I don’t know, I’m babbling, and your comment is a lot more coherent than mine. So – thank you.

        • Liv, I like the way you describe making things disappear with a glance at the horizon. I had all but forgotten my stalker until I found his letters and it was only in rereading them that I was reminded of the barely-woman I once was. It’s a fascinating coping mechanism we have, this conscious forgetting. It’s also what makes it painful to have something like #yesallwomen dredge it all up again. And yet, I do think the conscious reexamination of events that has happened all over North America this past week is important whether or not we, as women (and men), make it past the cusp of meaningful, long term change in our behaviour. But I also feel the truth in your initial cautionary comment. What I can say is that when Marc Lepine murdered 14 women in Montreal in 1989 before taking his own life, a similar sea change happened in public discourse around misogyny in Canadian society. That event and its aftermath changed me and my behaviour toward other women permanently. I also believe it changed my generation of Canadian women permanently. So, yes, the important conversations spurred by the use of the hashtag will fade, likely more quickly than they ought to, but the effect of this conversation will linger for some in ways they may not even be able to articulate until another event brings it all back up to the surface again.

          Thank you for sharing about the boyfriend turned rapist turned CIO. It must not have been easy to put that out there and I really do appreciate your willingness to do so. Indeed, I appreciate the vulnerability shown by all the women who have spoken up, whether it’s been in the mass media, on twitter or in the safety of Hannah’s comment thread here. I know I couldn’t have been more public than that with my story and I needed first name anonymity to even get it out. I also appreciate the voices of the women who want to speak but know themselves well enough to know that they can’t–just now or ever. That kind of self-knowledge and self-care is also important.

          So in short, Hannah, as I dash off to a meeting: thank you for making this space available.

  8. Wow. You could have been writing this about me. That boy who reached over and grabbed your breast in class… The exact same thing happened to me more times than I can count. And because I ‘developed’ early, which was something I had no control over, everyone–teachers, other kids–thought it was a joke. That I should feel proud of the male attention I was suddenly getting, even though, at the age of 12, that kind of male attention was the last thing I wanted.

    I so get you and I too am angry that I didn’t know how to stand up for myself when it happened. I’m worried that no matter how well I teach them to speak up for themselves, my daughters will end up experiencing the same things. That in thirty years, nothing has changed.

    • I developed long before everyone else in my peer group and it was The Worst. Nothing but teasing, taunts, and envy from the girls who saw the attention I was getting and wanted it too – they had no idea how awful it felt to be attracting the gaze of not only boys but men, too. Ugh.

      Thank you for sharing. It’s the anger & helplessness that I’m struggling with now.

  9. I have, I have to say, had remarkably little in the way of unpleasant experience with men, though not to say none at all. but the thing is, even someone who has been lucky in seemingly not attracting attention that way knows that that it happens, knows people who it’s happened to, hears the stories of other women and feels the fear of it being imminent, of today being the day, and we all have our ideas and plans of how we might handle things that we run through as we walk home from the bus stop. It circumscribes our lives and activities in ways we wish it didn’t, and we pass that on to our daughters because we want to protect them, at the same time that we want them to be free of it and it’s so maddening and conflicting that there are still people who don’t see it.

    One of the few times a man really has come on strong with me and not taken my brushing off invitations was last year at work. I had done a computer tutorial with him, and had another booked, and I was anticipating having to deal with the same again, so I at down and thought about how I needed to deal with it. I came to the conclusion that I needed to make it really clear that my refusal and need for him to back off had nothing to do with marital status, not only because I wasn’t interested anyway, but also because I felt like that would be abandoning my single staff, suggesting it was open season on them. Instead, I ended up telling him flat out that he was making me uncomfortable and that this was not a social setting for me, and that I would not continue to work with him if he could not respect those boundaries. He backed right off, which was what I was after, but I feel like it was also a win in making me really examine my response and what the important messages to him were because yeah, it had nothing to do with wanting him to respect mr’s territory, it had to do with him respecting ME.

    I’m finding as well that in raising my boy, I’m becoming more adamant about his listening to me and refusing to find it cute when he doesn’t, even when he’s being adorable. How many entitled boys start out as the apple of their mom’s eye and get away with way too much and think they can get their way by being sweet and cute, and then grow up to expect that treatment at the hands of women to continue? I’m not harsh on him or anything, but I am finding I’m definitely insistent, because he knows he’s cute and tries to work it, and it’s starting to make me feel like he needs the lesson, even at all of 5 years old some days!

    • Thank you for sharing. It’s great that you were self-possessed enough to tell that man so clearly what the problem was… and that it worked.

      I also get what you’re saying about your son. I think it’s all about teaching respect, and listening to others is really the key. If the men in these stories really listened, so much could have been avoided.

  10. I have been thinking that by some miracle I have managed to avoid this sort of thing, but then I remembered the time that my male friend started sending me repeated, insistent texts trying to get me to have sex with him. And the time a random boy at school asked me when I was going to “do something about [my] hair”. The worst thing is that there are probably other examples but like Maggie I just accepted it as “how it is” and don’t even remember them. I am very proud to say that my brother doesn’t have this sense of entitlement to women’s attention and bodies, but the responsibility of ensuring my futures sons don’t is scary.

    • For years I assumed I attracted the kind of attention I did solely because of my own actions. I contributed, sure, but in some cases my contribution involved just standing there and existing.

      I still remember going with a friend for a slice of pizza one night and getting hit on by the 30-ish man behind the counter. “You’re a pretty girl. You have a boyfriend? You married?” I finally told him I was 16. He looked faintly horrified and then asked if I had an older sister.

      EWWWWWWW. So many memories. So many moments. Yerk.

  11. Great post and great discussion, Hannah. I’m with Misty and Maggie – this whole campaign has really opened my eyes to “everyday” type things that maybe don’t have to be, or shouldn’t be, quite so everyday. I remember so many similar incidents, feeling the same sort of way – upset and distressed and maybe a bit violated, and yet feeling like it’s my fault in some way, or that it’s normal and I should get used to it. Ugh – the whole thing makes me just feel so dirty, now. Hope this means change is on the horizon.

  12. I have been trying NOT to think about instances in my own life, because they are painful and annoying and I don’t want to get sucked in and it just makes me mad all over again. Nevertheless, it has been percolating in my head how to systemically root out the “victim” mentality (not the women victims of abuse, but the male mind that thinks he is a victim of vicious women/men just because he isn’t getting laid, or hired, or promoted, or whatever.)

    I have been pondering how to teach some of this to my boys. How to teach them the less than obvious things: you have to have permission to touch someone, etc, but also that no one owes them anything, etc.

    So, someone on FB linked to this VERY NSFW (and especially the video toward the end which is something NSFW in and of itself and in someways the most misogynistic thing I have ever viewed….) Cracked article.

    http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-harsh-truths-that-will-make-you-better-person/

    Essentially, it says, it doesn’t matter if you are a nice guy, BE SOMETHING. Which is something that I think many of us in the world today need to be reminded of. Of course it MATTERS if you are a nice guy, but that is a basic requirement. A man doesn’t get points for being a nice guy.

    As a Christian, I have some difficulty with the substance of the article because I do believe that we have worth as humans in spite of what we do or not do. To quote the Jesus Story Book Bible, “He loves us and we are lovely because he loves us.” NONETHELESS, the article rings true. This world (women) doesn’t owe you (men) anything. You are not entitled to a happy life (wife) (sorry, can’t help the rhyme) without giving something in return.

  13. Soo….stumbling across this post a bit late to the game, but wanted to share my thoughts.

    The #yesallwomen movement is so very important because 1) it gets us women questioning what we often see as “normal” in our society or “just the way things are”, and challenges us to demand better, and 2) it shows men just how different our experiences in life as women are. Because honestly, I don’t think a lot of men (even really great men) “get it”.

    I have a good example for you.

    The other day after returning from my (early morning) run, I was telling the hubs about it. In the course of the story, I casually mentioned meeting an oncoming male runner and how I crossed to the other side of the street (like I always do in the early mornings, except on the busiest of streets or if there are plenty of other people around). He kind of gave me a blank look, not really knowing why I do that. I said, “It’s a safety thing.” He told me, “I’d noticed women runners out there in the morning doing that when I’M out there running alone, too, but I just figured that they didn’t want me sweating on them or something.” (With a bit of a laugh). He was surprised to realize why women would be doing this. For me, it’s something that’s simply ingrained in me, that I do without really even thinking about it. As a man, he’s never had to experience that kind of basic level fear that pretty much all women deal with. Some of us on a daily basis.

    It was just extremely eye opening for me, and made me realize how different men and women’s daily experiences truly are.

    Thanks for writing this post, Hannah.

  14. When I was in Grade 4, I had a male teacher. The teacher of the other Grade 4 class was a woman. One day, she came to my classroom, opened the door, exchanged nods with my male teacher, and asked me to step outside. Then she sat down with me and kindly asked me if I knew what parts of my body were not okay to touch in public. Confused and humiliated, I pointed to my crotch. She asked “where else?” and I was baffled. “Up… my nose?”

    She then went on to say that girls couldn’t touch themselves around their chest, where their nipples were, where breasts would someday be. I was horrified by this news for several reasons:
    1. I had no memory of ever touching my nipples in public. I certainly didn’t have a habit of twiddling them or anything.
    2. No one had ever told me such a thing before.

    I concluded that I must have accidentally touched my chest – perhaps scratching a mosquito bite -in class in my own social ignorance. I must have humiliated myself unknowingly in front of my entire class, to the point where my teacher felt he needed to enlist the help of a female teacher to get me to stop my disgusting ways.

    Now, keep in mind that I was 9 years old. I had no breasts and would not develop them until I was 14. To this day, I don’t know what the hell that was about. But I know I was 16 years old before I noticed that the other girls in my school didn’t have a problem brushing crumbs off of their chests when eating a sandwich, or adjusting their bra surreptitiously. I began to realize that brushing one’s chest with one’s hand was not actually a big deal, and the crippling shame that I had lived with for years began to ease.

    I finally mentioned it to my mother and she was shocked, confused, and angry. She had half a mind to track the teacher down to find out what that had been about and why she had not been noitified that such a conversation had happened to her child. Of course I had never mentioned it to her at the time because I didn’t want her to know that her daughter was a filthy chest-toucher.

    And now I wonder what kind of a pervert I had for a fourth grade teacher. What conversation happened between him and the female teacher that resulted in my being pulled out of class? What was that about?

    I was made to feel ashamed of my breasts before they even grew.

  15. […] – When Women Refuse The Sex Positive Parent – Harassment Hodge Podge and Strawberries – #YesAllWomen Your Princess Is In Another Castle… A Drop In The Ocean Whedonesque Matt Lieberman’s […]

  16. […] – When Women Refuse The Sex Positive Parent – Harassment Hodge Podge and Strawberries – #YesAllWomen Your Princess Is In Another Castle… A Drop In The Ocean Whedonesque Matt Lieberman’s […]


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