This post is not for the good guys.
Not for the men who know that women are people, just like them. Not for the guys whose mothers and fathers taught them how to care and how to love.
It’s not for the policemen I saw last Saturday with a guy down on the ground berating him, while another policeman gently tended to the girl he had been abusing moments earlier.
It’s not for gentleman that helped me up out of a drain in Town years ago when I slipped, then admonished the boys that stood laughing nearby for not helping me up.
It’s not for the man that stopped traffic for me to cross the road a few months ago, because he realised I was late and no one wanted to give me a chance on a busy road.
This post isn’t for those who would like to say #NotAllMen. Even though they know better than to say it because they understand how stupidly pointless and defensive and not helpful that is.
This post is for the other guys.
It’s for the middle-aged taxi driver that harassed me between the ages of 12 and 17, trying to convince me to let him be my ‘sugar daddy’ and driving me off route the first time I got into his car, after other passengers disembarked, to give me this pep talk. The guy whose persistence made me so afraid he would attack me, that my best friends waited with me every evening after school to make sure I got a taxi safely. The man that continued to stalk my school after it let out every day for years, trying to see me, even after my step-father confronted him and threatened him with police action.
This post is for the guys in my street who were so offended when I didn’t respond positively to their catcalls, they started calling me insulting and vulgar names every time I went by, and my 13 year old self learned to just walk past as fast as possible so I wouldn’t hear them.
This is for the guy who flat out asked me to have sex with him when I was 14. And when I turned him down he kept asking and asking until he moved away. Only to ask again when he returned years later with a wife and baby in tow and when I turned him down again, told me I missed out because I could have gotten a man with money as he was a police officer now.
This post is for the taxi ‘conductor’ who harassed me so often on my way home from school, I spent my formative years travelling back and forth with headphones so I could pretend I wasn’t hearing his lewd and suggestive whispers and therefore, couldn’t be expected to respond.
This post is for the man that broke into my home when I was about 17 and climbed onto my sleeping back with a knife and my own underwear to tie me up with, and woke me up to a hand over my mouth and fingers choking me.
This is for the police officers that came to my home that night, saw the huge hand-print on the window to my house, promised to file a report and send a fingerprint expert, but were never seen again. Not that I was surprised as one officer commented I seemed ‘very calm’ for someone who was actually attacked, and the other told me not to expect much as they ‘didn’t have many vehicles’ and ‘I was okay’. After all, ‘I fought him off so nothing had actually happened to me’.
This is for the random man that walked up to me in the street two days ago and asked me if a guy like him had a chance with a girl like me. And rather than tell him I didn’t know what the hell he meant because I didn’t know who the hell he was, I just thought about telling him I had a boyfriend, and settled for saying ‘No’, scared the whole time he would cuss me out or attack me. And relieved when he chose to just walk away.
This is for that man in the jewelry store who once told me ‘don’t gain another pound, or you’ll stop being pretty’, as if my life was nothing if I gained a pound and he no longer found me attractive. As if pretty in a random man’s eyes was all I hoped to be.
To those guys I want to say this.
It didn’t work. Sure, I spent years looking over my shoulder, scared in my own house at night, dressing conservatively to avoid lustful stares and lewd comments, and staying home because I wasn’t guaranteed a lift home by friends from parties and couldn’t possibly attempt to travel late at night, all alone.
But you never shut me up. I know what I’m worth despite your best attempts to tell me I was only as good as my face and my weight. I know the world doesn’t revolve around what any of you think of me, because my mother and grandmother taught me how to be proud of my talents, my accomplishments, my independence and my own brain. I learned how to speak through my writing when I could never find the words to tell you what I thought in the moment you were in front of me, the moment those words came spilling out between your lips.
I have a voice. It is mine, and you are not entitled to it. You may change what I choose to talk about today, but you can never change who I am, who I want to be. This voice has now multiplied a million times as women free themselves from the shackles of your bitterness, your hate, your casual cruelty with the use of a simple hashtag.
#YesAllWomen. Because we are stronger together. And as I stand with my sisters and the brothers who love us, I know we will shout you down. We will silence your hate. We will show you what a world that rejects your beliefs looks like.
And if you feel uncomfortable…if you feel put-upon…if you feel like everything’s unfair and like you’re so much more than we say you are, and not just the countless stories of abuse and discrimination….
That’s how we’ve always felt. It’s time you experienced a bit of it yourself. And if you don’t like it, I suggest you stop dishing it out.