Three weeks ago, I was sitting on my stoop, chain smoking, waiting for my friend to come scoop me up and counsel me about the events of the previous night. I had just ended a long-term relationship, and I was in no mood to deal with anyone aside from my five favorite people I’ve predetermined as tolerable in situations such as these. A man approached me – he was not one of those five people.
He asked me for a cigarette, and in an effort to not project my bad mood all over innocent bystanders, I obliged, loaned him a lighter and tucked back away into my corner. End of transaction, right? Wrong. This gentleman, let’s call him Dick (short for Richard, of course), proceeded to wax idiotic about my beauty, my charm, my legs, my hair, my smile (baffling, given it hadn’t made a single appearance) and demanded to know my name. I told him I was not in the mood. He pleaded his case again, this time throwing in a line about how he felt we were cosmically connected.
I once again told him I was not in the mood, and asked him to leave me alone. He reset his record and began again, and I sat waiting, as he rattled on and on. When I saw my friend’s car approaching, knowing that I had an escape and was free to say whatever, I proudly yelled, “You need to get a clue and fuck off!”
Before I had closed the door, he yelled after me, “Baby, don’t be a bitch! I’m not like other guys!”
And you know what? I have to say I agree. Most guys I know are at least semi-decent human beings with a basic understanding of body language and an ability to understand that women aren’t instantly smitten when you approach them on the street demanding to know their name. Truly, we’d all like to thank you for making the distinction between yourself and the rest of humanity. But just because you’re not like other guys doesn’t mean that guys like you don’t exist. And there are countless women I can name who could pull three stories just like this one off the top of their heads.
Thankfully, or sadly, I don’t have to ask them. The hashtag #yesallwomen blew up on Twitter recently as a response to the tragic actions of Elliot Rodgers. It was a beautiful means of solidarity for women to share their experiences, ranging from annoyance to terror related to institutionalized sexism. The #yesallwomen trend was one of many that have shown how powerful a forum social media has become to bring people together on a united front and say, “Yeah, this is fucked up!” in 140 characters or less. Topics ranged from body dysmorphia to street harassment to victim blaming, and across the globe women came together and said yeah, me too:
“#yesallwomen because young girls are systematically led to believe that their appearances are far more important than their achievements”
“Because part of growing up was learning how to reject a man without hurting his ego so he wouldn’t come back and do something”
“Because we all know someone who’s been made to feel like it wasn’t assault when it was #yesallwomen”
Women across the world spoke out freely about their frustration with navigating the world as a female. But, as when any an oppressed group speaks out en masse, some shitbags came to rain all over our parade. Angry, threatened men fought back. A battle raged on between the thought provoking, often hilarious, sometimes tragic #yesallwomen and the infantile bird vomit of #notallmen.
I refused to search too long on the #notallmen tag. I’d like to preserve my sanity after all. But I did find this gem:
“Some women need to learn how to accept a respectful and genuine compliment. Not all men are ‘thirsty’”
See gals, it’s YOUR fault! YOU just can’t take the compliment! You’ve got a great rack, and we all want you to know! It’s not my fault that the other guy who chased you down the street yelling nice tits turned out to be a rapist! I’m just politely complimenting a stranger in a bar! Just lighten up!
It would seem that whereas women are living with the legitimate fear of harassment and assault, #notallmen are living in fear of being perceived as an asshole and women not wanting to fuck them. Well gentlemen, if that’s the case, I’d suggest sleeping with the lights on, because the fear is real.
Why is it that when a woman has the nerve to say that she felt uncomfortable in a situation with a man, the knee jerk reaction is for some dude-bro to jump up and scream “Not me! Me different! Me a good one!” It seems that the feminist argument gets called out as selfish and overhyped time and again, but it’s the MRA (Men’s Rights Activists – yes, sadly, that’s a real thing) who believe that everything negative you say is about them.
No, not all men catcall women, or grind on them at clubs, or slip them drugs, or rape. But every woman has been catcalled, touched inappropriately, been concerned for the safety of her drink and felt sexually threatened. This is a societal illness, not your own personal bout of diarrhea after a late night stop at Taco Bell. So why not “be a man” like you so valiantly claim to be all over the message boards and get on the bandwagon of cultural change.
Molly Regan is an improviser and writer in Baltimore. She likes chicken pot pie, Adam Scott’s butt and riot grrl.