Hey guys, remember that time I wrote about yoga pants and it went viral?
I’m not really sure the “right” way to follow up with what has happened over the past week. I wrote that post in a white hot rage, and in all of about 15 minutes. Taking the picture took about 5 and digging up the picture of me on the first day of school Junior year took another 5. The issues that inspired it have been simmering under the surface for many, many years.
After I posted it, some things happened.
- I was FLOODED by literally hundreds of emails, messages, comments, etc. showing support for me. I received letters from women all over the country telling me their stories and thanking me for sharing mine. I heard from mothers of sons who vowed their sons would be different. I heard from teenage boys, from men, and from fathers who “got it.”
- I received a fair number of comments from people who respectfully disagreed with me. Some made great points.
- I tried to respond to everyone, and then quickly realized I would have to quit both of my jobs and find a nanny in order to keep up.
I was also told more than a few times to “get over it.” I was called “pathetic” and a “whiner” and told to “stop bitching” and to “grow up.”
Yeah, a couple things about that.
I shared my experience, my feelings, and my opinion. Disagree with my opinion – I can respect that. But my experience and feelings are not up for debate. Period. I am not going to apologize, and I am not going to defend. I think women often feel the need to discount their experiences – “oh, I guess it wasn’t that big of a deal …”, “Oh, maybe I should have XYZ …”, “Maybe I don’t deserve to feel this way …”
No. I will say it again: My feelings about events that happened to me are not up for debate. Period.
Since I was a tiny girl, I have been told both explicitly and not so explicitly sit down and shut up.
Don’t rock the boat.
Nobody likes a tattle-tale.
Be a good girl.
Be sexy, but not TOO sexy.
Good girls are seen and not heard.
It has been ingrained in me since my childhood that to be a good girl, to be well liked, I must look the “right way” and above all, I must not ever express any negative emotion if I want to be liked. There are consequences for those girls who speak up.
What are those consequences, you ask? After my article was posted, I was told I was a liar. I was told if I was telling the truth, all those boys would be expelled, sued, and locked up in jail. I was told I was exaggerating. I was told I was a slut. I was called a “fucking retarded feminazi.” A person sat on my blog and commented every two minutes for over an hour and a half on what a liar I was and how wrong I was and how stupid I was and why wasn’t I responding to her posts? I was told that if I didn’t report it, it obviously didn’t happen. I was told this never happened at so-and-so’s school, so there is no way it could have happened at mine. I was told I should have taken the yoga pants picture “from behind” so the male viewers could have a better view of my ass.
When these comments started appearing I asked for advice. I asked my husband, my friend, my mom. Should I delete them? Should I respond? Should I just leave them? Each person I asked had a different opinion. So I approved every single comment people made, even the ones calling me a “cunt” and a liar. Freedom of speech, baby. Because it became very clear to me that a bigger discussion needs to happen. My concern was for the girls out there who were reading the comments. Who were paying attention and seeing how people react when a female speaks up.
If you even have to ask the question “well why didn’t you report it?”, it is clear we have had life experiences so vastly different from one another that it is no wonder you don’t understand. If you have to ask this question, we have A LOT more work to do in education.
I could go on and on and post studies and statistics as to why women don’t leave abusive relationships, why they don’t report rape, why they don’t press charges, why sexual harassment is largely tolerated in the workplace. But I know the truth. This isn’t going to change the minds of those who are making these comments. These issues are so, so deep. But the truth is, logic and comments like I received are EXACTLY why women don’t speak up. If you speak up, not only will we not believe you and not like you, we will attempt to assassinate your character.
Part of me, the counselor part, and if we are honest – the “properly socialized” female part, wants to sit down with these people who call me a liar. I want them to see that I am human, that even though their words “shouldn’t” bother me, they sure don’t feel good. I want them to see I am just like them. I want to explain to them that they don’t know me, so I know it may be unpleasant to believe that these things happen and easier to blame me, or easier to dismiss me as a liar or an exaggerator. I want to look in their eyes and ask them questions about their lives, and really care about the answers. Because I know the answer to this problem does not come from slinging insults at each other and instead comes from really listening to each other. Where did you learn it was okay to treat another human this way? Do you feel better when you attack someone over the internet? Does that build you up in your mind, vindicate you, make you feel like a bigger, better person?
But the other part of me is angry. The other part of me wants to stand up and yell. To promise that I am DONE sitting down and shutting up. I am DONE trying to make people of the internet like me or understand me. I am DONE hiding. As of right now, my post has been republished in newspapers and has been shared from my blog well over 227,000 times. I KNOW I am not alone. Finally, my voice has been heard.
I think there is room for both sides of me. The angry side and the sad side. The part that wants to help people understand and the part that is SO OVER explaining what it is like to be a woman in this culture. I think there is room for my compassion for these sad people and room for my disgust. Room for me to let people have room for their own reactions without thinking it has anything at all to do with me.
But what I know without a doubt is that a conversation desperately needs to happen.
And this is why I can’t just shut up and sit down anymore. This conversation is too important.