Once upon a time, I tried to maintain two blogs. One geared specifically toward writing and writing things, and one for everything else. I kept the everything else one completely separate from my writing one. Only my friends and family knew about it. It’s where I’d post things about my boys, about political type things, and anything that might be viewed as too controversial. Nobody had specifically told me not to post controversial things on my blog, but I looked around at other writers and saw they mostly stayed away from it. You don’t want to turn potential readers off with a view that might not match their own, you see. It’s safer to keep things neutral.
Eventually, I ended up combining the blogs, mostly because it was tiring for me to try to maintain both. One always got neglected. But in combining them, I pulled anything political. Anything too potentially offensive. And that felt okay. I might have still been sharing more than some of my fellow writers, but I was still on the safe side of the line. When I looked at my new, fatter blog, I didn’t see anything that would turn potential readers off.
And then, yesterday, the news broke about Elliot Rodger. About how he killed 6 or 7 people and injured at least 13 more. How he stated, in videos he recorded, he was going to do this because he was sick of being turned down by girls. And I got angry. I got spitting, cursing, fire-breathing pissed because suddenly some of the same people who’d been wide-eyed with shock a few hours before upon hearing vague details of the incident, were nodding and wincing because, “God. Yeah. Girls are brutal. They’re bitches. They’re snots. It was only a matter of time before someone snapped because of the rejection. He was probably mentally ill.” Suddenly I didn’t care about potentially offending anyone. Maybe I should keep my mouth shut, maybe I shouldn’t say anything to turn off any potential readers. Maybe I should grit my teeth and squeeze my eyes shut until the rage passes.
Fuck. That. The rage won’t pass.
I am “mentally ill.” So I’m saying this as someone who is diagnosed bipolar. Who has treaded dark, twisting paths where no light has shown. I’ve spent the last nearly 4 years attempting to find my footing with it. I’ve been on medication. I’ve tried natural remedies. I’ve spoken to therapists. I know what the hell I’m talking about when I say these next words:
If Rodger was ill with anything, it’s what a scary portion of the male population is: staggering entitlement and misogyny.
And, hey, guess what, society. We infected him and the others.
We tell our boys, every. damn. day they are entitled to a girl’s body in tiny, scarily subtle ways. They grow up hearing that rape isn’t acceptable except, sometimes it is. In certain situations, it’s a blurry, gray line. We made a song called “Blurred Lines” a top song in 2013. When men commit violence against a woman, we find ways for the victim to share the blame with him. And when one guns down innocent lives in an obviously premeditated act, WE SYMPATHIZE WITH HIM.
That. Is. Shit.
This. Is. Shit.
And I’m blaming society at large. I’m blaming a society that encourages terms like, “friendzone” and continuously finds excuses for rapists and/or refuses to convict them. Who wonders what females did to get hit or what they were wearing when they got raped. Who encourage guys to sleep with as many women as possible on their path to becoming a man, but condemns a female for having sex and brand her as a slut. We’ve stacked these cards. And for every person that screams while trying to knock them over, two more are there to quietly stack them back up while another is yelling back about how they’re in love with a bastard named Status Quo.
You’re crazy, Kristine, that isn’t happening at all. And it’s certainly not as problematic as you’re tying to make it sound.
No? Let me give you some real life examples then. From my own life:
- A couple of months ago, I was bent over in the Dollar General, looking for a card for my editor. I was wearing a hoodie and yoga pants. I didn’t have on makeup. My hair wasn’t fixed. My ass was mauled by a complete stranger. It wasn’t simply grabbed. I later described it to my mother-in-law as, “it felt like he was trying to shove his hand through my ass cheek.” The guy, upon me attempting to confront him, WOULDN’T EVEN LOOK ME IN THE EYE. Fellow females around me at the time only winced with an understanding look.
- I can count on one hand how many times I’ve walked down to my mailbox and haven’t been cat called or verbally assaulted. It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing.
- I’ve been, on many occasions, and in many states, followed through a store or the mall to the point that I’ve become fearful.
- I’ve been followed into restrooms. There’s a reason we girls refuse to go alone if we can help it.
- I’ve been groped, even while pregnant.
- I was followed home by two men for the horrific offense of pulling out in front of them. I did not cause an accident. I didn’t even almost cause an accident. Still, they followed me for three miles, screaming at me, pulling alongside of me to yell threats, and only backed off once I turned into my neighborhood, and yelled out that my husband and stepdad were gonna be waiting in my driveway for them. The men were no less than 30-years-old.
- Last summer, my stepdad gave me a small knife that attached to my keyring in the shape of a bird. Not for protection. Just because I like birds. A week or so later I had to clutch it as I walked to my car from Walmart where I was buying diapers because a group of guys were making lewd comments while following me.
- Once, and probably the scariest time, a man approached me in the parking lot of Hastings while I was trying to get the stroller out of the trunk. He was only talking to begin with, but he kept getting closer. And closer. He kept eyeing my front seat and the back. I knew, deep in my bones, that he was either gonna take the car, take me, or both. When I reached in to get my son out, thinking that if this was gonna happen, I wanted him out where he’d be safe and hopefully someone would spot him, the man tried using his body to crowd me further into the backseat. He backed off only when I announced, loudly, “My husband is in the Air Force!” He retreated further when I continued with, “and my dad is a cop!” It wasn’t until he walked away, irritated, I glanced over across the parking lot and saw an older woman watching with her phone halfway to her ear. She gave me a nod before walking away. We never spoke a word. I raced into the store with my son, broke down in the mystery section, and spent over an hour in there, too shaken to think about driving home.
- At 18, I got into an altercation with a boy at school because he hit my friend. She didn’t know him.
- At 17, I and a friend stood guard outside a bedroom at a party where a girl was passed out drunk inside, after I turned into a banshee to keep the third or fourth dude from having sex with her. I was labeled a psycho and a bitch.
- At 16 I was date raped. My former classmates still probably believe his version of the events: that I seduced him. There were witnesses to me later being carried from the room half-conscious by a friend brave enough to bust into the room to stop it. To this day, I sometimes question my own actions.
- At 15, an ex-boyfriend came into my school, that he no longer went to, and slammed me into a locker for talking to another boy. A boy who was only ever a friend. He only got in trouble when my dad took me down to get a PPO and the guy’s father met us there to help enforce it.
- I was hit on the first time when I was nine. The man was older than my father.
- One of my earliest memories is my mother going off on a man in line at Sea World for continuously shoving his junk against her butt while we waited. He was with his own kids. My mother was asked by people around to calm down.
These are just my personal experiences, you can see more, from other women, over on Twitter by searching the hashtag #YesAllWomen. And I’m probably forgetting some of my own. I know I’m forgetting some. Because it’s such a common, all-the-time occurrence, few stick out in my mind. And it’s happened all over, from MI to TN to NC to AZ. It’s never mattered what I was wearing, if I was pregnant, if my children were with me. Once or twice, I think I’ve been with my husband. Each time, someone has told me to calm down when I’ve ranted about it. My actions have been scrutinized, or brushed off because, “these things happen.” I was victimized, I was the subject of assault, harassment, casual misogyny, etc, and I was told after to suck it up or take it as a compliment or, in some incidents, asked to share the blame.
To take it a step further, even my fictional girl hasn’t been safe. In Wild Ones, Bri is the subject of violence more than once. This was intentional. It wasn’t done for the sole purpose of creating conflict for conflict’s sake. It was a deliberate choice I made as a writer because it is a reality that I wanted to highlight. I’ve gotten messages over it. There’s been reviewers who sneered at those parts. The only reason, and I know this without a doubt, that I haven’t gotten more than I have is because on a large scale, my book isn’t that well known. I’ve had people I know in real life, who feel comfortable saying such things to me, make comments about how Bri’s mouth and actions get her into trouble. Yet at least one incident has her doing nothing more than walking.
In the past, when I’ve talked about these things, maybe on my once personal blog or Facebook, I’ve been asked, “Well then, what can we do? You hand us this problem, blame us as a society, yet give no solution.” Well, today I am. I’m about to present the solution:
Teach our kids to do better and stop allowing the people around you to do these things. Stop turning a blind eye to them. Start speaking up.
There it is. It’s that simple. Talk to your sons, your nephews, your cousins, your brothers. Your husbands, boyfriends, and fathers and uncles. Talk to anyone and everyone. Tell them it’s not okay. Tell them your experiences as a female or a female who you know’s experiences. Explain that while, yes, not all men are violent misogynists, every single woman has felt fear and/or victimized at least once in her life simply because she has a vagina. Tell them to talk. Tell them to spread the word. Condemn the ones doing the victimizing. Loudly. Publicly. Make a conscious effort to do better. It’s that simple. Because no matter if you’re a male or a female, one day, it’s gonna affect you too if it hasn’t already.
And I can almost guarantee, if you start talking, you’ll find out it already affects you or yours.
And if nothing else, if for no other reason, that alone should be enough to stand up and knock these cards over too.
Title quote commonly attributed to Margaret Atwood. Also found in the book, The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker.