I was trying to come up with something coherent to say about the propagation of the #YesAllWomen hashtag that wouldn’t just be a bricolage of quotations from other authors about the topic.
And then somehow, I started re-reading this post & comment thread about street harassment, and then this one about the ongoing mental calculations so many women must compute when faced with the question of “Schrodinger’s rapist.” And down the rabbit-hole I went.
Yes, dear reader, I was a small part of the conversation when that term was coined and first unpacked. No wonder I’m so exhausted by this latest unfolding of bearing witness and backlash. I was charred by a small firestorm of bearing witness and backlash during JALC’s first life-cycle, 5 years ago.
My small hope is that perhaps this time around, there’s more of a chance for widespread awareness-raising and maybe just maybe some cultural change. Because at least this time, the bearing witness has leapfrogged out of the feminist blogosphere into wider communications channels. Here’s a few:
However, I’ve seen mentioned along the way that the woman who started #YesAllWomen has actually locked down her twitter account due to the level of harassment she was receiving in “thanks” for her activism. That’s not exactly the kind of detail that makes me feel optimistic for humanity’s evolution towards kindness and empathy.
And then there’s the ugliness of my own sexism and envy.
Don’t get me wrong: in my heart, I know that the patriarchy is bad for everyone, and that the best way to evolve past it is for everyone — woman and men, cis and trans, gender-neutral and any other form of gender self-identification I’m too ignorant to know — to work together.
In that spirit, the better part of me is glad and grateful to see the voices of male allies in the #YesAllWomen conversation.
Still, when I see a male author making a point like this?
and this is important, so listen carefully—when a woman is walking down the street, or on a blind date, or, yes, in an elevator alone, she doesn’t know which group you’re in. You might be the potential best guy ever in the history of history, but there’s no way for her to know that. A fraction of men out there are most definitely not in that group. Which are you? Inside your head you know, but outside your head it’s impossible to.
This is the reality women deal with all the time.
There’s a really ugly part of me that’s annoyed. Because this is the exact same kind of point we were making 5 years ago in the original “Schrodinger’s rapist” thread on Shapely Prose. And we got excoriated for it. Gas-lighted, name-called up down and diagonally across the feminist bingo card, the whole damn ugly she-bang.
And I want very much to defuse my annoyance. Phil Plait (the Slate author who inadvertently got my back up) has done nothing wrong. He’s respectful, insightful, he even walks himself back from the possibility of straying into mansplaining territory. In short: everything I would wish for in the family of allies working to build a less sexist and more humanist culture.
Still. D’you ever feel like you’ve been living the life of Cassandra? Why did so many years, so many deaths, so many acts of violence large and small have to occur before this kind of message was even remotely able to be heard across a wider landscape?
Maybe I’ll be more open-hearted and less cross and churlish after a good night’s sleep. (Which I might get tomorrow night, if I’m smarter about starting my writing earlier in the damn evening!)