Anyone Listening?

Every woman I know is angry right now.

Image Credit: Ville Miettinen via Flickr

But it’s not the kind of anger you can quickly and easily funnel into something productive. It’s the kind of anger that is constant and roiling and bubbling perpetually under the surface. The kind of anger that follows you through your days and sticks to everything.

So many people are shocked by the news about Al Franken's actions. Of Kevin Spacey's. Of Louis CK's. I’m not. It’s every one. Every man I know has done something hurtful and sexist. Every single one.* Whether intentional or not, whether by failure to speak up or failure to take a stand, all men have taken part in this patriarchal bullshit. And few have been willing to do anything to stop it. And the horrifying thing is, we've been a part of it, too. Whether it was because of fear, because we felt that we needed to protect ourselves, or because of the expectation that we buck up and just take it, most women have been a part of this patriarchal machine, too.

This history of hurt and subjugation is all over all of us. Where do we go from here? I have a husband and two young sons. I’m surrounded by men and I’m angry at all of them. I'm even angry at the ones I’m raising, because I’m worried that they’ll do this too. No matter how hard I try to teach them not to... in world where everyone treats women this way, how do I keep them from learning it too?

When they ignore me at the dinner table, I lash out, raving about how men have been ignoring women's voices and denying them a place at the table for too damn long. They're confused, of course. They don't understand the gravity of what I'm saying. They don't understand how long I've been ignored and devalued. How long we've all been ignored and devalued. It feels like we’re all coming undone.

I’ve been arguing with men a lot in the last year – friends and family, people I respect and care about – attempting to explain why they need to listen to women. Why they need to stop minimizing us and our words. Why we all feel like we’re climbing a hill made of gravel that won't allow us to make any headway. Even when it feels like we've made progress, the hill keeps collapsing in on itself.

And I’m not even sure all this arguing and explaining is working. All this screaming into the void. All this opening of old wounds. All this laying out of the trespasses against us. Hell, we've been screaming and screaming for years. Is anyone even listening?

I’ve had men talk over me all my life. I've been interrupted by men as I was mid-sentence—they never even noticed I was speaking. I've had men tell misogynistic jokes to my face and expect me to laugh. I’ve been run into and pushed aside by men on sidewalks and in aisles. I’ve been called a prude and then slut-shamed by the same men within a matter of weeks. I’ve had men explain to me what they decided was wrong with my body. I’ve had men cease to be my friend when they realized I wasn't going to have sex with them. I’ve had men cease to be my friend because other people expected us to have sex, even though neither of us wanted that. I’ve had men stop speaking to me as soon as we did have sex. I’ve had men tell me what I wanted, even when it was in direct opposition to what I said I actually wanted. I’ve had men tell me what I deserve because I didn’t give them what they wanted. I’ve had men I knew and men I barely knew overpower my body and try to take from it what they wanted. I’ve had men expose their genitals to me on streets. I’ve had men openly rub their erect penises under their jeans while sitting next to me in coffee shops. Then I've had men working in those coffee shops tell me I must have seen it wrong when I told them what happened. I’ve had men in supervisory positions call me at home and leave hateful messages because I didn’t say yes to a date. I've had men try to push me out of pickup trucks when I wouldn't let them fondle me. I’ve had men ignore me because I didn’t give them what they felt they deserved. I've had men spit on me after I did give them what they felt they deserved. I’ve had men treat me like an object, like a child, like a whore, like an idiot, like anything but what I actually am.

And I know we’ve all received some of this treatment, or worse. Yes, all women. All of us. We're steeped in it.

I am so goddamned angry I can’t find the right words for it. Yet, it's all I can write about. It infuses everything I do. It infuses all my relationships.

I don’t know how to forgive men that I love and care for. I don’t know how to forgive them their mistakes and their goddamned silence. I don’t know how to move forward through all this rage. I don’t want to forgive. Maybe it doesn't matter. I doubt they're reading this. If they are reading this, I'm not sure they're listening. If they are listening, I'm not sure they're ready to hear this. Is anyone willing to hear this? Is anyone willing to acknowledge that they are responsible for our anger? That they are responsible for changing things? Will they actually try to change things?

I don't have a lot of hope. And then the rage keeps coming. I'll learn to wade through this rage soon, I hope. I'll learn to pull myself back together, to take this hopeless anger and turn it into action again. But for now, it just boils over again and again, fires continually stoked with each news story and each wave of pushback from the men who do this to us. With each period of silence in the wake of woman's confession.

For now the anger continues to build. For now, I refuse to forgive. Because it's not my action that matters. For now.

* If you think you haven't, ask the women in your life.

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