Some thoughts about #YesAllWomen
Some time on Saturday, I noticed there was a hashtag trending that said #YesAllWomen. At the time, I had no idea why it started, I just took a few moments and realized that here were women sharing their stories – most often about street harassment and sexual abuse. And since this is a cause that I care deeply about, I too began sharing.
At one point I Tweeted “#YesAllWomen because when men are found guilty of rape the news reporters say oh no those boys life are ruined instead of talking about the victim.” I was of course referring to the Steubenville trial in which these boys, who videotaped themselves raping an almost incapacitated girl, were found guilty of rape. One news reporter in particular lamented how their promising futures were now ruined after they were found guilty. Of course, this girl now how to live the rest of her live with this violent act, but some people were more concerned about the effects on those choosing to commit a violent crime than on the victim of that crime. And recently, a wealthy man was found guilty of raping his 3-year-old daughter and the judge chose not to send him to jail because he apparently wouldn’t fare well in jail. I just want to take this moment again to remind you that his daughter was 3-years-old.
When I Tweeted the above Tweet, I got my first hostile comment. I will leave out the colorful flourishes and just let you know that the Tweeter said they had never heard of the above happening, but that they had heard of false rape accusations that have ruined men’s lives. Any false criminal accusation is bad, and a crime in itself. Filing a false police report is a crime. But the truth is, statistically less than 10% of rape accusations have been proven false (the current facts support 2 to 8%). That means that somewhere over 90% of rape accusations are true. So while I can agree that false rape accusations are a horrific thing, I can also agree that this happening less than 10% of the time does not negate our need to talk about rape and sexual violence when 90% of the reports are true. A rape occurs in the U.S. every 2 minutes. And when men throw out the issue of false rape accusations as a way to say we need to stop talking so much about this rape issue, please keep in mind that men are in fact often the victims of sexual violence and rape themselves. And sometimes women are the victims of false rape accusations. Also keep in mind that rape is under reported because many victims – men and women alike – don’t report their rapes because they know that they won’t be taken seriously, that they will be blamed, and that the legal hoops that they will have to jump through will re-victimize them in many ways.
I am now 41 years old. I do not know a single woman who has reached my age that can say they have never been the victim of some type of sexual harassment or violence by a man. Not a one. That is what we are talking about with #YesAllWomen. And I hear too often either in person or through this site from girls who share experiences as young as 11 and 12 years old. They talk about being groped in their school hallways. Or on their way to and from school. They talk about men slowing down in the cars as they drive by them and having older boys – often even men – ask them to suck their dick or tell them they want to “do them” or worse.
Just Saturday night, after Tweeting my tweet, I was playing outside with my 11-year-old daughter and some neighborhood kids. I also have a 5-year-old so I tend to sit outside with them because in general she lacks impulse control and I would kind of like to avoid her being hit by a car. As I sat out there, one of the neighbor girls ran up, out of breath and scared. She is 10 or recently turned 11, but she is one of those girls who looks a little older than her age because her body has started developing. She had been out skateboarding. She was down the street she told me, when all of the sudden a man driving a car turned around and started following her slowly. So she stopped. Then he stopped. So she took off and he started following her again. So when she saw me outside she booked it and came to me. She stayed at my house for a while, afraid to go home. And although I mentioned she was developing, she by no means looks of age.
There was another time when I was outside playing with my girls. At the time they were younger, maybe 9 and 3. The neighbor from next door came over and the two of us were talking. A car drove by with a couple of young men in it, and they slowed down to yell out their window what they wanted to do to us, her, I’m not really sure. But they yelled it in front of my two little girls. Not only did we have to deal with their harassment, but we had to deal with it in front of my little girls. That was my 3-year-old daughters first experience of street harassment.
Once in high school there was a boy who asked me out. I said no. He would sometimes go sit at the end of my street to see who I was going out with. It’s terrifying. And yes, not all men are like this. But keep in mind that there are almost no women who can’t tell you stories like any of these stories I have mentioned. But I do not know tons of men who have had things like this happen to them. Not all men.
I work with teenagers, which includes putting together programs in which I spend time with teenagers. I once had a teenage boy – age 14 – call me sexy repeatedly. And he would say things to me like, “fetch me a drink woman.” After I told him to stop, he continued. So I kicked him out of my program. His father called in and complained to my boss, tried to get me fired. I was forced to have a meeting with my supervisor, him and his son and to defend my kicking his son out of the program. The father told me I was being ungrateful, his son was just giving me a compliment. I was lucky, because my supervisor was on my side. But this man and his son left not ever understanding why it was wrong for him to harass someone that way.
This is not about hating men. Yesterday I celebrated 19 years of marriage with a lovely man that I adore. He is just one of many good men that I am blessed to have in my life. But this is about the fact that by the time my girls are 40 they will have tons of stories of their own like these to share. In fact, my youngest had her first at age 3 if you’ll recall. And I hate that they will talk to their friends and they will probably all have stories like these to share as well. That’s what these discussions are about, they are trying to raise awareness to the fact that Yes All Women are eventually the victims of sexual harassment and violence. That doesn’t mean that we don’t care when men are the victims, because we do. In fact, my general belief is that all people deserve to walk through this life with basic respect, dignity and safety. But in this moment – this one right here – I want to raise awareness to the fact that something in the way we as a whole – as a culture – think about women is broken because women are disproportionately the victims of sexual discrimination, street harassment, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and sexual violence. Members of the GLBTQ community are also disproportionately victims of these types of harassments and crimes. It’s a discussion we need to be having.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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