I saw that in a meme last week and it made me laugh, in a sad way of course. It was referring to the social media explosion last week following the horrific disappearance and murder of Sarah Everard in London. The news spurred my own thinking, as it did for many women, about the times I'd texted my friends once getting home safely, took my headphones out while walking so I could be more alert, and walked to my car with my keys in my hands.
I lived in Charlottesville, Virginia during a string of murders of women: Morgan Harrington, Yeardley Love, and Hannah Graham. I remember stopping trail running when Morgan Harrison disappeared. And I remember running by the river right after Hannah Graham was abducted and being stopped by a police officer on a bike. I had headphones in and he came up right behind me, startling me of course. He told me that I really shouldn't run by myself by the river (a public park paid for by the tax payers of Charlottesville, which I was at the time) but if I must, I definitely shouldn't use headphones. At the time I ran everyday and running with music was my therapy, my meditation. I was a personal trainer and relayed the story to another trainer, a particularly strong and badass woman. She chuckled at the story and said, "you know he only caught up to you because he was on a bike, right? I pity the man who tries to interrupt you while you're running. I've seen your face when you run". She was right AND I shouldn't have to (1) run fast, (2) have visible muscles, (3) look angry while running in order to run with music in peace and safety. I bet he didn't stop any men who were running alone listening to music.
Feminism isn't about hating men. It's not about women being better or smarter than men. It's about being respected, having equality, and not fearing for our safety while doing things like walking AT ANY TIME OF DAY OR NIGHT, wearing whatever clothing we want. Undoing the patriarchy isn't about taking things away from men; it's about giving women back the dignity that has been stripped from us for so long. It's about our own unlearning: our bodies are not gross, they are not things to be ashamed of. On the Be There in Five podcast last week, Kate read from old issues of Seventeen and YM magazines, highlighting the "trauma-rama" stories of getting your period in public. I loved those magazines as a pre-teen and teenager, and, looking back, it's no wonder I thought my body was something to apologize for. Feminism isn't about free-bleeding in public and shoving it in men's faces, it's about not having to hide and feel ashamed of a process that is literally single-handedly responsible for the human race. It's about mothers teaching their sons that is 100% unacceptable to say "ew" if he's with a woman who gets her period. She cannot control it and, again, he would not be on earth if it wasn't for the regular shedding of endometrial lining so he can fuck right off with his "ew that's gross".
I know I've gone off the rails -- and I think it's all connected. We are treated as second-class citizens; we are told to smile and be happy to be included, to have been given a seat at the table. To not walk alone at night. Another funny but sad meme I saw this week said that "maybe women should be able to walk alone and men should have to walk in pairs just in case one of them has the urge to do a crime". I don't have the answers but I know men need to do better. Mothers of men need to do better. Women need to do better for each other.
Text me when you get home.