On Saturday I started reading the #YesAllWomen tag on Twitter and I stayed up late to keep reading. It is tweet after tweet of powerful, simple stuff. There’s also the #YesAllWhiteWomen tag, which through my for a loop. Reading all these things that I’ve taken for granted. Things that have happened to me that I’ve shrugged off, things that have happened to people I know without my knowing.
Reading the hashtag thread I recognized a lot of things. I recognized a lot of people. I found memories that I had put away. Discomfort that I have felt. Fear.
My single contribution to the tag so far has been simple: The memory that in Grade 9 the girls’ gym class took a week of self defence while the boys played basketball.
I am grateful for that week, though. It taught me a lot and I rarely feel real fear when I’m out by myself. I stay aware of my surroundings, I don’t get backed into corners, and I walk with my keys in my hand in case I have to push the panic button on the way to the car.
The truth is that yes, there have been time when I have kept my mouth shut because I was in a situation with a man I didn’t know and it occurred to me that if he reacted badly I wouldn’t have a way out. The fact is that it has occurred to me that this is not something most heterosexual men have ever thought about. Sizing another man up in case of a fight? Maybe.
I have the privilege of saying that I have never feared for my life. I have never been raped. I have feared, I have had men put their hands on me when I didn’t want them there, I have been catcalled, but I am one of the lucky ones. I don’t have a long list of stories for #YesAllWomen. So many women have faced so much more.
I am proud to have found a husband who read the thread and decided that more men need to read it, that men and boys need to be taught about the way some men treat women, and why women react certain ways sometimes. That some ways to treat women are unacceptable, and that not being a part of the problem isn’t enough.
I hope that this continues. That women share their stories and the rest of us read about them. I hope that I can learn from #YesAllWhiteWomen to see things differently too.