Following the viral #MeToo social media campaign wherein women share experiences with sexual harassment and assault (or simply post “me too” as a show of solidarity and effort to contribute to the discussion surrounding the urgency with which we must address the mistreatment of women), I started thinking about the list of daily obstacles women face.
Sure, there’s the fending off of unwanted physical advances to speak of. There’s the experiences with being roofied or, most horrifyingly, with rape and molestation.
But there’s also the daily reminder of how being a woman shapes our experiences. How being a woman puts us on the defensive Every. Single. Day and literally impacts every aspect of our lives.
Before I get into the reminders, I want to acknowledge that not all assault against women is perpetrated by men. Women sexually harass and assault other women, too. Men are victims of assault as well. And assault is not limited to the gender binary. This post, however, focuses on the experiences of women at the hands of men.
Every woman’s experience is different, but there are some commonalities many women can relate to. And maybe — just maybe — if men really understood what it’s like to walk a day in our shoes, things could change. Maybe.
Being a woman for me means:
-Being hyper aware of my surroundings at all times. That guy next to me at the gas pump or in line behind me at the grocery store? I don’t know what he’s capable of. I don’t know his motives. He’s likely a nice dude, but the reality is I have to be prepared for the worst.
-Having to work overtime to prove my worth in professional settings. No, I’m not just here to hang up your coat and get you coffee. And even if I were, that’s not an excuse to treat me as a second class citizen.
-Being afraid to walk home, go to public places, or travel alone. I have and do embark on these endeavors solo, but the likelihood of me being attacked or mistreated increases tenfold, as does my anxiety in these situations.
-Not being able to appear in public without being catcalled, propositioned, or sized up like some piece of meat or car for sale. Even when I’m wearing my pajamas from the night before and I’m two steps below a hot mess.
-Living with a double standard. Promiscuous men = celebrated. Promiscuous women = slut, whore, used goods.
-Not having my medical concerns or complaints of pain taken as seriously as my husband’s. I must be overreacting. It’ll be fine, the doctor is sure.
-Being subjected to medical procedures intended to benefit the husband, not the woman. “Husband stitch,” anyone? It’s a real thing. Someone close to me has had serious medical complications because of it. And it absolutely is genital mutilation.
-Being held to a higher standard of beauty and attractiveness than my male counterparts. Impossible, unhealthy, potentially deadly standards, too.
-My worth being measured by how I look and not by what I know or can do.
-Being labeled an “attention whore” if what I do want to wear or look like can in any way be construed as sexually appealing or provocative. Wouldn’t want to be responsible for tempting the men.
-Being blamed for bringing unwanted sexual advances onto myself.
-Being introduced with phrases that describe who my husband is or what I look like rather than my job title or skills, as my male counterparts are introduced. “Please meet the lovely _____” rather than “Allow me to introduce you to the talented [insert skills here], _____.” Barf.
-Having to constantly battle being talked over, dismissed, or ignored. I may have some of the same ideas as a male co-worker, for example, but guess who will receive recognition for them?
-Being told from a young age that if I don’t “learn to cook” or “clean,” how do I ever expect to find a man?
-Constantly having to use the “buddy system” while out with friends. Leave no woman alone. She could be drugged or worse.
-Being labeled a “bitch” if I dare assert or stand up for myself, a character trait my male counterparts are praised for.
-Being compensated less than my male counterparts for performing the exact same professional tasks.
-Battling gender norms and expectations. Into sports? Too masculine. Not the nurturing type? Heartless and cold.
-Difficulty commanding respect from those I manage — the same respect freely given to men in my professional position.
-Living in fear. Fear for my physical safety, my job security, my value as a competent, knowledgeable contributor to society.
These examples? These examples don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what it’s like to walk in these shoes. And they also don’t mean I lament the lot I’ve been given in life.
Instead, they mean change is needed. And yesterday. A thousand yesterdays before that.
So before anyone dismisses the very real obstacles women navigate on the daily, please: Hear us out. The details of our experiences may vary, but chances are, we all share similarities in our experiences.
And if you’d take a moment to Atticus Finch it — AKA walk a mile in our shoes — you just may understand how emergent this issue is.
So what are we going to do about it?