Yes All Women
Content warning: This post discusses violence against women, sexual assault, rape, cat-calling, and unwanted male sexual attention.
I’m going to get vulnerable, more vulnerable than I have ever been. In fact, you, the reader, will be the first to know about what I have gone through as a young woman, at the hands of a man and all the unwanted attention it brought. #YesAllWomen.
When I was 14, after a Marianas Trench concert in downtown Hamilton, I was bent down tying my shoe. “Damn, nice a*s”
When I was 15, after a One Direction concert, in the middle of downtown Toronto. We were buying water at 7/11, we had been screaming all night, I had just described the night as the “best night of my life!” a stranger exposed himself in front of me.
When I was 15, walking home from a Marianas Trench concert in downtown Kingston. You whistled at me; you were at least 40 years old. “Hey baby.” I didn’t know you.
When I was 16, after a One Direction concert in downtown Toronto. You were trying to sell bootlegged T-shirts outside the Rogers Centre. You told me the shirt would look “sexy” on my body. I was a minor, you were a grown man.
When I was 17, after a 5 Seconds of Summer concert in downtown Toronto. You were our cab driver. When we got to our hotel and I handed you a tip, you winked and said, “I take tips in other ways as well, girls.”
When I was 17, in my dorm room at Algonquin college, with a boy from my high school who had also moved to Ottawa. I thought it would be nice if we kept in touch seeing as we were from the same place and seemed to have similar interests. He thought he could touch my breasts.
On my 19th birthday, while I was drunk in a bar in downtown Kingston. I didn’t know you. You put your hand on my a*s. When I turned around you were gone. I haven’t been back to that bar.
When I was 20, after watching my best friend’s improv show, walking to the bus stop alone in downtown Kingston. I didn’t know you, but you got on the same bus as me. It was empty but you sat beside me, uncomfortably close, our thighs touching. I got off four stops before my regular one and ran home.
When I was 22, after seeing my first Broadway show in New York City, an experience that meant the world to me, ruined. “Come on, get in the car, we won’t shoot you, we’ll show you a good time”
This is every time I can remember that I have been cat called.
This is every time I can remember unwanted sexual touching from a stranger or someone I knew.
This is every time I feared I would be assaulted, raped, or murdered.
I am one thousand percent positive that I will continue to receive unwanted attention from men, whether that be cat calling, touching, any form of assault or even murder. We live in a society that historically valued men over women and continues to do so to this day, despite all the work that has been done to change this. Women weren’t even thought of as people for the longest time and women didn’t even get the right to vote until 1916, and that was only in Manitoba and only for a certain, small group of women. It would take years for other provinces to follow in Manitoba’s footsteps and it would take even longer for any marginalized groups of women to have the right to vote. What made men so special that they didn’t have to fight for their rights?
We need to stop teaching our women and girls that they need to cover up their bodies when they are out in public. We need to stop “dress-coding” our girls in school when they wear tank-tops and shorts, saying they “distract the boys.” That just reinforces the idea we are responsible for the unwanted attention from the boys. We need to stop having to teach defensive strategies specifically to fend off male perpetrators who are showing us unwanted sexual advances. We need to stop victim-blaming. We need to shift the focus; we need educate our sons on how to treat women and girls. We need to teach our sons the importance of consent. We need them to know that we are not just a body for them to use and abuse.
Of course, it is not all men that abuse this power, but it is #YesAllWomen who continue to worry for their lives for simply trying to live their life.