#Yesallwomen* and Some Men, Too

I’m a transgender man who was born and raised female.

When I was living as a woman, I was raped and beaten more than once by a man who professed to love me. I was catcalled, groped and  propositioned by strangers, and told I deserved it for being fat, for being a “dyke” when I was dressed masculinely, and for being a slut when dressed femininely. I learned all the self-defense tricks: keys on a stretchy coil bracelet and carried in a splay-pointed fist, check the back seat of the car before getting in, avoid dark and isolated places, never walk alone. If threatened, shout “fire” instead of “rape” or “help”. Strike for the eyes, the throat, the instep, the groin. Make yourself urinate or defecate or vomit on your attacker if you can. Above all, run away.

Women are afraid of men, and based on both statistics and my own experiences, they have every right to be.

I was and still am fiercely feminist. The decision to transition was not an easy one, in part due to my fear that by acknowledging my true, male self, I was betraying my sisters and going over to the dark side. As a man now, amongst other men, I hear misogyny they don’t even realize is in their jokes, in their assumptions, in the way they take up more than their fair share of space in movie theaters and waiting rooms and on public transit. I call them out when I can. I’ve told more than one man his jokes were misogynist and rude, and the way he treats women makes me ashamed to know him.

But sometimes it’s not just men.

I was at a party recently with several progressive, open-minded men and women. A guy I don’t know well, but who is good friends with some of my friends, and whose trademark seems to be obnoxious humor, made several jokes that made my skin crawl. He jokingly said to one friend, “woman, get me a sandwich”. She laughed like it was the funniest thing she’d ever heard. He, again in a joking tone, told the eleven-year-old daughter of another friend she couldn’t have a cupcake because it might make her fat. When I said that was stupid and she could eat whatever her mom said it was okay for her to eat, he said, “Hey, I’m fat shaming here!” then riffed on it some more, and everyone — men and women and the eleven-year-old — laughed.

Except me.

Everyone laughed at all this guy’s jokes.  Men who I thought knew better. Women I have always thought of as feminists. People who are parents of young daughters. I was the only one who seemed uncomfortable. Maybe it was because they know him better, and believed his jokes were “ironic”. But it didn’t feel funny to me. Even ironically. I felt flinchy and angry while it was going on, and powerless to stop it because everyone else was complicit. Two days later I’m still upset. And I still don’t know what to do.

This is why we need #yesallwomen. I can see the root of the problem here, buried so deeply that even progressive, feminist women don’t see it. I want to bring it into the light and let it die of shame, but that will only happen if everyone can see it for what it really is.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over my fear of men, even though I am one myself now. I still check the back seat of my car, avoid isolated places, and think about exactly how I’ll defend myself if I’m out for a walk at night and I spot a man or a group of men. That’s what #yesallwomen is about. Because even as a man, I still live with a fear that few cisgender men can begin to understand, but every woman I’ve ever known understands in her bones.

*In response to tragic assault in Santa Barbara, #yesallwomen has become a social media movement decrying misogyny. If you need a primer on it, here’s a good one: The Deviation: A Look at the Santa Barbara Shooting

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~ by Nezu on 28 May 2014.

6 Responses to “#Yesallwomen* and Some Men, Too”

  1. *HUGS*

    I too wouldn’t know what to do about that guy – I’ve been in that situation before, and the only recourse i felt at te time is to laugh because everyone else was, what else should I do? It’s hard to be the only one not finding it funny, and not knowing what to say or do.

  2. Well said. I was watching a work out video the other day, an all women cast, and was appalled at the sexism in it. Comments like, “That’s my girl,” that put down the other women, spoken by a woman herself.

    I’ve also been in the situation you described above, and I know just how it feels when you say something, but everyone around with you goes along with it. I’ve been one of the people going along with it, too. I’m proud of you for saying something, even if it didn’t work. Maybe it made people think. Maybe it made that little’s girl’s parents think. Keep on. Hang in there. And all those other tropes. 😉

    J

  3. (I don’t know if WordPress ate my previous comment. argh.)

    Like JB said, I’ve done the whole, laugh while others laugh thing, and not spoken up. Bravo for speaking up! Maybe that little girl will think about it, later, and wonder. Maybe her parents will think about it later. It’s entirely possible that everyone’s laughing because everyone else IS laughing, so it’s not like they know what else to do? I myself don’t know what to say when someone comes up with that kind of thing, and i just laugh because it’s a kind of default thing.

  4. I’d be curious to hear what happened if you asked the woman afterwards whether she thought it was actually funny or was just going along to keep the peace. It’s still sexism but becomes more ‘not wanting to make a scene’ rather than ‘LOLZ WOMEN’.

    I sometimes think there has to be a comeback book for situations like this: e.g being able to respond with a pointed joke ‘e.g wow, Don Draper, I thought those attitudes went out with smoking being called healthy’.

  5. 2nding the well-said remark. There’s nothing I can think to add to this, except a little bit of my own stories.

    #yesallwomen because in seventh grade (age 13) I shouldn’t be wondering what’s wrong with me that I don’t have a “man”.

    #yesallwomen because I shouldn’t have to worry if a male friend has an ulterior motive when sharing a hug.

    #yesallwomen because even if I *know* the aforementioned male friend wouldn’t do anything to me, I’m still afraid.

    #yesallwomen because I shouldn’t get whistled/catcalled at while walking along a busy road so often that I started making a game of how many times I get whistled/catcalled at.

    #yesallwomen because it shouldn’t feel weird when I’m *not* being whistled/catcalled at.

    #yesallwomen because I shouldn’t have to wear a (then) fake wedding ring when going out in public alone to avoid male attention.

    #yesallwomen because *any* attempts at flirting by a guy scare the shit out of me–because I don’t know what will happen when I say no.

    #yesallwomen because when I *did* know my BIL was joking when he tried “footsie under the table” (because my BIL adores my sister), I *still* had a frission of fear that what he was doing wasn’t a joke.

    FWIW, I *slammed* my foot into his, which made his foot slam into the table leg hard enough to make him go “Ow! I was just joking.” Yeahno. I don’t play those kinds of “jokes”.

    #yesallwomen because “I’ll marry you if you give me a $900 parking pass for free” isn’t funny at all.

    #yesallwomen because I shouldn’t be afraid of what would happen if I speak out about *anything*.

    …….That was a helluva lot longer than I thought it would be.

  6. The most dangerous animal on the planet is a mother protecting her young.

    I am the mother of the young daughters. I take pains every day to make sure she loves and respects her body, and she knows that no one can make her feel inferior without her consent. My daughter laughed because she knew without a doubt it was not true. She knew that it was not said with seriousness. If I thought for one moment that man was serious, if I thought he was ‘fat-shaming’ my daughter or anyone in the room, I would have kicked his ass to the door and I have no doubt the other women in the room would have followed my lead. There would have been no hesitation. However, I (and all the women in the room) know him and understand his sense of humor, hence we were not offended in the slightest. He would not harm a hair on any woman. He would defend a woman he does not know in a heart beat if needed.

    A few years ago he didn’t know me. We were in a local karaoke bar. A guy was getting a bit to friendly and I told him to politely back off. He watched it all, and whispered in my ear that if he gave me any more problems to let him know. I told him I could take care of myself… but he still walked me to my car through the darkened parking lot. He didn’t know me and he didn’t have to do that. I am not the first person I have watched him have their back.

    As hostess of the party, I apologize that you were offended.

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