To my overly charming waiter at Friendly’s,
I just met you; I am not your “princessa.” Your hasty Diet Coke refills with jokes about spiking my drinks with tequila were not funny. I actually was scared you might have drugged my drink. I was scared to be too nice and “lead you on.” I was scared to be rude and possibly make you angry. I was scared that in the end I would come off being “the bitch,” “the tease” when I just wanted to eat my chicken tenders in peace.
You never were aggressive, violent or made any threats, yet I was still put off by your flirtatious attempts. My reaction is not your fault, but nor is it mine. Rape culture and violence towards women is real and, yes, all women feel afraid at some point in time.
#YesAllWomen is a hashtag that began trending after the Isla Vista shooting. Immediately, media was reporting about a gun epidemic, the NRA and the rise of mass shootings nationally. Everytown for Gun Safety then launched a campaign sending letters to political figures with the phrase “Not One More.”
Gun violence is on the rise and becoming an ever-growing problem facing our nation, however in the midst of this epidemic it seems that women have more of a target on our backs.
Mother Jones reported that in 2010, nearly 6 times more women were shot by husbands, boyfriends, and ex-partners than murdered by male strangers. A woman’s chances of being killed by her abuser increase more than 7 times if he has access to a gun. MJ even reported that one study found that women in states with higher gun ownership rates were 4.9 times more likely to be murdered by a gun than women in states with lower gun ownership rates.
The hashtag extends beyond this horrific event, and even beyond gun violence toward women. It is about the common experience of misogyny all women; regardless of race, class, religion or backgrounds understand.
You may have meant no harm, but your attitude toward me as a woman is what perpetuates this culture where violence is stemming and fear is growing. In everyday experiences I question my decisions in order to protect myself from potential harm from men.
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Does the idea of walking alone at night ever change your plans?
Do you meet a first date at the restaurant rather than being picked up ahead at home, not because it is an escape route to a possible awkward evening, but as a safety precaution?
Do you change your outfit before going out in hopes that your ass won’t be grabbed that evening?
Rape is not an anomaly that misogynistic culture tries to tell us it is. According to Mother Jones, a fifth of all American women (and one in 71 men) are rape survivors; 19 percent of female college students cope with sexual assault; and the military is now fumbling their way through an epidemic of sexual violence. Hatred towards women can be seen on a wide scale, from sexual assault to a sexual joke.
Leaving the restaurant, I was glad to be free from your flirting and excessive compliments because I thought they were not from a place of sincerity, but expectation and want.
Then a pickup truck sped by, it’s driver beeping and catcalling.
Though these acts are nonaggressive, they are still playing into a culture that is perpetuating violence and aggression towards women. So to the men in the car that sped by, you may not have laid a hand on me, but your actions validate other mens viewpoints that do think they have the right to do so.
I shouldn’t be nervous leaving a restaurant, walking down the street, even writing this post. But I am. We live in an era of fear that is veiled with the ideals of “gender equality” and “equal opportunity” and “progress.” Violence toward women, and the Isla Vista shooting tragedy specifically, shows that in reality we are far from that point.