It’s realizing that the dangers we perceive every time we have to choose to confront these situations aren’t in our imagination. Because we know too many women who have been abused, assaulted or raped.
It occurred to me recently that a lot of guys may be unaware of this.
They have heard of things that happened, they have probably at times seen it and stepped in to stop it. But they likely have no idea how often it happens. That it colors much of what we say or do and how we do it.
Maybe we need to explain it better. Maybe we need to stop ignoring it ourselves, minimizing it in our own minds.
The guys that shrug off or tune out when a woman talks about sexism in our culture? They’re not bad guys. They just haven’t lived our reality. And we don’t really talk about the everyday stuff that we witness and experience. So how could they know?
So, maybe the good men in our lives have no idea that we deal with this stuff on a regular basis.
Maybe it is so much our norm that it didn’t occur to us that we would have to tell them.
It occurred to me that they don’t know the scope of it and they don’t always understand that this is our reality. So, yeah, when I get fired up about a comment someone makes about a girl’s tight dress, they don’t always get it. When I get worked up over the everyday sexism I’m seeing and witnessing and watching… when I’m hearing of the things my daughter and her friends are experiencing… they don’t realize it’s the tiny tip of a much bigger iceberg.
Maybe I’m realizing that men can’t be expected to understand how pervasive everyday sexism is if we don’t start telling them and pointing to it when it happens. Maybe I’m starting to realize that men have no idea that even walking into a store women have to be on guard. We have to be aware, subconsciously, of our surroundings and any perceived threats.
Maybe I’m starting to realize that just shrugging it off and not making a big deal about it is not going to help anyone.
We are acutely aware of our vulnerability. Aware that if he wanted to, that guy in the Home Depot parking lot could overpower us and do whatever he wants.
Guys, this is what it means to be a woman.
We are sexualized before we even understand what that means.
We develop into women while our minds are still innocent.
We get stares and comments before we can even drive—from adult men.
We feel uncomfortable but don’t know what to do, so we go about our lives. We learn at an early age, that to confront every situation that makes us squirm is to possibly put ourselves in danger. We are aware that we are the smaller, physically weaker sex—that boys and men are capable of overpowering us if they choose to. So we minimize and we de-escalate.
So, the next time a woman talks about being cat-called and how it makes her uncomfortable, don’t dismiss her. Listen.
The next time your wife complains about being called “Sweetheart” at work, don’t shrug in apathy. Listen.