As a feminist, I do not go through my daily routine looking for things to be upset about. On the contrary, often I am actively searching for evidence that we are a progressive society, so that I have something to be happy about. Sadly, though, there are many times when I can’t help but notice just the opposite: that we are not an egalitarian society, and my status as a woman affords me the opportunity to witness one aspect of this inequality firsthand. And as a feminist, I can’t help but notice these instances of sexism and misogyny as they happen around me. Whenever I make it a point to speak out about something unfair that I have witnessed or experienced, I find that there is always someone trying to convince me that I misunderstood the interaction, am reading too much into it, or that what I am saying is not worthwhile.
Just like any other feminist, I’ve grown tired of trying to defend myself. A few months ago at a student debate on women’s issues, one student made a comment about the issue of women’s safety, and mentioned that we live in a rape culture. When someone else responded by saying that we do not live in a rape culture, he claimed that “we are taught to keep our hands feet and objects to ourselves, and that’s worked for me.” The way that he so passively dismissed the idea that we have a pervasive and dangerous problem with the way we view women and that no more effort should be made to prevent it made me so upset that I have thought about it for weeks since. What I wanted was a way to show him and anyone else why I speak up so frequently about these issues. I wanted to show them how the world looks through the eyes of a woman.
I have been thinking about the perfect essay or blog post that I could write which would explain how women are treated as objects, or looked down upon, or violated, that would definitively prove that we do live in an unequal society. I’ve realized that there is no single combination of words that will do that. After a recent trip to the grocery store where I was followed by a man who offered audible commentary on the way that I walked and proceeded to stare at me and watch me walk back to my car, I became so frustrated that I was sitting alone in my car, rattled and afraid for my safety, all because I had decided to visit a public space. If only I could explain the fear and powerlessness I felt, and how frequently these instances occur. Then I realized that I can.
I have decided to keep an ongoing journal of times when I feel uncomfortable because I am a woman, and I have asked several of my friends to do the same. In it, we will record where we were when we felt that scared, violated, or powerless feeling that all women are too familiar with, and will include what happened and why we felt so disturbed by it. I know that it is easy for many people to rationalize the way women are treated because it is easier or more comfortable to do so than to admit there is a problem and try to change it. But I will do my part to show that there is a reason to change, and I’ll start by sharing my own stories. I encourage anyone who wants to participate with me to do so. I will write a follow-up blog post next semester, noting the frequency or nature of the incidents we have recorded and highlighting certain examples, and most likely will link to an ongoing document where the lists will be recorded in full. Though I know it will not serve as the ultimate proof that we live in a misogynistic or rape culture, I hope that it will encourage anyone who is skeptical to think more critically about the world once they have seen it through a woman’s eyes.