Yes, All Women

We have all heard about the tragic killing spree Elliot Rodger went on in California. By now we’ve all seen the #yesallwomen hashtag on Twitter and Facebook. And every single woman who has seen it has thought of her own experience she could share. Her own instance of being harassed, intimidated, attacked. Because we ALL have them. Yes, ALL women.

When I was in junior high school – only fourteen or fifteen years old – there was this guy. He didn’t really have any friends, maybe only one or two. I knew what it was like to be marginalized and picked on, so I made it a point to be friendly to everyone. That included him. It was a mistake. This guy latched on to my kindness and decided it must mean something more.

He followed me around school, insisting he walk with me between classes. When he had a shared class with me, he would sit next to me and demand my attention and conversation. He kept asking for my phone number. I tried my best to be polite but clear that I wasn’t interested in him, but I was afraid. I was legitimately afraid of how he would react if I made him mad by blatantly rejecting him.

At some point he must have watched over my shoulder as I got into my locker, because soon he started leaving gifts in there for me. Candy bars, stuffed animals. I told him I didn’t want them and I wanted him to stay out of my locker, but the gifts just kept appearing. One day he tried to insist I take money from him; I don’t remember why, but I do remember how furious he was when I refused.

This guy somehow convinced one of my friends to give him my phone number. He started calling me – daily – and harassing me whenever I made up some excuse for why I needed to get off the phone. This was pre-caller ID days. It got to where, for awhile, I just didn’t answer the phone anymore.

He was verbally abusive, intimidating, terrifying. He frequently demanded to know why I thought I was “too good for him” and why I wasn’t interested. For several months, this guy made my life miserable.

And I never told a single person until now.

Looking at what happened at UCSB, I shudder to think that, if this guy had been just an iota more unhinged, if he’d had any baseline mental illness, I could have ended up like one of Rodger’s victims. But I didn’t know that at fourteen. I just thought, “Well, this is the way it is. All girls have to go through this.” I knew it felt wrong, but I thought it was normal.

I didn’t think: Who does this jerk think he is? Why does he think he’s entitled to me? Instead I blamed myself for being foolish enough to show him kindness. To “lead him on.”

This misogynistic culture needs to stop. It needs to end NOW. Because misogyny DOES hurt people. It DOES kill people. We have the proof right in front of us. And I’ll be damned if I let my daughters (or future sons) grow up to think “It’s not right, but it’s normal.” IT IS NOT NORMAL. IT IS NOT OK.

Yes, ALL women have a story like this. ALL OF US. And that needs to change NOW.

4 thoughts on “Yes, All Women

  1. Awesome, awesome post. This rings so true, but it was a high school student when I was teaching. That guy is in jail now, I do not know what for… But I was scared. I was so scared and no one proactively stopped it. “He is just a kid.” They said… Even when he was actively stalking me. I was nice, then scared, and I was in legitimate danger. So yes, it needs to stop… I have girls, and I am scared of their world.

  2. What a chilling story. I had something similar happen when I was in my late teens, but not with the same frequency or intensity. This is an excellent story to remember as we raise girls and teach them that they don’t always have to be so nice. What bothers me about this is that you were very clear about your boundaries and did it in a way that was respectful and kind, but he reacted in such a scary way. How do we teach our girls to assert themselves and not become targets for this kind of behavior? I honesty have no idea. Anyway, thank you for sharing your story. Food for thought. And I’m glad it did not escalate beyond what you experienced, which was awful enough.

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