Two weekend ago, I got a text from an unknown number:
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Who is this?”
And so began my sleepless weekend. I became the butt end of a joke taken too far. A group of young men thought it was funny to not only text me pretending to be some unknown admirer, but to then leave a note outside my house to show off an extensive knowledge of my life. At 1 a.m. it was easy to imagine the possibility that I might have a stalker.
They used my dreams for the future, and my purpose, as a joke. They made me feel vulnerable in my own home, and nervous for my sisters. I slept in my mother’s bed for the first time in years. I was shaken and exhausted, because some young men don’t realize that harassing women should not be a part of their Friday night fun.
On May 23 of this year, a man in Isla Vista, California killed several people and injured more. He had published several YouTube videos, as well as a written manifesto, discussing his Day of Retribution because he was frustrated with the fact he remained a virgin, though in his twenties.
The ensuing grief and confusion sparked a flurry of posts, on all social media feeds, hash-tagged #yesallwomen. The basic idea is that every single woman you know has faced harassment in some form, solely because she’s a woman.
This is not an exaggeration.
I say #yesallwomen because one of my earliest memories of elementary school is when my parents taught me that if a boy or a man was touching me in a way that made me uncomfortable, I was allowed to use my knees and hurt him to help me get away.
I say #yesallwomen because the first day this summer I decided to wear shorts (and yes, they passed the finger-tip test), I received enough unwanted male attention to cause those shorts to remain in my drawer for several weeks after.
I say #yesallwomen because I found out this month that I can’t handle harassment nearly as calmly as I thought.
I am not a feminist in the unfortunately stereotyped sense, but I am in that I believe in equality. My gender should not determine the respect I receive. I deserve respect because I am a person, created in the image of God, created with a purpose, the same as any man I know.
In response to the #yesallwomen campaign, the #notallmen hash-tag began popping up, protesting that not all men should be labelled the same as those who rape or harass women.
There is no one more aware than I am that not all men see only women’s sexual value or treat them as objects.
My father is one of the most respectful men I know, who always taught me that my value is in Christ first, as well as my intelligence and hard work, the things that make me unique.
I am dating a man who thinks I am beautiful, but makes it a priority to never push me beyond my physical boundaries. He tells me I’m valuable to him as more than a female body in the way he treats me. He encourages me to be myself, to live with purpose, and to never settle for easy answers. He also makes it abundantly clear that he’s got my back in every situation whether I handle it myself, or need him to.
Not all men may disrespect, harass, or abuse women, but how many men use their voice around those who are? Not participating does not remove you from the problem. Not speaking out against those making degrading comments actually makes you part of the problem. Standing there silently while your buddies joke around about their “conquests,” past or future, doesn’t change anything. Standing by while they make an object out of the girl standing on the sidewalk is not what you are called to as men of God. I don’t always speak up myself, because I feel that if my gender is already being objectified, what I have to say has a slim chance of making a difference. Maybe this post is my first step in becoming more bold.
It is an unfortunate truth that many men will not take criticism or suggestion from a woman seriously. Do us a favour; if you’re one of those who does not see women as selfish opportunities, use your voice. We recognize you, and it makes a difference.
As Christians we are called to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, and to discern between God’s voice and the world’s.
Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
We are called to love our neighbours, and seek peace.
Romans 12:8 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Mark 12: 32-33 “ “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” “
I never wanted to be labelled a feminist, because I assumed people would think I was a man-hating, un-feminine, abrasive person. I just wanted to make sure that women are treated with respect, and are allowed the opportunities they seek. I’ve realized that is actually the definition of feminism. I don’t seek to put others below me, or to gain power over men. I seek equality, community, and co-operation. Perhaps it is time we redeem feminism from the other labels given it.
Part 2 is now up here.