why it’s not okay, and it never will be okay

My kitten woke me up this morning.  He jumped on me and then got into shit he shouldn’t have.  This happens a lot.  He’s a kitten.  It’s what (some) kittens do.

I got up; talked to my roommate; and went back to bed–hoping I’d eek out another hour or two of shuteye before my morning appointment.  It looks kinda cold and crappy outside.  My favorite sleeping weather.

But I’d ruined it.  I had been awake too long.  Sleep was not going to happen–what with the birds tweeting and the buses barreling down 12th.  Some people find such things soothing.

As I often do when I’m avoiding facing reality, I picked up my phone and checked my email.  Then, Twitter.  I was surprised to see a DM from someone I don’t hear from often.  I don’t get many DMs anymore.  It’s not exactly the way I like to communicate, and I actively discourage it.  Half the time, I don’t even see them.  But, this one, I saw.

I’m used to getting DMs about my ex.  For a while, after we broke up, it was common for my friends (who had been followed by him on Twitter) to tell me when he said asinine shit about me.  It was their way of having my back.  Only it reached a point of tattling.  To the point that I started telling people to stop and then had to start unfollowing people who kept doing it.  I even shut down my Twitter, at one point, because I was just tired of it…his behavior and theirs.

He usually wasn’t saying anything too terrible.  He’s not like that.  More like he would talk out loud about things he didn’t understand–making his own conclusions about things that were very far off.  Which would just make me mad because it underlined why I had broken up with him.  And, at the time, absolutely anything he did pissed me off.

So, seeing his name in a DM this morning didn’t exactly make me happy.  But I read it anyway.

This DM was different.  It was from someone who doesn’t usually tattle–and I got the feeling he told me because he wanted me to tell my ex to stop.  I had no idea what he was talking about, but–apparently–my ex had heckled Adria Richards about something or other.

Who the heck is Adria Richards?

So, I got up and asked my roommate–because he knows everything before me, usually.  And then I did a little research of my own.  And then I decided I really needed to write this–because I’ve been meaning to write about things like this for a really long time.

###

I don’t really remember when I realized I was female.  I think I just always knew.

My mother was hellbent on making sure the world knew I was a girl.  When I was a baby, I had no hair (except one red lock at the roof of my head).  We had no money, either, so all my clothes were inherited from Mama’s best friend.  She had a boy a year older than me.  So, for the most part, I wore boys’ clothes until I was a toddler.  But Mama made sure I always had a ribbon on my head.  And when I was old enough–and we had a little more money–she’d make me wear frilly dresses and mary janes.  I was a tomboy, so I was not thrilled.  I’d come home, covered in mud, from days spent in the dirt.

As a little girl, I had no real conception of what being a girl meant.

All the women in my life were strong and amazing.  The men in my life were the weak ones.  They were the ones that lashed out in their weakness.  Little boys would kick me because they were too chickenshit to say they liked me–to the point that both my legs were bruised.  Older, teenaged boys felt the need to yell my name at me–to terrify me–because they were too insecure to find confidence from somewhere else.

And, so I’d go to my parents–especially to my father–for help.  And instead of telling me to cry and embrace my weakness, he’d tell me to hit them back.  To stand up and fight.  Because that was the language he knew–and the language they knew.

My mother was more about words.  About conferences and talking to parents.  Rationally.

But is violence ever rational?

More often than not, I fought back.  And that worked when talking didn’t.  And I learned to say nothing and to always fight first.

###

I remember his white car.

And how old he was.  Older than my Papa.

And how I wanted to die when I saw him.

How he followed me down the street and around the block–commenting on my shorts and how small they were.

I can’t even remember how old I was.  I just remember that sick feeling of something not being right.  And that feeling of shame.  That I wasn’t right.

I yelled at him to leave me alone and ran inside to Mama.  He was gone when she came out.

But he lives inside me, still, especially when I’m afraid.

###

Men don’t get it.  Heck, neither do women.

How hard it is.  We can’t even wrap our heads around it.

How scary it is to be followed by a stranger.  How places we have visited every day for our entire lives can immediately be snatched away from us.

How easy it is to carry fear inside you–how easy it is to mistake that fear for yourself–for your instincts.  And how easy it is to stop living because of that fear.

I’ve never been raped.

For this, I thank God every single day.

(I don’t really believe in God, but I thank the Universe.  And myself).

I do know what it’s like to be changed by perceptions.  I do know what it’s like to be pushed…to be inappropriately touched…to be joked about and whistled at…to be made to feel less than and small.

I’ve been told to wear certain clothing to work.  I’ve been told to flirt with clients.  I’ve been told I couldn’t because of what’s between my legs.  People have altered the opportunities available to me because of my gender.

And sometimes, I was stupid enough to listen.

I know what it’s like to fight to be taken seriously–to feel like you have to prove you have a brain–not just boobs.

I dated a man who told me I wasn’t smart.  And it bothered me so much that I lost all interest in him.

I dated a man who told me that he wouldn’t let me work when we got married.  It’s one of the reasons I dumped him.

I never pursued tech–though I once wanted to–because I didn’t like math.  And part of that is probably because people always told me I wasn’t smart enough to get it.  Even though I actually knew it was because I had a head injury and needed more time.

But, apparently, I’m quite attractive to men who do get these things because about 75% of my exes are tech geeks.

For the most part, I’m a guy’s girl with some feminist thrown in.

I am able to wear pretty dresses and make-up while talking “guy.”  I don’t pretend I’m a bird when we go to dinner.  I like to let it all hang out.  I’m not a prude.

But mostly, I am sane and fair.

I will (and have) call(ed) out women when they’re wrong.  Because wrong doesn’t have a gender.

This is what a modern-day feminist looks like.  We are not crazy.  We are not man hating.  We are human beings just trying to live our lives.  Just like all other human beings.

###

So, it’s sad to me when–years upon years after the women’s movement began–major news outlets are still blaming victims.  Like CNN in its coverage of Steubenville.

It’s sad because, instead of talking frankly about what actually happened, we are reduced to the circle jerk of sympathy votes for people getting what they actually deserve.

Consent is not silence.  Period. Ever.

And even if you are somehow able to dismiss this indiscretion of theirs as pure ignorance, I cannot dismiss their disdain for that human being.  No amount of apologies make up for that because it indicates an inherent disdain for all females–which indicates a disdain for the sanctity of another human being’s life.  And that’s what CNN perpetuated.  The idea that one life is more important than another.  And that’s what Fox News did when they revealed her name.

It will never be okay.  Just like it wasn’t okay for a 70+ year old man to follow a little girl down the street.  Or that guy who grabbed my boobs on lightrail.  Or that client who called me a cunt.

We are human beings. Not objects or tools.  Whether I’m a wife, a mother, an orphan, or a single bitch, I fucking matter.  I am just as important as you are, and you don’t get to determine my worth.  Ever.

###

Adria Richards fought.

And people are criticizing her because she didn’t do it like a man.

She didn’t turn around and tell them to shut up.

She instead took a picture and made it public.

She did what she felt was right.  She did what was safe for her.  And what she did started a shitstorm.

And it needed to.

Because it’s okay to not do things like men.

If she had turned around and told them off, they would have probably made her the butt of their jokes.  She would have gotten a reputation as a bitch.  It would have been about HER actions–not THEIRS.  They wouldn’t have learned anything.  The fact that they were saying this shit to begin with indicates they aren’t exactly sensitive beings.

We live in a world where it’s okay for men to grab women.  Where it’s okay to call women bitches.  Where women are shut out of entire industries.  And tech is one of the worst.  So, don’t tell Adria how to react.  You were not there.  You don’t know her story or why she felt the way she did.  What she has swallowed down her whole life.

And if some guy got fired for it, it’s not her fault.  Ever.  It’s HIS fault.  We don’t know why he was fired.  Maybe he was a shitshow employee to start with.  Maybe the firing was going to happen anyway.  But in any case, HIS actions brought this on.

And this shit happens every day.  Worse shit happens every day.  If you knew what most women go through every day, you’d be amazed.

If you are an impeccable person, you don’t put yourself in a situation to be called out like that.  If you care about your livelihood, you don’t act like a sexist asshole while wearing your company’s name on your badge.  Who you are matters. And I am sick to death of people thinking they can do and say anything without any sort of consequence.  What you say and do around other people changes who they are.  So, if you cannot be kind and cannot muster any kind of respect, do us all a favor and live in a hole.  Because the world is better off without you.

The people in question, as far as I know, have apologized.  And that’s fine.  Apologies are fine, but I’d rather see change.  I’d rather see people do more than keep their mouths shut.

The people who continue to attack Adria are the problem…and why this whole thing started to begin with.  Because people like that think we should shut up and be like them.  We shouldn’t have problems with anything that fits their reality as okay.  Guess what?  You don’t get to decide how anyone else feels.  You don’t get to decide what’s okay for another human being.

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