Changing the status quo scary, but necessary

The other day, a post by dude I knew in high school popped up, wherein he bemoaned living in a world where men must deal with the “constant fear” of being accused of predatory behavior, or of having their past actions brought back and scrutinized.

And like, OK, whatever. He can have his opinion. I don’t happen to agree with it, but then, I haven’t even seen this guy in two decades. Did I really feel like getting into a Facebook argument with him now?

The answer, at that moment, was no.

But the more I thought about it, the angrier I became.

Because here’s the thing.

You want to know what’s also scary?

Being a woman. Pretty much all the time.

For example:

It’s scary walking to your car at night, or to your job, or home from your friend’s house, or, well, anywhere, as you never know who might be lurking in the shadows, ready to attack.

It’s scary sticking up for yourself to cat-callers, in case they lash out.

It’s scary to straight-forwardly tell a guy you’re not interested, thereby risking his berating you, seeking revenge, or becoming a stalker.

It’s scary going on a date with someone you think likes you, only to be coerced, forced or otherwise pressured to do something you aren’t comfortable with, because he thinks he’s earned it, or worse, entitled.

It’s scary knowing that, because of the way society is structured, there is every chance you could be ignored, if you tell.

Or, scarier yet, shunned, bullied or publicly humiliated.

It’s scary knowing that if you do press on, authorities may deem your case “un-winnable,” and shove every bit of evidence collected — some of it from your own body — into storage, to be ignored, forgotten and left to degrade on a shelf, along with hundreds of thousands of kits just like it.

It’s scary realizing that in the rare case your assault gets prosecuted, you will be on trial every bit as much as your attacker — made to account for your choices, from your outfit to your alcohol intake to your attitude, in an effort to prove your complicity.

It’s scary to think of your family and friends sitting there, having your entire sexual history called into question.

It’s scary wondering if they’ll be able to still see you the same way afterward.

It’s scary knowing that, if your attacker wasn’t a stranger in a ski mask, many people will assume your guilt instead of his. That you either asked for it or have an angle.

It’s scary that we are all wired to be on high alert all the time.

It’s scary that none us are immune.

It’s scary that nearly every woman I know has been the victim of some form of sexual assault.

It’s scary that, at the time, every one of them felt alone.

It’s scary knowing that when assault claims are made, many people will worry about his future, or makes excuses for his past, rather than believe what you are saying right here and now.

It’s scary to think that despite the progress we’ve made, even now girls are being sent the message that their words don’t count. That fear is simply their lot in life, and neither their bodies nor their voices are of value.

That has got to change.

No matter how scary it might be to the status quo.

I actually think my favorite T-shirt sums it up quite nicely:

“We should ALL be feminists.”

Katie McDowell is a lifestyles writer/copy editor for The Dominion Post. Email her at kmcdowell@dominionpost.com.

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