International Women’s Day – Coming Out

Let me just start by saying, Happy International Women’s Day!  I am so grateful to be a woman at this time and place in history.  Despite all the insanity (especially in the U.S.) this is a great time to be alive.

However, a specific topic about womanhood has been on my mind the last couple of days and I’ve allowed it to ferment a little bit before talking about it.  Unfortunately it is not a jolly topic, but it’s something that affects women every day of their lives.  I have been thinking about sexual violence a lot lately.

Part of the reason for that is because this time of year is anniversary time for when I was raped.  No, I don’t have a date and it happened several time.  But I know it happened in the month or so leading up to my birthday. My birthday is on April 12.

Another part of the reason is because I’m working diligently on my capstone (or at least, attempting to work diligently) and it’s about sexual violence & rape culture.

And finally, it’s because I had a fairly intense experience just a few days ago (on Tuesday) that really got me to think about this.  I realize that one experience may seem small, but it’s really helped me to solidify this idea that’s been rolling around in my head.  I wouldn’t say it’s like a fine wine that costs $100+, but definitely worth at least a $10 bottle of wine.

On Tuesday morning I was washing some dishes.  I had my apron on (otherwise my clothes get really wet.  I splash a lot.)  I heard a REALLY loud knock on my door.  My first thought was that I was home alone and I wasn’t expecting anyone.   I went to the door and saw a man that does maintenance in my building.  Prior to this I had thought he was a pretty nice guy.  We had exchanged nice words in the hallway and even though I don’t know his name I thought he was a pretty decent guy. However on Tuesday morning he stood at my door and said, very angrily, “Don’t leave boxes in the trash room, it’s a fire hazard!”

To explain… I got a new desk a few weeks ago and I finally put it together last week.  I was feeling pretty lazy and I put the box in the trash room, rather than bringing it down to the dumpsters.  I admit, it was not an admirable choice.  However, if I had known it was a fire hazard I would have over come my laziness and brought it to the dumpsters.  However, I neglected to take the shipping label off the box.

I’m not saying that the decision to not bring the box to the appropriate space was a good one.  However, I seriously felt that his reaction was over the top and completely unnecessary. I have made a significant effort in the last few days to not walk past this person, be in the elevator with him, or anything like that.  The fear induced by his reaction makes me feel unsafe and I don’t like it.  I can’t help but wonder if someone else had answered the door if he would have had a similar reaction.  I have no idea.

Anyway, my point is the fear that women have to live with on a daily basis.  It may not be something we feel intensely, as I did in this experience, but it’s always there.  Making decisions that keep us safe also limit us. They make sure that we don’t speak our mind because we never know how people will react.  It could be extremely violent.

Yes, it is International Women’s Day.  We celebrate women and vow to work toward a better world for all of us.  But in a society where 1 in 6 women will experience an attempted or successful rape in our lifetime, fear is a very real thing.  The first step to creating a better world is to reduce that fear.  And it’s not only women that need to work toward this.  Men and women need to work together to create a society where fear cannot exist for slightly over half of the population.  We need a society where women coming out as victims of sexual violence is not common; indeed, where nobody needs to come out as a victim because they have never experienced sexual violence.

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