Over the course of the weekend the hashtag, #YesAllWomen, has trended, inspired and encouraged conversation among women across the world. Over the coming days I’ve asked some of my favourite women, Christine Estima, Tiffany Heimpel and Amanda Lynne Ballard, to share their #YesAllWomen stories but before I do that I have to share MY story.
I can’t remember the first time someone called me a slut it’s happened so many times in my lifetime and more than once by men I thought cared about me; more men than I can count thought that my sexual history or appearance determined my worth as a person. It has never felt anything but terrible, even though sometimes I try and own it by declaring myself a slut; if I say it it can’t be that bad. Right?
I remember the first time i was judged for having breasts; in grade 8 a teacher of mine told me that he found my shirt distracting, that I should wear something else to class so as not to distract him from teaching. At 13 years old I didn’t even know that my breasts could be distracting. When you’re young, boobs are a punchline they aren’t sexual so much as they are strange fat lumps growing on your chest. I had no idea that the breasts of a child could be distracting to an older man and it’s only now, thinking back on it that I realize exactly how wrong what he said to me was.
The first time I was assaulted I didn’t even know it was assault; I thought it was a bad night working bar, I thought that I had done something wrong by wearing a backless shirt. I was serving a tray of jack and cokes to a table of men from the Moss Park Armoury and when I bent over the table one of them came up behind me and licked my back as if that was an OK thing to do. When I told him he had to leave, he argued with me and told me that he really just wanted to sleep with me. He was drunk and I brushed it off, I pretended like it was part of the job but in reality it was, and is, just part of being a woman. I was wearing a backless shirt, I was serving alcohol and to him that meant that I should also serve him.
The first time I was mugged I remember thinking, they only took my purse, because I knew it could have been worse. I knew that when two men attacked me from behind and threw me to the ground, snapping my stiletto heels in half, tearing my pants and injuring my knee that it could have been worse. They could have done so much worse to me. I’m lucky. They only got my purse, they didn’t get me. I remember shaking, I remember crying but mostly I remember being grateful that they didn’t do more to me. It could have been worse.
The time I was raped, I was 18 and I didn’t report it. I was so drunk, it must have been my fault. I’d had sex before, I was probably asking for it. I was asleep and I woke up with him on top of me, he smelled like beer and sweat. I was so drunk. I passed out, maybe he thought it was OK. Maybe I said something in my sleep. He made sure I got home from the base, he put me in the backseat with a blanket, he was nice to me. But when I fell asleep at my friend’s house, in an empty room, on a mattress with that same grey wool RMC blanket – I thought that I was safe. I wasn’t. I woke up naked but I didn’t take off my clothes before falling on the mattress, I know I didn’t. I was naked and he was on top of me but I didn’t say that he could do that, I know I didn’t. I asked him to stop, he didn’t. I don’t remember how long it lasted but he was gone when I woke up. When I told my friend what had happened she called me a liar, she told me he was a student at RMC and they don’t do that, she told me that I’ve had sex before and I probably told him it was OK. The next time we spoke it was so that she could tell me she was sorry, he did the same thing to her, she should have known. She called the police, they didn’t believe her.
#YesAllWomen because it’s time that we speak up and demand to be heard; the ultimate revenge against anger, hate and misogyny is change.