I am a strong person. Years of dance training and a current love of spin class has left my legs powerful, and a natural upper body strength combined with frequent heavy lifting at work has given me a solid trust in the amount of damage my fists can do. That being said, I don’t stand a chance against a man. No woman does.
My body was built to withstand the excruciating pain of childbirth; to carry the weight of a friend’s bad day or the bouncy excitement of a toddler wanting to fly; to provide a sanctuary and safe embrace for someone in need. It was never designed to overpower a man’s intention, and it will never be able to. The day I realized this and allowed myself to accept it was terrifying for me, because it meant I had opened a door of awareness that could never be closed. On that day I had been playing with my boyfriend at the time and he took my arms and pinned me down, with little to no effort. I was laughing and demanding that he release me, but on the inside I had a momentary flash of sickness to my stomach. I am a 5’7, 140lbs. woman with fiery Scottish and Ukrainian blood in my veins. He was a slim 5’10, 160lbs. English boy in the army. Physically speaking, if you had looked at the two of us and not known anything about our history, the average person might have said I would be able to outweigh and beat him in an arm wrestle. Yet, in the moment that my arms were pinned I realized all of that meant absolutely nothing, and that I was entirely helpless. If he was able to incapacitate me while in a playful mood, I stood absolutely no chance of protecting myself against someone fueled by adrenaline and a need to feel in control. Since that day, I have been hyper sensitive to my surroundings. My previous belief that I’d somehow muster the strength to fight off an attacker was completely stripped away, and I have lived with a constant prickling of the hair on the back of my neck whenever I realize I am alone with a stranger.
The boyfriend who pinned me soon turned in to someone who I feared but could not stop loving, as he slowly began revealing his beliefs. I would never be his equal. He told me that part of the reason he chose to pursue law enforcement was to target pretty girls and give them tickets because he was tired of them getting free drinks at bars. Every bill we had was either split or paid by me, and if we were to ever get engaged he would ask that I pay for half of the ring because he shouldn’t get stuck with that expense JUST because he was born male. I was his property, his “stuff”. He hid me from his friends and was suspicious of me every time I went out without him. We drank every time we were together, and he would make sure I got drunk most times. Toward the end of the relationship he would only have sex if he believed I was drunk (I learned to pretend because that was the only time he showed me any affection), and the things he would say to me in the moment often left me feeling used at the end of the night. The playing stopped. When my depression would creep up he turned his back and told me he found himself caring less and less. Women are all going to hurt him eventually, and we are all cheaters. I belonged to him, but he didn’t want me.
I endured this for nearly a year before my will to love myself won out over the desperate need to make him understand that I loved him. I couldn’t understand how a 22 year-old man could possibly harbor so much hate and resentment in his heart, nor how he found it so easy to lash out at anyone’s attempt to be kind. I later found out some more things about his past behaviour that nobody knew at the time of us meeting, and if I had known then what I know now I would have never even bothered to learn his name.
Tragically, I learned 22 year-old Elliot Rodger’s name this last week. I learned of a man so deeply entrenched in rape culture and the belief that women exist solely for the purpose of pleasing him that he planned out an attack so vicious and disgusting that he killed himself immediately after. The coward couldn’t even stick around long enough to revel in all his expected glory. How are we supposed to give him a parade for ridding the world of Katherine Cooper, Veronika Weiss, Christopher Michael-Martinez, Cheng Yuan Hong, George Chen, and Weihan Wang if he’s not around to officiate it? Elliot, congratulations. You have achieved ultimate notoriety and fame. That’s what you wanted, isn’t it? To be famous and have everyone know your name? By your reasoning, you would be COVERED in women wanting you and apologizing for not being attracted to you before had you not killed yourself. Whoops! Boy, your face must be red.
Elliot Rodger, fuck you.
To all media outlets pulling theories out of their asses to explain why this might have happened, fuck you. His reasons were made painfully clear in his videos and written letters. This man hated women and wanted us to suffer for not bowing at his feet. It’s as simple as that, and to try to say he was bullied by a high school crush or he was on medication or had taken other drugs is a slap in the face to the families of the victims as well as the survivors of any sort of abuse or attacks. I don’t understand why it’s so hard for media to admit that a rich white boy in America was capable of pulling off something so heinous and outright evil while in charge of his faculties, but that’s the truth of it. If his skin had been ANY other colour, I guarantee you all of the headlines would have a very different tone to them. Now we are entering the obligatory post-traumatic event period where the rich, old white men in congress (ah, that’s why his skin colour is suddenly irrelevant) have to pretend they’re going to change gun laws and offer actual support for victims of attacks. Speeches will be made, fists will be raised, money will change hands, and then nothing will happen until the next murder spree.
There are plenty of good, loving men in the world. I believe that with all of my heart because I am lucky enough to know some of them. There are intelligent, bright, compassionate people everywhere you go. I never want to forget that or have my views tainted by the horror stories. But I can not sit by quietly and pretend to be okay with the everyday threats made against my gender. It has carried on far too long. I may not be able to physically fight my way to being considered an equal, but I can sure as hell use my voice. The force of us banding together and supporting each other is unstoppable. We are not silent, and we do not have to accept this.
Women, we hold our power. Now, more than ever, is the time to support each other. Don’t whisper about the girl falling over drunk in the bar, go make sure she has a ride home and get her to have a glass of water. Don’t shame someone else’s body just because it’s not your idea of perfect, celebrate the fact that we were all born with some common features and be happy that we all carry our own stories and strengths. When you see each other being mistreated, step up and be a support system. This world is hard enough for us to exist in, we need to be on the same team.
Men, police each other. Make it cool to be the guy who calls out his friends when they make disgusting comments about a woman’s body as she walks by. If you love and respect women, don’t let being in a crowd change that, no matter what. Don’t be the guy who hangs on a girl’s shoulder at a party and invades her personal space to compliment her hair or say she smells good. Remember that lots of us will instantly be worried when we realize we’re alone with you and you happen to be blocking the door. Be aware of your body language, and be aware of ours.
We can all do so much better. My deepest and most heartfelt condolences go out to the families and loved ones of Katherine Cooper and Veronika Weiss, as well as to the families and loved ones of the men who were struck down for no reason other than being in a madman’s way. You all deserved something much greater in this life and it’s an insult to have your names associated with someone so unworthy of the air he breathed.