Throughout my life, my family and peers brushed aside my retaliations to their sexist comments, branding me as just condescending or ill-tempered.
Because sexist tenets are the norm, any sort of deviation in my family or in my high school was labeled as lacking significance or as a temper tantrum. Sexist comments were seen as harmless projections of the absolute, with no implications of psychological or physical harm. The mere suggestion of sexism in response to these comments would be seen as a non sequitur.
The misogynists that weaseled their way into my life will argue that the oppression of women is obviously a myth made up by women with a bad case of penis envy. Or that women themselves want to be paid 80 cents to the dollars, because there’s nothing more comforting than having a man dominate their finances.
Ignorant kids in my high school English class insist that “women should feel honored when men reach under a woman’s skirt and snap a pic,” and neither the act nor that comment is sexist and oppressive, if sexism even exists at all. And the girl who cried in our class when our football player made the comment about up-skirting? She was probably just hormonal because of her period.
Sexism, however, doesn’t just exist in comments and private photographs. It can have more detrimental implications, as if the comments themselves aren’t already harmful enough.
In senior year of high school, a guy took me to a room and nonconsensually grinded his dick on me the first time I got white-girl wasted. The next day, I sought support from a “friend” who was going to Princeton, stupidly correlating how “woke” someone is to their SAT score.
To my dismay, he dismissed the sexual assault as the guy merely being a jerk. Instead of consoling me and encouraging me to confront my assailant, he commented, “Can you blame him?” as if I should feel flattered that my exposed midriff was enough to make the dude hard. As if I deserved it.
Despite Mr. Princeton’s ability to studiously attend to a three-hour test and fly by in high school with stellar grades, his education clearly did nothing to rid him of his internalized misogyny, and he ignorantly continued to perpetuate rape culture.
Rape culture and disrespect for women, already deeply embedded in our society, are now further normalized with a president who brags about sexually assaulting women. He himself, along with half the country, excuses his comments as harmless “locker room talk.” But in reality, his attitude and comments toward women, minorities and the LGBTQ+ community embolden some to discriminate and commit hate crimes.
The chauvinists in the country will no longer feel obliged to internalize their beliefs when the most powerful man in the world celebrates their bigotry as hegemonic truth. Trump’s victory in the election despite a discriminatory comment coming out of his thin, pursed lips every other day, suggests that United States is the white man’s world.
The United States will not hold a white man, especially one that is rich and powerful, accountable for groping women. Nasty women will not be served justice in the next four years, at least not by the government.
Not-my-prince(ton)’s implication that I was overreacting steered me away from sharing my assault with anyone else. I didn’t believe that anyone in my misogynistic hometown would listen to or agree with me, so I never mustered enough courage to address the issue.
And in a political climate where half the country seems to want to revert back to its bigoted ways, it may also seem like voicing oppression is unfruitful. It’s easy to lose motivation in making the world a better place when a scarily large portion of the U.S. seems to be against you and the idea of progress.
On the contrary, though, it is at a time when groping, sexism, racism and homophobia are normalized that we can’t afford to silence our voices. Someone needs to speak up. And someone will listen, and someone will agree.
To those of you who still believe in equality: Don’t let them tell you that you need to change your tone or the way you’re going about your movement in order for it to be effective either. Don’t let those who are unaffected by Trump’s policies, yet still feel entitled to giving their two cents, tell you that your emotions are getting in the way of a rational argument. Just because you can’t emotionally remove yourself from your argument doesn’t make it any weaker.
In fact, your emotions are the best proof that oppression is a harmful reality and make the best case for why it shouldn’t exist. Oppression is never your fault, and you deserve to be listened to.
So speak your fucking truth.
Catherine Straus writes the Thursday blog on taking two sides. Contact her at [email protected].