One Tweet at a time….
#TRIGGERWARNING the following piece contains stories about rape and incest
I don’t utilize Twitter as much as I should. I just don’t. My 200 + followers and I will never be the change we wish to see in the world…until we are.
It began with what many might think is a harmless tweet. A man discussing the need for women to not dress like a ho. We hear it all of the time, and some of us even have said similar words. We don’t often stop to think about what words like that mean, how they affect the world around us, and the acceptance they give to bad behavior.
We hear all of the time from advocates that what a woman wears, how she behaves, and her occupation are not excuses for rape. Men deny everyday – well women deny as well – that there is such a thing as “rape culture”.
We want to believe that women like myself who refer to the tacit acceptance of victim shaming and denial are hysterical. That we see rape everywhere because of our own dysfunction and fears. It is harder to accept that we see rape everywhere, because it is real, it exists, and we are weary of our fellow women being victimized.
That one tweet from a man that so many of us follow started a debate. Then it started a movement, unexpected and spontaneous and proof that you really can change the world one tweet at a time.
Twitter user @steenfox asked a simple question. She has 17,000 followers as of this writing. I don’t know how many she started with, but her’s was a question that changed the conversation.
“Can I ask a question? If there are any women on my TL who are victims of sexual assault & don’t mind sharing something? What were you wearing when you’re assaulted? Let me know if it’s ok to RT your response. Thank you in advance for sharing. <3”
Well over 24 hours later she is still getting responses to this question. The responses were sobering, heartbreaking, and a wake up call to men and women who dared to pay attention. I shared my own stories along with thousands and thousands of other men and women:
@steenfox I was 9. I didn’t have pubic hair or breasts yet. I was wearing my 4rd grade catholic school jumper and saddle shoes.
@steenfox #2 I was 18 it was my boyfriend in my aunt’s house I was wearing jeans and a tshirt ok to retweet
@steenfox #3 it was my gynecologist at planned parenthood she fisted me during a pelvic exam – ok to RT
Yes there were three instances in my history where someone sexually assaulted me. What pained me beyond sharing my experience, and yes what I was wearing, was the thousands of responses from others like me. More than likely like you constant reader. I wept as I read ages – 3 – 5 – 7 and in my case 9.
I wept as I read ET pajamas, a Hello Kitty nightgown, jeans and a tee-shirt, like myself.
My heart broke even more when I watched the men in shock and dismay that the stories individual women may have told them in their lifetimes were consolidated in one place, coming over and over and over again.
It was impossible to ignore unless you logged off Twitter completely.
It was there in black and white and it was devastating. It was also empowering to the men and women who chose to share their stories. It takes a lot to share your story when the rest of the world says you shouldn’t be dressing like a ho. It takes even more courage to do so when you know that even with it being in black and white and over loaded and concentrated in one place that some will still click their tongues and blame you for it.
One of my followers who I won’t name sent me to the following:
“the prevalence of sexual assault is so much larger than i could’ve ever imagined. We as men, have failed you all.”
I don’t disagree but I also don’t feel failed… at least not by him.
I feel failed by my mother and father who called me a liar when I told them about my bother.
I feel failed by the first boy I ever loved and who promised to love me back.
I feel failed by the medical professional who violated both me and her ethics.
I feel failed by the one person I trusted to tell the tale of the woman who fisted me – without my consent – and who told me to get over it.
The men and women who shared their story have their own list of people who failed them. That is my list.
In the meantime, the conversation is changing one tweet at a time.
For that I am grateful.