Updated: Feb 5, 2021
I watched Promising Young Woman today with my sister. If you already despise the patriarchy with every ounce of your being, I would not recommend it. But if there is any part of you that is okay with the different ways men and women are perceived then I would say get yourself to the theaters to watch it right away. It is dark, it is heavy, and it is very triggering. So here is a trigger warning for this post as well.
Watching men trying to take girls who are almost to the point of being blackout drunk home with them, give them more alcohol, and then make sexual advances on them brought up emotions, feelings, and memories I did not even realize existed in myself. After the show, I was talking to my sister about how it reminded me of instances I had with guys that were just super sketch and it hit me how deeply these experiences have impacted me without being consciously aware of it. She talked about how even the slightest violation can deeply impact a person. It could even be as simple as being in a guy’s car who you do not want to be with anymore and feeling like you cannot get out, regardless if he makes any advances on you. Any situation where you are completely powerless and completely at the mercy of someone else is traumatic and I do not care who you are. Especially, when you hear statistics like 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted. You just hope and pray you are not one of them. I was having a hard time processing the level of trauma that would exist for more severe, blatant cases of assault.
The other week I was talking to a straight, white, heterosexual, cis-gendered male about the microaggression minority groups face. He sympathized but made some comment about how people just get used to it because that is the way it has always been and there is not much that can be done about it.
To try to put things in perspective, I said, “You are right. And as a female, I have just had to accept that when I go out with friends, I will be grabbed inappropriately by men. I have just accepted that if I dance at any party, dance, bar, etc. that guys will grab me, press me against them, and try to grind on me, completely against my will. It happened at my high school stomps (stag dances) where it was 90% LDS people, it happened at the school run dances at Utah State, and it happened when I would go out to bars. I have not outright been sexually assaulted by a man, and hopefully never will, but I carry that intense fear around with me every time I exist. So I guess you, as a father of daughters, also just need to accept that this is the reality for them too. That they will be grabbed inappropriately by strange men, that is just a matter of fact. And we just have to hope we do not experience any deeper form of violation.”
I am not sure exactly how he processed this comment. He seemed a bit shook to me, he was like, “If that ever happens to my daughters they better slap the guy!" I talked about how when it happens to me, I shove them off of me every time, but that does not stop it from happening with a different guy in the future. I can’t remember his exact response, but it was something along the lines of “wow, I don’t want that to be happening to my daughters.” To which I replied, “Well, it will and probably will if it has not already.” And then we moved on from the topic.
It could be argued that I did something to ask to be ground on, grabbed, pulled into a mosh pit of frat boys, etc. First, if that is your thought go check yourself. A girl should NEVER be blamed for a guy doing something to her against her will. EVER. Secondly, for the majority of those circumstances, I genuinely was doing nothing that should have given off the impression that I wanted to be grabbed against my will by a guy. I had always worn clothes that you could wear garments with, so you can cross out that I dressed in a way that was asking for it. But, once again, even the times I have been out since leaving the church and dressed “immodestly” are in no way my fault. On top of that, my dancing is more similar to the way Michael Scott would dance than it is to the way Cardi B would dance (no shame though, I wish I could dance like Cardi). So you can also cross out that I was asking for it by the way I was dancing. The only thing I was guilty of is dancing in a crowd, having a good time, and having a vagina instead of a penis.
You could also say, well what do you expect when you are at a bar. I think back to when I was out for Halloween in 2019 and dressed like Sandy from Greece, leather jacket, busty crop-top, and red lipstick. I looked and felt hot. I was walking out of a bar with a group of friends when a guy stood right in front of me, blocking me off from my friends and preventing me from walking any further. He slipped his hands around my waist and started pulling my body against his. I grabbed his hands, ripped them off of me, and shoved him aside and then ran to catch up to my friends. I was honestly not phased because this type of encounter is all too common. But for some reason this was the time that it hit me, the fact that I hardly skipped a beat, was very upsetting to me. Here I am, identifying as a feminist, and still casually brushing off when things like this would happen to me. This was nowhere near my most scarring event with a man, but this is the only type of situation I feel comfortable sharing with the general public.
I had a super productive conversation with a mother and daughter a few weeks ago
about what needs to be done about the assault of women. I brought up that if you look people in the eyes and appear to be confident they will most likely not do anything to you and move onto an easier target. To which, the 15-year-old daughter talked about how she had heard the point that we are taught how to not be the target rather than stopping women from being targeted. That we are taught to appear strong and fight back so that SOMEONE ELSE WILL BE ASSAULTED INSTEAD OF YOU. The problem is still there, it just happened to someone else. Honestly, this is why I love gen z, I had never thought about it this way before. Instead of focusing on teaching self-defense classes, we should be focusing on teaching consent classes and the severity of forcing something on a person against their will.
So what am I hoping to get out of writing this? Mostly awareness. A call to action to all parents to ingrain into their sons that they are never owed ANYTHING from a woman. To teach their daughters to never accept any form of abuse from men. A call to men to be different and call out toxic behaviors in your friends. A call to male church leaders to teach consent (I hate to break it to you, but from my experience, religious boys are the worst at understanding consent).
I also just want to touch on the topic of why it is hard for me to be alright when people support Trump. I never liked him, but when the tapes were exposed of him talking about "grabbing women by the pussy" against their will, blatantly refusing to apologize, and blaming it on "locker room talk" made it really hard for me to empathize with people who "like his policies but don't like him as a person." Have you ever sat through a flashback of a teenage girl who was assaulted by a guy who was defended because "boys will be boys?" Were girls at your high school blatantly groped in front of adults but nothing was done about it because "that is just what high school boys do?" I cannot support a man who not only assaults women but defends himself and others doing so. What kind of impact does that have on a country that already has an issue of defending abusers or turning a blind eye to assault?
Another huge reason I wrote this is to channel the deep sense of anger and shame I felt after watching this movie. The sad part is that when I got home I had every intention of doing something to harm myself to process the deep amount of emotional pain I was feeling. While sobbing and curled up on my kitchen floor, I was torn between trying to decide what I wanted to do to myself and trying to resist the urge to do something stupid. Luckily, I have been really working on processing my emotions more healthily and was able to take a step back and ask myself why my response to watching a movie about toxic men was to hurt myself. Especially since I had not turned to these forms of unhealthy coping mechanisms for a while now (shoutout to the past few months of 3+ hours a week of therapy and new meds). Why was I trying to punish myself for being triggered by a movie that was pointing out the flawed way sexual assault is viewed, dealt with, and persisted? This is something I saw way too much at New Haven. Girls would be reminded of their trauma (which was inflicted on them by someone else, usually males) and they would self-harm, run, overdose, etc. to cope. What does this say about our culture if females generally process through trauma by hurting themselves? In a culture that teaches if something happens to you, it is probably because you "asked for it" or it is your fault in some way?
So instead of hurting myself, I wrote this passionate post. I will wait until my emotions are not as high though to see if I actually want to post it (also another skill I have learned and am working on, waiting before posting or saying something if it is out of anger).
That’s all. Have a nice day.