Finding the Courage to Speak

I wrote Why #YesAllWomen is the Most Powerful Hashtag I’ve Ever Seen on my iPhone.

I came across the trending hashtag Sunday evening and spent over an hour scrolling through the thousands of tweets from women all over the world. These brave women were tweeting about their personal experiences with harassment, gender relations, abuse, rape, and living in fear.

Reading through these tweets, I began thinking of the sexism I’ve witnessed firsthand. The cat-calling, the objectification, the sexist jokes, the unwanted groping and grinding frat parties. The more I thought about all the times my friends and I were randomly grabbed at parties and yelled to from cars as we walked down the street, the more frustrated I became. I wrote down these experiences and submitted it to Thought Catalog, where, hours later, it was published.

I was surprised, excited, and completely flattered. Somebody at Thought Catalog actually thought my little article was good enough to publish. I was thrilled. Every positive emotion you could think of was running through me (I may or may not have been dancing around my living room).

I was elated. That is, until I read the first comment.

My article hadn’t even been published for fifteen whole minutes before men began leaving anonymous comments, ripping not only into the article, but into me. Fifteen minutes and I was already being ridiculed for “blaming men for everything” and “stereotyping” and “man hating” and I was being called a “joke.” And it wasn’t just my article — men were responding to other women’s tweets, telling them that it’s their fault that they feel victimized, telling them that “you should be flattered that men give you attention” when women would talk about being groped and cat-called, telling them that they are being “too sensitive” and shaming them for turning the shooting massacre at Santa Barbara.

I got pissed.

The #YesAllWomen movement may have begun as a response to Elliot Rodger and those men who defended his actions, but it became something so much more. It was about raising awareness and creating a discussion about the reality women face every day, and how dare these men try to tear these women down over the internet.

I was fuming. Ultimately, these men who were belittling me so relentlessly on Thought Catalog motivated me to do something that terrified me — put the post on Facebook.

I am not a brave person. I second guess a lot of the things I do, especially when it comes to my writing (“what if people think it’s stupid or annoying or what if I have typos that I’m just not seeing oh my god I’m so stupid what have I done this is the worst thing ever and now it’s all over the internet and people are going to laugh at me ugh I’ve made a huge mistake”). But I typed up a status, copied and pasted the link, and had a lengthy internal debate (“ugh should I post this that means people I know will read it oh my god my super conservative family is going to see this I don’t want my dad to know some guy told me to bend over ugh I don’t know about this what should I do”). Finally, my finger clicked “post.”

Over the course of the day, I had friends “liking” and sharing and tweeting the link. I was grateful and flattered and, I must admit, completely embarrassed (“oh my god this is stupid that point about being romantically frustrated is the absolute most humiliating thing why did I include it”).

But despite the positive feedback I was receiving from friends, the anonymous attacks kept coming and before I knew it, I had over 100 comments of heated debating at the bottom of my article. People were making death threats to each other and debating issues I didn’t even mention in the article, like mental illness and gun control and female genital mutilation (really, where did that even come from?). When I read something I don’t agree with, I shrug, close the tab, and move on. But these people were throwing themselves into the debate, armed with sarcasm, foul language, and threats. 24 hours later, I had long stopped reading the comments and I just wanted to move on and forget it even happened.

But then there were those who read my article and saw it for what it is — simply a list of truths from the life of one person, similar to the tweets women were posting on Twitter. The things I mention are things that happen regularly, which is exactly why the #YesAllWomen movement is so important. Rob Fee was kind enough to mention me in his own article on the subject. As of now, my article has been shared 1.1k times on Facebook, received 1.2k “likes,” and has been tweeted nearly 200 times.

I am incredibly humbled that there were so many people who related to my article. I wrote it for myself, to vent my frustrations with what I’ve experienced, and the fact that so many women were retweeting it with kind words like “THIS!” and “In a nutshell!” is incredible.

I’ve come a long way this past year. If #YesAllWomen had happened a year ago, I would never have had the courage to even write the article, let alone post it on Facebook for everyone to see. I’m very proud of myself. I wrote about a difficult topic. I sparked a conversation. I contributed to a powerful Twitter campaign that means so much to so many. I’m proud that I was brave enough to do so. Having the courage to speak out and be heard is important, no matter how much opposition you face.

In the words of Kevin Gnapoor, “Don’t let the haters stop you from doin’ your thang.”

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