Emily after Elk+Mammoth
Emily on the way to Moses Gunn Collective
The support act has just gone off stage and I slurp my gin in a gulping kind of anticipation. The whole crowd is buzzing with excitement. “Nothing could ruin my mood right now,” I think, jinxing myself. With that thought, a hand plants itself firmly on my ass and squeezes hard. I turn to find it belongs to an attractive 20-something with long tendrils of hair spilling from his head. He winks at me, fingers spreading wide and squeezing again. “Fuck off!” I yell, throwing a concoction of melted ice and lime juice in his face. This is clearly not the reaction he’s used to. “Bitch!”
Welcome to Bitch Planet, population: me.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been called a bitch, and it certainly wasn’t the first time I’d been groped sans-consent. The combination of my squeezable butt and my unwillingness to take anyone’s shit has led to countless situations wherein slurs have been screeched and wine has been wasted down the front of a sleaze bag’s t-shirt. If defending myself makes me a bitch, I’m satisfied with the title.
But why the fuck should I have to? Defend myself, I mean. Why should I have to choose between silently dealing with sexual assault or being a bitch? Why should I have to live with this pervasive fear dancing inside my gut – a fear that tells me not to drink, not to dance too sexily at the bar, to call my friends to let them know I got home safe even though I only live 30 minutes away. Does the switchblade I carry in my purse deem me a bitch? What if I use it on someone trying to rape me? Defending myself verbally makes me a bitch, so I can only imagine what they’d call me if I, a woman, dared to physically attack someone.
Brock Turner’s father commented that “not every man who commits sexual assault is a rapist.” So does that mean not every victim that defends themselves is a bitch? Or that not every girl being raped is a victim? When I was raped, it was my 15th birthday, and I was sipping stolen champagne under the stars. Someone had jeered; “Just a few more frothies, aye!” and so I let them pour me a drink, and another, and another, and then the night started to flash in and out of focus, and I started holding onto him to keep myself upright. I remember the guy pulling my hair away from my face as I stared into the depths of the toilet bowl, and I remember him brushing my teeth and tucking me “safely” into bed. And I remember looking across at my alarm clock, 4:12 glowing bright red in the spinning darkness and I remember a weight on top of me, and that vodka-soaked breath.
So was that my fault? If I’d been sober enough to push him off would that make me a cock-tease? Does being too drunk to move make me a slut? The fact that these questions ran through my head the next morning when I awoke to find the crotch of my panties ripped out, I think says a lot about the rape-culture we’ve created.
So it really fucks me off when someone has the audacity to tell me feminism isn’t important, or even worse, that we don’t need it anymore. Maybe now, I have the strength to stand up for myself, but it came at a pretty hefty price. And choosing between suffering silently or fighting and risking death shouldn’t be a choice girls have to make. I’ve been hit on by old men on the back of the bus, catcalled by construction workers, groped by a literal twelve-year-old. I’ve been assaulted wearing a tight leather skirt and I’ve been assaulted wearing sweatpants. The variables don’t matter. Being a woman means daily violation, whether it’s laser eyes mentally undressing you or physical abuse. And standing up for yourself means putting yourself in danger. “Why can’t you take a fucking compliment?” they ask. “I didn’t think you wanted me to use a condom,” they lie. I am tired of men seeing me as inhuman, as only a body, as flesh they have some claim to. It’s not a compliment. It’s dehumanization and I refuse to let any of it happen to me anymore.
So whenever I feel weak, and am too scared to yell, to scream, to fight, I just like to remind myself, that dead men can’t cat call.