Guest post: “When the Saints go marching in”

I’m worried that I won’t be one of those women remembered for the ways that I helped fight rape culture. I’m worried that my contributions won’t be heard, that the ways in which I try to help won’t be big enough. I’m worried that I don’t do enough, don’t play a big enough role, don’t speak out enough, don’t write enough, don’t protest enough…

And the song When the Saints Go Marching In resounds in my head because of how desperately I want to be in that number when we march the streets, when we protest against rape and a culture that allows it to continue. I worry about making my mark on this world, and about how I’m going to make it better.

So, I created a blog for women to write about their experiences with sexual violence, and mostly I get support. I sometimes get letters telling me how much this space has helped someone, and how much they appreciate and need it. How much they want to have a space where they feel safe telling their stories. But I worry that it isn’t enough—that it isn’t doing enough to change the world.

And so, I worry about the men in my life and the ways in which they contribute to a culture of rape and sexual violence. I worry about the men in my life, who holler at women on the street as they drive by with their group of friends. I worry about the way they laugh about this, thinking its harmless fun, and I worry that they can’t seem to piece together the anger they feel when it happens to me, and the violence they’re inflicting on the women they yell things at. And I wish that someone would stand up and say, “How dare you harass her when she’s just trying to walk to the grocery store! How dare you interrupt her day with your lewd comments that make her feel weak, and scared, and disrespected! How dare you harass her at all!”

I worry about the messages that are given to young boys in my life when they like the colour purple or decide they won’t partake in ‘kissing tag’—a game the other boys are playing, but a game that the girls in class don’t particularly like. I worry about the messages being given to young, influential boys, and I wish that someone would stand up and say “I’m proud of you for not touching someone else’s body without their permission”.

And I wait, but nobody says these things. So, I stand up and say them. I tell the men in my life to stop harassing women, and I tell the young boys that I think it’s great they didn’t want to force girls to kiss him, and I tell them that the colour purple is wonderful and not only for girls. And I get met with eye rolls and comments about always going on a feminist rant.

I worry that they can’t see that this isn’t just theory to me—this isn’t just a feminist rant. This is my life. Every day. This is my lived experience—of men touching me in bars without my permission, of men yelling vulgar comments on the street when I’m walking home from work, of men putting drugs in my drink. Of men in my life attacking me and discrediting my lived experiences as nothing more than ‘a feminist rant’.

More than anything, I worry about the men in my life who want proof that rape culture exists, as if all of these moments in their lives don’t outline it all-too-clearly. I worry about the type of men that are in my life, the ones who cry out “but not all men are like that!” and then demand proof that rape culture exists. I begin to distance myself from them for my own well-being, but I worry all the same. Even though I’m met with resistance, and sometimes met with nasty and damaging comments about my feminist rants, I worry about what will happen if I ever stop. If I’m gone, who will stand up and tell them that these things aren’t okay?

And even if I stay, I worry that I am hollering back to men in my life unwilling to hear what I have to say. I worry that when all is said and done, my contributions to the fight still won’t be enough. And so I holler louder, more frequently, in different ways, and try to get them to understand that this is more than just theory, that it isn’t a compliment, that it’s definitely a big deal. But I still worry that I won’t be heard.

– Kiera

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