Last week, I published an article under the title Men are actually terrifying. And I was nervous about it. My editor Lizzie Marvelly rightly warned I should brace for impact – she’d be one to know. Marvelly is a regular target for right-wing trolls, and whenever Villainesse has published anything that might be taken for ‘man-hating’, we’ve been inundated with angry men wielding keyboard-shaped pitchforks. Often, even when those articles aren’t written by our editor-in-chief, the commentators go after ‘bloody Lizzie Marvelly’ anyway – the trolls hilariously exposing themselves as not actually reading the thing they’re crying about. I was ready for all of it.
I had described an incident that took place at the Auckland City Library, wherein a man had disrupted my studies by showing me porn on his phone. In the scheme of things, it’s not huge. But it was unnerving. It was a stark reminder of my comparative lack of safety in public places. And while I knew the trolls were likely to react to the headline alone (given they don’t tend to read the full article), I was still nervous to bait them with such a personal anecdote.
Instead the comments filled with stories from women.
When I shared the article on a private feminist Facebook group, the exact same thing happened.
In among the indignant messages of support (That makes me want to scream!) were people’s personal stories. There was the woman who, at age 14, had a man in a van scream I want to lick your pussy. There was the woman who had been approached at Aotea Square the week before by a ‘trio of creeps.’ There was a woman who’d been cornered that day by a man who wanted her number.
All of these incidents made these women feel unsafe. And still they shared them.
Since time immemorial, it appears, women have been sharing their horror stories with each other. Whether we’re gathered round a kitchen sink, huddled in a workplace smoko room, drinking on someone’s back porch, or convened on the internet – we share our stories. Catcalling and street harassment and assault can feel displacing. They can make you feel degraded, and wrong, and – most of all – alone. Knowing you’re not alone, and that a large network of sisters know exactly what you’re talking about, is invaluable.
In fact, knowing she’s one of many can make a woman feel empowered. It can make her feel as though she’s part of an army. It can galvanize her to fight.
Ask a group of women about what turned them into feminists and you’ll receive a library of reasons. Many of them will tell you about the way men started yelling at them from car windows once they hit puberty. It’s not the only road to feminism, but it’s a fairly speedy route.
Feminism is a lot of things. It’s a battle cry against patriarchy. It’s a call for equality.
It’s also a gathering of women.
In our society, that’s hard to come by. On our TV screens, in our films – gosh – even in parliament, it’s rare to see more than one woman in any given space. It’s especially rare to see more than two. It makes sense that when we come together we let it rip.
So keep sharing sisters – if you feel safe to. Patriarchy thrives in darkness. It’s up to us to let the light in.Support Villainesse