I was at a rock concert last week and a stranger felt me up. I froze for several seconds–couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move as those hands moved up and down my waist. Finally, I found the courage to elbow the person in the stomach. Then, I went to the bathroom and cried and ended up missing half of The Darkness singing “Love on the Rocks with No Ice.”
But a week later, I can still feel those hands. Every time I sit down to write. Every time I look in the mirror. Every time I have a positive thought about myself.
I can feel them, and I can hear them. They whisper, “You don’t matter. You’re just an object that I wanted to touch and so I did. You exist for my pleasure. You don’t matter.”
Then, I saw the new PETA ads. You know, the “My boyfriend went vegan and couldn’t control his own strength during sex so he bruised me and put me in a neck brace” ads.
And when I feel those hands, I also see the image of that woman walking down the road in her neck brace, as she gives the excuses that sounded a lot like what I heard coming out of my own mouth many times when I was in an abusive relationship. And I hear PETA whispering, “You don’t matter. Animals are people, but women are not. You don’t matter.”
And, do I even need to bring up Issa’s committee regarding the birth control mandate, at which no women were allowed to testify? It’s not even a whisper but a yell. “You don’t matter. Not when it comes to politics. Not when it comes to religion. Not even when it comes to your own health. You don’t matter.”
Are we listening?
Do we believe it?
I know sometimes it’s difficult not to internalize the messages that we receive everyday.
We’re touched inappropriately or whistled at as we walk down the street, and we push aside feelings of discomfort and tell ourselves, “I’m overreacting. I can’t get upset–I mean, I should expect this going to a rock concert/the club/this part of town. I shouldn’t have worn this outfit. I must have done something to provoke this.”
And what we’re really telling ourselves is, “I don’t matter.”
We see a battered woman on television being used to sell products or ideas and we doubt those feelings of anger that rightly well up inside of us. We try to make excuses like, “It was a joke, right? Besides, the commercial wasn’t portraying abuse. The boyfriend just didn’t know his own strength. The company/organization was just trying to make a point.”
And what these doubts amount to is really, “Do I matter?”
Then, we see political policies that directly affect us women being discussed by men, and men only. We see religious decisions that directly affect the women of the church being made by men. And often, we don’t blink an eye because we’ve been told so often that we don’t matter, that we almost accept that it’s a man’s world.
Because the world is telling us we don’t matter.
It’s telling us everywhere we turn.
It’s yelling at us from cars as we walk down the streets. It’s hitting us over the head with these messages in movies and commercials and sitcoms. It’s preaching it at us from the pulpits and political campaigns.
But we don’t have to listen.