My second semester of college I rode the bus to school. One day, as I sat in the back reading my book as was my wont to do, a man who had been sleeping since I got on, awoke. He turned to me, looked me up and down, and commenced to try to woo me by explaining he was in a gang and all the “great” things he’d done. Then he told me he’d follow me to class.
About a year ago, I was walking down the street toward my car, which was in a parking garage. A man I had noticed on the corner heading the other direction, suddenly appeared next to me. He kept trying to talk to me, ask me personal questions like where I live. When I didn’t respond how he wanted he flipped out. Literally. He had some kind of angry episode. He wanted to follow me to my house, to my car. He wouldn’t leave me alone until I said I was meeting my mom and that I had a boyfriend–both of which were untrue.
Here’s the thing about being a woman: We basically know we have our own autonomy but we also know not everyone sees it that way. The Isla Vista shootings, and countless experiences women have had, prove that.
This tragedy highlights in terror how women are so frequently viewed as objects for male attainment. We are viewed as objects of pleasure, vessels for sex. We all know this. In dating–those of us who date men–we search for men who transcend the habit of seeing us as objects, as prizes, as beings meant to be quiet and do what the men say. We search, but are not always successful.
I for one am tired of it. I have been for… oh, always.
I’m lucky in that I have associated with and dated some great men who don’t feel this way. However, I am also unlucky in that I have associated with and dated men who do feel entitled to me, my company, my body, my future, etc. I think you would be hard pressed to find a woman who has never encountered a man who feels entitled to her. If such a woman exists, she is probably the luckiest women in the world.
To put it starkly, this event highlights a common occurrence. Now, I don’t expect every entitled or jilted man to go on a shooting rampage. That would be a horrifying and inaccurate and unfair outlook. That doesn’t mean there aren’t men who feel entitled to women everywhere. This feeling of entitlement can manifest in seemingly innocuous ways, in addition to the more threatening, and all the way to the tragic as we’ve seen in Isla Vista.
Yes, all women have a right to say no–whether it be to a request for a date, to sex, to a kiss, to even a simple conversation–without fear of retribution. Retribution is anything done in consequence to a rejection that negatively impacts the woman who said no. This can be as tragic as a killing or rape, all the way down to telling other men to avoid her because, “she says no.”
Yes, all women have a right to turn a man down without explanation or justification. “I’m just not interested,” is an adequate reason to say no.
Yes, all women have a right to walk down the street without being harassed.
Yes, all women have a right to go to graduate school without being deemed “undateable” or “not marriage material.”
Yes, all women have a right to wear whatever they deem comfortable or appropriate to their standards without “asking for it” or being told their attire is “causing men harm.”
Yes, all women can be interested in only friendship–and that is okay, not an invitation for rumors or violence.
Yes, all women have a right to stand up for themselves and express their opinion without being abandoned or beaten or called names.
Yes, all women deserve to be in a mutually respectful relationship.
Yes, all women are autonomous beings with dreams, goals, desires, thoughts. No, they are not a prize for righteous living.
Yes, all women have a right to go to the gym, the beach, anywhere and everywhere without being ogled.
The feeling of entitlement to women is a blight on our society. It is something that in this horrible incident has resulted in numerous deaths. Death should never be a consequence for saying no.
“No” is a word of empowerment and as such deserves respect.
And bear in mind this Margaret Atwood quote that has gone viral, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” In a culture where this sentiment rings true for so many, we need a drastic cultural shift.