author: annie trussler | op-ed editor
I don’t have a particular topic in mind for this article; rather, I have far too many topics to choose from that I couldn’t even fathom where to begin. The list of controversies and tragedies to scour through has rolled past my feet, through the door, and outward into the street, much like a stray meatball from everyone’s favorite singalong. Let’s quantify what we do have: male birth control, Trump’s endless antics (a cute choice of wording for a terrifying reality), and the suicides of young Indigenous women. From these broad topics, we can follow tangents of a continued privileging of male health over the health of women; sexual assault claims that have been mocked and ignored; and homegrown, old-fashioned, Canadian racism.
While many thematic elements are shared, chief among them is the negligent treatment of women, young, old, poor, wealthy, able-bodied, disabled, or otherwise existent. Similarly, when any of these atrocities are presented forth (by women, mind you) via social media or even through word of mouth, there is always, and I mean always, a lone ranger, knight in shining armor or male vigilante, quick to remind us that, “Oh, well, men struggle, too.”
I have kept my peace – and, yes, what you have seen so far has been my peaceful side – for so, so very long. I have respectfully responded to every insensitive Facebook comment, calmly spoken to right-wing relatives over dinner, and bit my tongue until it bled when I overheard derogatory comments in a coffee shop. I have tried. I have smiled (even when I shouldn’t), I have forgiven, I haven’t spoken a single word when words degrading my very existence were exchanged between laughs.
Let’s just consider this opinion piece a little letter to men (of course, “not all men,” because I wouldn’t dare generalize an entire group. There’s no way that would be societally accepted): I want to ask you, with sincere curiosity, if you are willing to accept the amount of sway men have held over society as a whole. Are you? Before you respond, I want you to recognize, please, that men have made every rule, passed every law, controlled our bodies, called us dogs and slobs while running for the most important positions in the world, and killed us in our own homes for decades, centuries, millennia.
Then, when issues that impact women, and women alone, the John Wayne of meninists strolls through, twirling his pistols, to remind us of our “place.” You shush us, usually on national television, and remind us that domestic violence against women doesn’t matter, because it happens to men too (even though half of all Canadian women have been physically or sexually abused by the age of 16, and every night 300 women are turned away from already full shelters). Yes, thank you, but we are talking about us. For once, after so many goddamn years, we are talking about us.
Men get raped, too: yes, we know. We know, we do. My heart breaks for every man who has hidden away from help because of the systems of toxic masculinity that tell him to enjoy it, that tell him to tough it out; but please, for the love of god, if a female rape victim is sharing her traumas with you, do not remind her that the struggle of a woman means nothing when a man’s struggle exists, too. Every woman walks home, even in full daylight, with their keys tightly grasped in their hands. Every stranger behind her is a threat. I had the audacity to walk around the lake at 9 p.m. with my good friend one night, where we were followed by six men who tried to lure us into a pickup truck.
Women were forced into infertility due to experimental birth control in the 1960’s, but the trials for male birth control were cancelled because 6 per cent of the subjects experienced mood swings, acne, and bloating. Wow, familiar. I seem to remember everybody with a uterus speaking out about these symptoms, only to be met with a resounding of chorus, “Oh, relax. You’re just hormonal. It’s all in your head. This is why women can’t be trusted.” If you want proof, please watch every FOX news report covering Hillary Clinton’s existence.
I often take time to myself to peruse anti-feminist Instagram pages, where the admins will dig through haystack after haystack to find one example of an immoral woman, where you can type “vio” into Google, and be immediately directed to the search for “violence against women.”
I have gotten to the point of frustration and pain, that the next time I am presented with a “not all men” scenario, the next time I am told to be quiet, or that I am irrational, the next time the female struggle is trivialized, even when we are raped, murdered, kidnapped, and tortured daily, I cannot be peaceful. I cannot promise to be calm. I cannot laugh it off. I have every intention of becoming the torrential, vindictive force men have made me to be. Until you are afraid to exist after 6 p.m., until you are abandoned with a child you never wanted, until you are slut-shamed for wearing shorts in summer, until you cannot speak to your defense without being forcibly quieted, stop. Enough. Listen. Listen to us. Please, God, listen. I am begging you, do not make our suffering about you.
Let me rephrase my question: misogynists, can you see? Can you read the news? Can you listen to the women in your lives? I can assure you that every rape joke, every sexist comment, every violent insinuation, confirms for a woman in your life that they can’t trust you. That’s a promise. But what do I know? I’m just a woman.