She cringed as I said it.
“Modern-day feminism is an embarrassment!” I declared, pounding my fist down on the coffee table for effect. Of course, I knew better than to argue with the brilliant girl who spent her Friday nights reading dissertations about medieval nunnery, but at least this time I was right.
Feminists. That entitled group of navel-gazing, man-bashing, bra-burning, Hillary-loving whiners. You know—the kind who tweet their abortions and construct displays of 4,500 dye-soaked sanitary napkins and call it art. The kind that rejects all the things I love most about being female.
In my mind, the largely feminist concept of systemic misogyny was basically a joke. I considered myself a liberated woman. I held a job. I made a fair wage. I spoke my mind. None of the females in my circles were oppressed by patriarchy or sold in marriage for the price of a few cows. Feminists were misguided, at best. Society did not systematically bulldoze women’s rights.
Then Men Started to Push Me Around
But I was wrong. I didn’t realize this, of course, until I got bulldozed myself. The culprit? The trans agenda, ushered in with bully tactics and power plays from big business and Hollywood celebrities who either spent too much time in the L.A. sun or consumed a toxic mixture of Kool-Aid that made them actually believe prioritizing the emotional demands of grown men over the physical safety of women and children is somehow progress.
I didn’t believe in rape culture until a 6’3”, 250-pound grown man stared angrily into my eyes and proclaimed to me how hurtful it was that I did not want to see his penis. And people agreed with him. (Because men forcing themselves on women is something new and different?)
I didn’t believe in victim shaming until I received death threats for sharing my experience of sexual trauma in hopes of protecting women in their most vulnerable places. “Stay at home if you’re uncomfortable,” they jeered. “You’re so ugly that no one would want to rape you anyway.”
I didn’t believe in systemic misogyny until I was told that my hard-earned boundaries were actually just bigotry and that my red flags were irrelevant. I guess “My body, my choice” doesn’t include my right to determine who gets to see it? “An erection in the shower next to you is no cause for alarm,” they explained. “It’s a normal bodily function. Use this as an opportunity to ‘educate’ yourself.”
Let’s Examine the Numbers
“Educate myself.” As though reading a book or attending a seminar would somehow miraculously make it less dangerous for grown men to have unrestricted access to naked children or any less harmful for women to be told their needs don’t matter. Where was their education about the effects of sexual trauma or the manipulation of predators? It seemed to me that if they had experienced the same sobering education I did, then maybe this conversation would not be happening. Nevertheless, I decided to take the challenge and do some research. Here are a few things I learned.
There is virtually no data (news reports, stats from the U.S. Bureau of Justice, or any kind of verifiable documentation) to support the pervasive claim that trans people are at increased risk for sexual violence when forced to use the “wrong” bathroom. Nada.
Yet there’s an urgency in their messaging: “Those who deny bathroom access will literally have blood on their hands” is a common sentiment. I’ve actually been called an “accessory to murder” for my position on this issue. But trans people are not being murdered, raped, or assaulted as a result of being forced into the “wrong” bathroom. It’s a manipulation that reeks of the very thing we women are constantly accused of doing: fear mongering.
Conversely, there are literally hundreds of documented reports of sexual crimes against women in bathrooms, especially by men who either dressed or pretended to identify as women. Hundreds. Why the discrepancy? Why doesn’t this matter? Of the 20 million Americans who have experienced attempted or completed rape, 17 million of them are women. In Washington State, 98 percent of people convicted of felony sex offenses are anatomical males.
“But 90 percent of rape happens at home or by an acquaintance,” they say. Let’s unpack this, shall we? If I’m doing the math correctly, that means strangers have raped 1,700,000 living American women. I’d still call that an epidemic. We also have report after report after report of this occurring in the bathroom. So it’s intensely difficult for me to understand why Google or Facebook or the NBA (already known for supporting violence against women) wouldn’t want to at least try to help. The conclusion I am left to draw is dangerously close to something I would categorize as feminism.
Get Back in the Kitchen, Women
Societal rejection of female-specific bathrooms is more than a hundred years old. In Victorian England, it was considered a civil rights issue. A woman named Rose Adams wrote letter upon letter to the powers that be, pleading for sex-specific bathrooms on the grounds of— you guessed it—safety and privacy. It took more than five years for her to make any real progress.
“If you don’t feel comfortable, stay at home,” they told her. She overcame ignorance rivaling that which we see today, including claims that women were designed to “hold it longer.” When a model of a female lavatory was constructed on Park Street on September 5, 1900, furious men burned it to the ground. Women, they believed, neither deserved or needed these frivolous accommodations.
But here we are, more than a hundred years later, reversing civil rights in the name of progress. This newfound education of mine was supposed to make me feel better and open my mind. I guess you could say that, in a sense, it has. I find myself reaching across the aisle to network with the very people I had previously written off.
Feminists have seen this day coming for a long time, and sadly, I had closed my ears to their message. So far I have found many of them to be a wealth of valuable resources and ideas in this particular battle. While I was busy feeling liberated, they were laying the groundwork for my liberation. And I am grateful.
We will probably never agree on most things. I won’t participate in EqualPayDay tweet fests or endorse Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards. They’re unlikely to vote red or embrace the liberating beauty of capitalism. But my friend, as usual, was right: you can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, especially if said bathwater is under aggressive attack. This war on women has made for some strange bedfellows, but it has also served to remind us of the solidarity real women can share.
We may be the “weaker sex,” but we are strong enough to fight back in defense of each other’s safety, value, and overall dignity. It’s a brand of feminism I can get behind. Something tells me we are going to need each other.