#YesAllWomen and me

29 May

“Why am I so worthless?”

I had great friends and a loving family when I wrote that. I did well in school, was healthy, had a good job. But I was 21 and I had never kissed a boy.

“I need new hair. I need a new voice. I need new thighs,” I wrote. “I need a new face.”

In my world, it wasn’t that I just hadn’t met the right guy yet. It wasn’t that the guys who told me they just saw me as a friend were blind to how wonderful I was. I didn’t listen to them complain about the girls they dated and think about how much better for them I would be. The problem wasn’t with them. The problem was with me: I wasn’t good enough to deserve their affection.

When I was 21, I could have written things like Elliot Rodgers did. I was checking all the boxes: I was a nice girl, smart, friendly, decently attractive. And yet I wasn’t receiving any of the romantic attention that I so desired. I suppose, had I been afflicted with a serious mental illness alongside violent misandry, I could have used that to try to justify killing a half dozen young men who didn’t reciprocate my interest. (Although, let’s note, that’s not what Rodgers did. He did not target individuals, he targeted women as a mass of interchangeable objects). I could have posted a video like that to YouTube, where the world would have found it.

And then there would have been the comments. “She should have just lost 15 pounds.” “She’d look better if she wore more makeup.” “Ugh, with that lisp, of course no one wanted to date her.” A woman who gets rejected by men is seen as defective.

Now, I am glad we haven’t seen comments about how Rodgers could have been more attractive, except from the disgusting MRA groups. Women, like men, are not prizes to be won by building muscle or accumulating wealth. Attraction isn’t earned, it can only be given freely and depends on so many uncontrollable factors.

There was a time in my life when I typed in some Google searches I’m not proud of. “21 never had a boyfriend.” “College never been kissed.” All I wanted was to find someone out there in my boat, read an angsty blog post, and feel a little less alone. Most of these articles, though, start the same way: “I’m a 26-year-old virgin. It’s not for lack of opportunity, it’s just never felt right.” “BOYS LIKE ME,” the subtext screams. “THEY THINK I’M CUTE!!!” This little caveat always had to be added. For someone like me, I just felt more alienated.

Our cultural narrative is that women control the sexual currency. This is damaging for so many reasons. There is the problem with the madonna/whore dichotomy. There is the problem with the implication that men are animals who cannot control their urges. But there is another problem. If a woman is “pure” (a word I greatly dislike, but that’s for another time) not because she has successfully fought off her pursuers but because no one has bothered to pursue – how can she feel anything but worthless? “Nice girls” don’t get “friendzoned”; ugly girls get rejected. After all, in every teen movie the boy wins his crush by winning the football game. The girl wins hers by getting a makeover.

I’ve thought about this a lot in the last week or so, and my thoughts still aren’t coherent. There’s been a ton of internet conversation about the unnoticed misogyny that’s inherent in everyday life and I agree with 95% of what’s been said. I have my own problems with hashtag activism, but this seems to actually be a fairly good use of it. There hasn’t been much talk about the difference between the male and female experiences of being rejected.

In pop culture, women don’t get rejected. They get pursued by guys they’re not into, sure (and again, men not taking no for an answer is a HUGE ISSUE, just not the one I’m talking about here). The only ones who do get rejected are played for laughs: “hahahahaha she’s so fat and ugly ewwwww.” While the chubby, dorky guys who live with their parents are “rewarded” with a hot woman as soon as they prove they have a heart of gold.

A man who gets rejected by women blames women for not seeing his awesomeness. A woman who gets rejected by men blames herself, for not being good enough (mostly pretty enough) for them. One gets angry. The other gets sad.

I was 21 years old. I had a good job, good friends, good family. I did not have a boyfriend. And I was not worthless. But, of course, because I am human and not always a model feminist, I didn’t fully believe I was worthy of love until I met a guy who treated me like I was.

I don’t really know where I’m going with any of this. But I would love to hear any thoughts out there.

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2 Responses to “#YesAllWomen and me”

  1. thenarcissistwrites May 29, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

    This is all so very true. And the worst part of it all is that now that this movement has come out – the #yesallwomen thing – men are trying to make it all about them with “not all men” and “this happens to men too.” They don’t get that that’s not the point. The point is that none of that is okay.

    • laurenkcampbell May 29, 2014 at 9:36 pm #

      Yup! I actually think the beginning of the hashtag made a good point. No, not all men are violent towards women. But, all women have experienced this in their daily lives and that’s where the problem is.

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