I am exhausted.
Months have turned into years as I have struggled to change the perceptions of men in regards to the women in their lives. I have debated married men on why it is NOT ok for them to call their wives nags. I’ve had to correct young guys on comments they make about women’s clothing. I’ve had to tirelessly fight with my male friends on their stereotypes and misinformation of women.
And I am just.
What is it about our society that allows men to feel entitled to thinking and acting with no regard to women’s feelings? And some will actually defend themselves, telling me they were raised this way and nothing will ever change them. It frustrates me so much when someone says that to me. That they can’t change, and I can’t expect centuries of teachings and societal norms to change overnight. That I should adapt myself to how things are because I’m just one person, while they are millions.
I never thought I’d have to experience this first-hand. And then this happened.
The other day, I was asking my (male) friend why another (male) friend has recently been acting aggressively towards me. We used to be fine; laugh and joke, text, go out to grab coffee or whatnot. But lately he has been very mean, calling me names, telling me to shut up when I talk. So my friend said: “Jinan, remember when a couple months ago I asked why **** has started become a little too touchy-feely with you? And you talked to him and told him to stop and that you didn’t welcome that behavior?”
I looked at him through narrowed eyes and said “Yeah…so?”
He replied, “Well, he’s probably mad you said that to him and is acting out. You can’t really blame him, you gave him an open door for that behavior early on so he has every right to be mad.”
I looked at him, my mouth gaping open, and said “Are you really blaming me right now for him treating me like shit?!”
“Well, you are pretty flirty with a lot of people, so he thought he could approach you that way and when you rejected him he felt like you were playing him all along” he said.
I was in absolute shock. Stunned. Did I just get blamed for being a friendly person? And then get blamed for telling a guy that his behavior was unwanted? What the hell was happening!
I was being victim blamed.
I don’t think that had ever happened to me before. As I sat there, trying to go over every interaction I had ever had with ****, I suddenly snapped out of it and turned on my friend.
“HOW DARE YOU blame me for this! I never gave any indication that I was interested in ****, and even if I was and I changed my mind, he has NO RIGHT to treat me this way just because he feels rejected.”
He said, “Well maybe you should change the way you act, so this doesn’t happen again.”
There it was. Full-blown victim blaming. Nothing about how **** should change HIS behavior. Always on the woman to change things so she doesn’t suffer the wrath of an insecure, jilted man-boy. And people tell me this doesn’t happen anymore. Ha.
I told my friend “why don’t you tell HIM to not treat me like shit instead of telling me to change my ways. That sounds like more of the right thing to do.”
His reply, “Well, it’s just easier if you change. Because other guys will think the same way **** did, and you can’t change all those guys. You’re just one person. And they’re…well, millions.”
There it was. The reason why things would never change. Why I feel like all my fights for gender equality and breaking down gender walls was all for naught. If my own friend, a guy who has an open mind about SO MUCH, could still view this issue through the eyes of our grandparents….what was I doing really? What had I actually changed?
I told my friend that if he actually talked to **** and told him that his behavior was wrong, not mine, then that was how things would change. The fact that he resorted to asking ME to change, instead of chastising **** was a prime example of why things never WOULD change. But they COULD, if only the narrative would shift from blaming the woman to blaming the man.
Yet no matter how I tried that night, my friend was not convinced. And so, I picked myself up and walked the walk of hurt, feeling his eyes on my back as I retreated, defeated back to my life as a victim of blame.
My only crime? Being myself. In a world where if that does not fit what a man wants you to be, can be used against you. Over and over again.