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Here’s a shoutout to all the men out there—and I don’t just mean the bad ones. I mean the shittiest of them all, the most mediocre, and the genuinely wonderful ones.

You need to step your game up, each and every one of you. 

If we’re being honest, I need to step my game up too. Probably most of us do. We need to step up together to eradicate the existence of sexual harassment, misconduct, assault, rape, abuse, and straight up woman-bashing that exists in our society. The big and small acts of misogyny that have affected every woman’s life.

Did I say every woman? Most certainly did. Let’s pull our heads out of our asses and recognize that, although some might think that “troubled” and “damaged” women are the only ones that have been hurt, and that being “careless” and “slutty” is the only way that a woman is victimized by men, we’ve pretty much all been through it. And if, by the skin of our teeth, we’ve somehow avoided experiencing sexual assault ourselves, we sure as hell have consoled friends in the wake of their trauma.

News Flash: That strong-as-fuck woman who you think is an ultimate badass and is completely unbreakable has DEFINITELY been violated in some way, just like the rest of us. But you know why she keeps on keeping on? Because that shit is ordinary. Commonplace. Routine. We tuck it into the deepest recesses of our brain and mark it “Confidential: Do Not Open” in big, bold, red letters in an attempt to make it disappear, seemingly disallowing ourselves from ever looking at it again. Maybe that’ll fix it, because there certainly aren’t many other options.

And you wonder why we’re mad?

I run. Not well, not far, but frequently enough. Midday, in my neighborhood, the only way that I allow myself to do it. I’m afraid of the dark, of men, of cars not seeing me—but mostly men.

You know how I obtained the best running time I’ve ever had? Repetitive harassment. Catcalls, being followed down the sidewalk—toxic masculinity infiltrating my private time. Do you have any idea how infuriating that is? Do you have any idea how invasive and disenfranchising it is to take the feeling of safety away from me? You probably don’t know what that’s like.

I’ve heard men grate at the TV sound being off at the bar during the championship game, or the annoyance of an uninvited guest (Read: someone’s girlfriend) at “boys night out.” If only, guys. I’d trade a thousand “girls nights” for just one day of being treated with respect, one day when I didn’t have to worry about being ogled or fondled or demeaned or hollered at..

Because apparently, to men, my leggings and sports bra send a message. My action of literally running away from them seems to draw them in further. And the headphones? Forget about it. More like homing beacons for douchebags. I thought the message I was sending was “Don’t you fucking look at me,” but it seems to be taken much more to mean, “Please approach and objectify me.”

I reserve the right not to wear a bra when I want to. That shit is a damn torture device, and I refuse to be ashamed of the natural shape of my body. Yet again, we seem to run into an area of miscommunication. My desire to be comfortable comes across as an open invitation for men to stare at my chest, as if I just requested that they paint me like one of your French girls.

I know you guys might think you do, but you don’t own us. You don’t own shit except a skewed outlook on what it means to respect a female—and you dudes own that WAY too hard. That ain’t nothing to be proud of!

You think that women dress for you? Go ahead and wrap your head around this—I don’t give a flying fuck about you. I dress for me. I live for me. I’m just as much of a person as you are. And I deserve respect. Don’t fucking look at me.

To think that I intentionally avoid wearing certain clothing items so as not to draw unwanted attention to myself—what a laugh. Or seriously disturbing, you tell me. Reasonable coping mechanism? More like a response to trauma disguised as self-preservation.

You know how they say men think about sex every 8 seconds? Well, thanks to the accuracy of that adage, women think about protecting themselves every. damn. second. Because you can’t take a break. You can’t let your guard down. The stakes are too high, They can cost you your life, dignity, respect, emotional stability. You name it.

I’ve experienced my own slew of harassment and violations. The dishwasher at a restaurant, the men who yell at me while I run/walk/bike/move literally anywhere near them, the “persistent” guy at the bar who won’t take no for an answer.

I’m trying harder to be an open book about things that matter, but sometimes you can’t force yourself to talk until you’re at a certain place. I believe that sharing our stories, drawing attention to violations, and making men pay for what they’ve done to us is amazing, powerful, and brave, but I’m not there yet. Sometimes it’s brave enough just to accept that something happened to you. Maybe that’s as far as I’ll be able to get for a long time, maybe ever. And that’s okay too.

So here’s the kicker, guys. When I said that sexual assault and harassment have touched every single woman’s life, I wasn’t quite telling “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Because it is so much bigger than that. Sexual assault and harassment have affected EVERY single life and identity—man or woman, young or old, everywhere on the spectrum of sexuality.

Don’t, for a second, think that every woman in your life has narrowly escaped sexual assault or harassment. There’s just no possible way. And that is what men need to wrap their heads around. Yes, even you— the good one, who has never said an unkind thing to or about a woman in your life.

Think about the women that you love—your mother, your sister, your wife, your girlfriend, your closest confidante, your coworker, the list goes on. Every single one of you has, at the very least, brushed paths with a sexual assault victim.

More than likely, you know a survivor closely, and have no idea what she has been through. Just remember—we women may love and trust certain men, but we still fear for our safety. Moreover, we know that in bringing forward our personal experience with sexual harassment or assault, we open ourselves up to character assassination, which may strip us of respect, our careers, or even our ENTIRE lives that we have painstakingly built. Because the response to an accusation is never overwhelming support, but rather overwhelming doubt, mixed in with rage, hate, and belittling. And we need to change that.

Believe women. We are the future, whether you like it or not.

Stephanie Tate

Stephanie is a Women’s Health nurse whose aspirations include dismantling the patriarchy and medical racism. She loves new friends, new pets, new places, and embracing her chaotic energy.

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