Backlash & The Myth of Acceptance

I talk for a living.

I wear many hats in my day-to-day, but I get paid to talk and in particular, as a public educator. I visit communities, elementary schools, high schools, campuses, military bases, faith groups, various workplaces and everything in between to talk sexual violence, bystander intervention and community support.

I’ve worked in this field for over a decade.

In that time, I’ve given literally hundreds of workshops, lectures, presentations and spoken on panels.

I’m a busy bee.

There appears to be a lot of mythology around the work I do and in particular, the reception I get. There’s this idea that everywhere I go is a giant love-in.  Maybe it’s because my work is so visible in the media or because I have a lot of followers on Twitter or because I’ve won awards. Or maybe it’s part of some right-wing conspiracy that the world is super feminist and misandrist. Je ne sais pas.  

But as a result of this myth, every time I talk about the resistance and hate I face in my work, I get a lot of eye rolls with the assumption that

1- I'm lying

or

2- I’m conflating people disagreeing with me as harassment.

Let me be clear: I am met with resistance everywhere I go.

Versions of “Where are your stats from?! I don’t believe that” to “This is oppressive because you’re not talking about men” to “Sorry, lady but if you drink too much, you’re enabling your own rape” are the norm.

I hear this stuff constantly.

I’m not referring to online trolls, comments under news stories or people who wade into my Twitter feed to play Devil’s Advocate.

I’m referring to people who raise their hands in a presentation or approach me when I’m done speaking. People in the flesh.

And so, when I talk about horrific backlash, hatred or harassment I experience, I’m not referring to people simply disagreeing with me or my message. Obviously people are going to disagree with me sometimes. If everywhere I went, people already had the knowledge and tools, what would be the point of having me come and speak? I’m there to educate and in doing so, I like to create a space where people can speak openly and honestly about their thoughts. Only by creating that space can we challenge the attitudes and behaviours.

For the love of all things holy, please stop conflating people aggressively coming after me for my views with someone raising their hand and saying “I disagree. Here’s why.”

But even then, let’s take a second and pull apart what “critiques” look like in these cases.

I am going into places and asking people to recognize that sexual violence against womyn is a thing and that bystanders have a role to play in stopping it.

I am going into places and asking people to recognize that street harassment is a thing and that bystanders are the solution.

I am going into places and asking people to support survivors of sexual violence when they come forward and that maybe, just maybe, blaming a womyn for her rape is a shitty thing to do.

That’s what I do.

Ask anyone who has seen me speak; that’s what I do.

So, we should perhaps take a second and recognize that if someone is opposed to the above mentioned things, their resistance is a lot more than a simple disagreement.

When you’re a womyn standing in front of a crowd of people who are telling you that sexual violence isn’t really happening that much or that alcohol-facilitated sexual assault isn’t real or that street harassment is a compliment or WHATEVER, it can be terrifying.

And when most of the resistance you face is from men, it adds another important dimension.

When a man is aggressively denying that sexual violence against womyn is a problem or adamantly arguing that “women are asking for it when they drink too much”, it is irresponsible to simply treat this as an “agree to disagree” moment.

Best case scenario? It’s gaslighting.

Worst case scenario? They are defending their own heinous behaviour.

And that’s nothing to roll your eyes at.