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Shooting Women

#yesallwomen I did a standup show at isla vista UCSB one week to the day before the guy shot up the town. There was shock and the guy’s crazy “reasoning” came out and women EVERYWHERE just started pointing out the obvious things that women live with that men don’t and haven’t even thought about. The hundreds of decent men I know, personally, are shocked and made aware of these things. They are sad about what they are learning, but they are learning it. There are millions of decent men, who I don’t know, who are learning these things and talking about how to help make everyone’s experience slightly better.

And there are the guys who can’t hear it. Which, when no one is attacking them specifically, there are only a couple reasons a person couldn’t acknowledge a common experience that is being shared from millions of women.

There are amazing things being pointed out that are just a part of a regular day in being a human female. I don’t think about it much, it’s all automatic now. The examples listed are great, but I was reminded of the low level, constant awareness of my surroundings, constant placating of some men, constant ignoring of sexual comments from some men, and a constant answering of inappropriate questions at work and in social situations about relationships, plans for relationships, children, sex and wardrobe choices.

#yesallwomen isn’t about OTHER discussions that need to be had…gun safety and mental illness. (We are living in the first 40 pages of Watership Down here, folks).

#yesallwomen means; Every woman. Your mom, your sister, your girlfriend, the lady at Starbucks. Women wearing clothes, women not wearing clothes. Women covered because of conservative religious beliefs and an eleven year old girl wearing her brother’s football jersey. And, yes, even me. I’m not Helen of Troy over here. I’ve never been the woman that nations fight wars about.  I’ve looked like some version of what I look like now since I was 16. track 3: “If you miss YOUR mom, I’ll hug you.”  I’m no tiny, fairy beauty that infuriates a particular kind of man into feeling that women are “teases” and “bitches.” But I, too, have been belittled verbally and physically attacked for no other reason I can think of except that I’m the woman standing in front of these guys.

I worked three summers in a gay resort town of Provincetown, MA at a footlong hotdog stand (1989joke: “put a condiment on that” killed with drunk gay guys). We had two 15 yr old guys filling the sodas and they had grown up in p-town. They hated gay guys. Because there are some gay guys who treat men like some straight guys treat women. Hitting on them, trying to flirt when it’s clear that it isn’t working. The women who worked at the hotdog stand explained to these young men that that’s how women live their lives.

I do a bit on my new album (“98% of Men” out last month and available from amazon and iTunes ;)  about how I know the majority of the people on this planet are good (and 2% of the people, men and women, are broken… so live a little defensively, but not crazy defensive, like Nancy Grace wants you to). I’ve “not been killed” a half dozen times by guys that were annoyed but took no as a complete sentence. But there is no award for not being horrible. Because you took no for an answer, because you didn’t rape someone, because you didn’t shake your baby when it wouldn’t shut up isn’t a reason to have a trophy made.

So when I heard what some men are saying, I was confused. I was confused at the men that ARE taking these comments personally… saying that, because women are pointing out how their lives exist, that “women hate all men.” Then these gentlemen also insist that a specific statement such as “a man that kills women hates women” is “too sweeping.” I have thought about all of this as I’ve watched the conversation wash over me. And I have a theory about where it’s coming from:

The guys that take all these things as personal attacks; “you’re lumping us all together” you’re insisting on “collective guilt,” feel attacked because they FEEL guilty - EVEN IF THEY’VE DONE NOTHING.

1. There are men that feel they SHOULD have been doing something and are mad at their own lack of Superpowers.
2. Worse, there are men that HAVE done something…if only creep on women … and feel like they’re being called on it. And they are. This is a call to stop it. Just…stop it. It’s not okay. It’s not funny. It’s not effective. It’s bad. Stop it.
3. Or, and this could be anyone of us, and it takes a grown adult of any gender to admit it, there are men that have stood by.

I am not the hero of this story. I’ve stood by. I’ve let men say things to other women around me…and not spoke up. I’ve let racism be spoken around me and not spoke up. I’ve let people be mean to their kids…smacking an ear in public mean…and said nothing. Hell, I’ve let men say and elbow squeeze ME and not said anything.

I’ve stood by. I once didn’t help a man who was a. Either being mugged or b. Using the words, “someone’s chasing me” as a ploy to get into a locked corridor I was in. I’ll never know if that guy got hurt because I couldn’t trust enough to help him…but I was scared it was a ploy to get into the safety of the apartment I was house sitting at 12:30am in NYC. I know, in my head, that I made the choice to make sure I was safe. But I still feel like I was a coward. And I still think about it.

But sometimes I’m afraid of the confrontation. Of the argument. Of not having the words or the physical strength to back up my convictions. I hate getting hit. But, sometimes, I still think I’m going to get hit. And no one has hit me in years. And I’ve only had to get walked to my car after a show twice in the last ten years. So, these are residual fears that still affect my life. I’ve made peace with the fact that I have been cowardly in the past. And I’ve realized that I will not always be brave. But, dammit, I try.

The way I live now is not from a place of guilt but from a place of responsibility. We all, as people taking part in our collective social contract, have a responsibility to each other. Each to our abilities and willingness to find the courage to stand up to …whatever you want to call them; bullies, crazies (both male and female) or the clinically insane …I call them assholes. I don’t do it every time, even now. It’s the kind of thing that takes practice; for me, I have to practice not BEING an asshole, as well as not allowing it AROUND me. I have to remind myself that standing up to assholes is a confrontation I do not want to have but I have to find the willingness to have. And I’m still judgmental and snappish and, so, not a fucking saint either. So I’ve got plenty of work to do. But I work on being willing to do that work.

Maybe it’s because I do standup and the underdog is always the hero in my eyes. The person to whom no tout in the world would suggest you put your money on… Women, Children, various non-white ethnic groups, the handicapped, the insane, the homeless…even a white guy with a shitty haircut…these are the people that comedy comes from, in my life.

Fish don’t think about water, they just live their lives in it. So this hashtag thing just reminds us, to each other, that we aren’t alone, or crazy for not being cool with it.  And everyone’s life is in a water we can’t know, without comedy. Comedy gives us a glimpse into other waters. Other people’s families, other people’s jobs, other people’s lives. It takes us all swimming in a lake of Native American rage or an Arkansas off-the-grid lifestyle. (What are those people hiding from?) When a comedian or a book or a show reveals to me a world I have never thought about or realized existed …I am briefly ashamed that I never saw it, and then I laugh. At all of us.

Let’s all work on telling assholes to shut up as well as not being assholes ourselves.

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    Well said!
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