There was a period of time a year or so ago when I got creepily obsessed (is there any other way to be obsessed?) with serial killers and gruesome murders. A friend had just recommended the “My Favorite Murder” podcast, and it was a dark time in my life anyway, and one thing lead to another, and suddenly I was a live-action meme, wide-eyed, terrified, down a deep, dark hole of Wikipedia entries on school night until 3 in the morning.
It was a weird time in my life. Also, not a lot of people want to talk to you about this kind of thing, so I really, really appreciate you super creeps out there who were interested in this conversation … but also I am now in a better place, so please stop calling me.
I read about the “Golden State Killer” on one of those nights and I was truly terrified, but in the way that you think if you just read a little bit more, know a little bit more, it will somehow be comforting, that there will be some clue or indication in the story that this sort of thing could never happen to you, and yet everything about it screams “this could happen to you, this could happen to anyone, this was random, and there was no way of preventing this.”
I think the Golden State Killer was the last straw, or at least one of the very last straws, for me. There were a few other accounts that I read about with the same general theme – man torturing woman, but I never wanted to think or hear about the Golden State Killer again, because he was by far the most disturbing, and I was finally done reading about these horrible crimes against women. I was starting to understand that thinking about it only made it worse, only made the world darker, only made it more difficult to get out bed in the morning.
It wasn’t until recently, after the #metoo movement explosion and all of the feelings that came up with that for me – relief, disbelief, anger, gratitude, awe, more anger, skepticism, the feeling of being left behind, of it being too little, too late – and the subsequent, sometimes tentative, conversations I had with friends, my therapist, colleagues, that I realized: I wasn’t reading about these serial killers because I am sick or psychotic or weird. I was reading about them to prepare. Because in the same world that #metoo exists, so does “why not me?” as in, what makes me immune to the constant stream of violence against women that is playing out on every screen, all around us, that we are literally saturated in? Why did this happen to this woman, and that woman, and that other woman, and what can I do safeguard against such violence, and if I can’t, at the very least, what do I need to know to prepare for what it’s like?
It may seem that death by way of a serial killer is a dramatic thing to try to anticipate but … is it? In a world that sexualizes violence against women (and I am not referring to sexual violence here), when the murder victims on every TV show are young, attractive, and dead in a dress, why wouldn’t preparing for this worst-case scenario be a (sometimes subconscious, other times conscious) thought experiment for me?
Several years ago, that guy who had that truly awful show on Comedy Central (Tosh 2.0 or something, God, I hated that guy), made a rape joke to an audience member and there was some backlash. Jezebel or some other lady-leaning news source wrote an article on the appropriate way to reference rape in a joke format, and cited some comedian (I forget who, and I just googled to try to find out for like a whole 3 seconds and couldn’t, so I give up), and he said something along the lines of: Something that guys don’t understand is that every time a woman hears footsteps behind her at night when she is alone, she thinks “This is it. This is when I get raped” and JESUS CHRIST, has there ever been anything truer than that?
… do you know that I just wrote this entire thing without any idea of what my point is?
I guess what I am saying is that these levels of acceptance – don’t get me wrong, it is a forced acceptance, but an acceptance, nonetheless – of violence against women, any violence, from restricting access to birth control to hands against our flesh – go very deep, far beyond what I could grasp. I wasn’t aware of just how much of the daily harassment and putdowns and sexism and aggression I had come to expect and tolerate as life as a woman (and I’m one of the loud, opinionated ones) until the #metoo movement erupted and made me feel extremely uncomfortable about these things I had expected, accepted, ignored, and tolerated. When it came to interacting with men who disrespected me personally, or disrespected women generally, it was like my whole existence was just one big, exasperated sigh. What was there to do?
And if I think about it this way, the #metoo movement is truly, incredibly, remarkable. The idea that a woman, any woman, could be so clear and courageous, and say with such conviction, that time is up on this vast and varied landscape of atrocious male behavior against women is so incredibly powerful. And it’s not powerful that these women (publicly, privately) said it. It’s powerful because they believe it. They believe it can be over. They believe that we never should have dealt with it in the first place.
I am a staunch feminist; I don’t hesitate to tell men when they are being douchebags, I spent an entire summer screaming “FUCK YOU!” to any guy who beeped at me, or stared at me in the street, or turned his head around to look at my ass when I passed him, or yelled something suggestive out the car window – I did it a lot, and publicly, because it happened a lot, in public. I have had men, strangers, ask me to describe my sex life to them when they find out I am am married to a woman. I once had a male customer ask, in front of an entire table of men, if the “curtain matched the drapes” because he felt entitled to that information, and I, a lowly woman, was expected to oblige. Like many of us, I was assaulted in college, and didn’t report it because “it wasn’t that bad.” But the idea that I should never have had to deal with any of that in the first place never crossed my mind.
Can you imagine if we had all felt that we shouldn’t have to put up with this bullshit, and the world agreed with us?
Can you imagine? Can you close your eyes, and imagine that? I am only just beginning.