The incredible pain and exhaustion of existence: Truths of a contemporary woman and feminist

Today,  this is my truth. It’s 2016. I’ve lived 36 years as a female, and I am exhausted. Utterly exhausted. Day in and day out I am bombarded by various forms of violence against the essence of who I am. On the internet, thousands of statements spew hatred in the comments sections of news and blog posts about sexual violence against women. “She’s looking for her 15 minutes of fame.” “Whore.” In the news, sexual violence incidents are viewed as scandals worthy of a soap opera, with reporters planting the seeds of doubt on the validity of victim’s stories when they dare to come forward but rarely focus on the behaviour of the perpetrators in question. “Allegedly.” “She can’t keep her story straight.” In daily life, I hear aggressive catcalls projected in my direction from cars; invasive eyes that feel they are entitled to my body, scanning my figure from head to toe. In society, I see complacency, eye rolls, denial and rejection whenever the words “rape culture” are voiced in a conversation, and feminism dismissed as an out of touch militant movement. “Feminazi”. “Social Justice Warrior.” I do not always find solidarity and support with the women that I know or encounter when it comes to changing rape culture. “Are you sure you didn’t just drink too much?” “Maybe you should have paid closer attention to your drink.” Simply wanting to exist in peace and in safety feels like a never-ending struggle and uphill battle, let alone wanting things to change. Let me be clear: I am a survivor, in every sense of the word. I have made it through decades of abuse, pain, trials and tribulations and somehow managed to make it to the other side. But I have battle scars. Deep ones. I am a warrior, even though in this day and age female warriors get labelled as “politically correct social justice warrior feminazis”. But even warriors reach an exhaustion point and need rest before preparing for the next battle. And all I can see in the horizon are endless battlefields – a sea of people shouting, spitting, grabbing, sneering, jeering, shoving, taunting.

The famous saying goes “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me.” Why are we so dismissive about the power words can carry? Words can be damaging and perpetrate violence. In this age of technology and online forums, the weight words carry can be immense. I have suffered the brunt of online violence by being the subject of bullying and threats after deciding to publicly come forward in the media about the sexual violence incident I experienced at the Osheaga music festival this past summer. “Going to Osheaga and being shocked that you were drugged is like going South and complaining about the hot weather.” “With all those tattoos and your street corner prostitute look, no wonder they did not take you seriously.” The words may not have broken me, but they shook me to my core. “Don’t read the comments section.” While this is something I chose to apply after I read the first few comments, this does not change the fact that this violence is ever present and continues to exist with little to no repercussions. It does not erase the damage violent words and statements can do. Using a keyboard to relay this violence does not detract from the seriousness of the issue, and does not negate the fact that the person who is typing those words exists and is real. Women continue to be the subject of this violence on a daily basis. Putting our heads in the sand to avoid confronting the dark demons on the surface does not make those demons disappear.

I am a woman and I am exhausted by simply existing. I am tired of pushing and shoving my way through this misogynistic life when I just want to take a peaceful walk for a while. I am tired of trying to convince society that my body is my own and warrants protection and respect. I am tired of sexual violence against women not receiving the same degree of public outrage as a threat against the lives of beloved pets and animals. I am tired of trying to convince that women are human beings that matter – that I matter, that we, as women, matter. I am tired at the thought that we even have to fight this fight at all in 2016. Society may think that we have come a long way since the days where women could not vote, but I am here to tell you that we are still at the base of the mountain. And looking at the long journey that lies ahead is exhausting and often times discouraging. And I am positive that I am not the only one who feels this way. If you are one of these people and you are suffering in silence, just know that I am right there with you.

4 thoughts on “The incredible pain and exhaustion of existence: Truths of a contemporary woman and feminist

  1. Pam says:

    Well done Melanie!! This is eloquent and jarring all at the same time. Its heartbreaking that people are so quick to question/blame victims instead of simply saying “I believe you.” You should be able to do the things you enjoy in life without fear, but it’s there all the time, for an unacceptable number of women.
    Thanks for writing this, and for being strong enough to deal with those short sighted, thoughtless, cruel comments to help bring more light to such a HUGE issue. My hat’s off to you, and my heart goes out to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Denise says:

    Oh I feel you so deeply. I am amazed that at 42 I am finally seeing violence against women just spoken about for what it is- for the first time. The mass of vitriol in response is worse than what I expected. I keep going back in my mind to the day I walked from my house to the corner store, as I had done many many times before, and saw a car slow beside me. 12 years old, walking alone, the big 1970’s sedan with its chugging V8 slowly passed me, pulled ahead and parked in my path. Three passengers- young men. The rear passenger stuck the top pf his body through the rear window and drummed on the car door. Staring at me. Deciding. This wasn’t the first time I had been terrified, I had been abused and victimized before, but this was different. This was about me becoming a woman. I had been aware that my shorts made me look a little curvier that morning, I was excited to look like a teenager not a child. Yet, within 150 yards of my home I discovered that this was not a rite of passage, a time to celebrate who I was becoming, a state of emergence into the world as an adult…it was a doorway into a whole new world of danger.

    In the 30 years I have lived in that world I can tell you that we have moved up the trail on the mountain you speak of- I want to encourage you that we are making progress. Now there are harassment laws, domestic violence rates have actually declined, there are financial safeguards for many women when they have children, many can access needed healthcare (including abortions), rape is actually illegal even in a marriage, gender and sexual orientation are being understood differently. The list is longer than this of course. It is not long enough, of course. But sometimes we are born into a time that wasn’t yet ready for the fullness of our being. Thank you for your efforts, be encouraged both by the change that is coming (like molasses in January) and your right retreat from battle to recuperate and fight another day.

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  3. jeremyklaver says:

    Just want to express my support. Taking on these issues is immense emotional labour. You are a badass. Thanks for speaking up.

    I find it easy to get burnt out in my activism (if you can even call it that), but often pressure myself to keep going because of the terrible things happening everywhere. I’m starting to realize this is going to be a marathon and not a sprint. Be sure to take breaks and take care of yourself ❤

    Like

  4. Melissa says:

    I am exhausted just reading your posts Mel. I fear for my daughter’s future, those of my students male and female ( I want my male students to treat others regardless of gender as a human being. I want my female students to be able to express themselves as they so choose and choose any path and know that they are just as worthy as any other human being). I do my best to teach them that they need not live these stereotypes but often times they ask me how to change this or fight and I am not sure I want to give them the answer. I too am tired of being at the base of the mountain. I too fight the fight. I support you 100% my friend even if I am not right at your side. I hope that the future holds rest for you but not the kind that comes with defeat or giving up; stay strong. Je t’aime.

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