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.