This week has been exhausting. I do not usually engage in online battles, and I certainly do not try to host them in my own online spaces (in this case it was Facebook). But, over the course of the last few days, I have been going back and forth on bathroom policy, specifically, on where people are allowed to legally pee.
Here’s a thought: Fight the Bigger Fight.
Stop freaking out about bathrooms and big box stores. Start freaking out about Rape Culture and the wage gap, the lack of affordable child care or paid maternity/paternity policies at the vast majority of US companies. Start freaking out about the lack of women in STEM, teachers not calling on girls or challenging girls to excel in math, science, or other “difficult” subjects. Start freaking out about the misogyny of menstruation, the fact that women in pain are often not taken seriously. Start freaking out about the emphasis on appearance instead of performance that women face every. single. day. Start freaking out about the systemic degradation and objectification of women, younger and younger women. And then DO something! Yes, I understand there is a very small chance that a predator dressing up as a woman could enter a women’s restroom and peep at or–heaven forbid–assault a woman or child. But in the time it has taken me to write this post how many women or children have been sexually abused? Exploited? Objectified? Used? What about the statistic that says 1 in 3, or 1 in 4 (depending on your source), of women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. That’s 25-33%. That’s a LOT of percent! I believe it is safe to say that 100% of women will be sexually harassed at some point in their lifetime. FIGHT THAT FIGHT, dammit. Yes, it’s harder than blithely throwing up a “Boycott Target” post. But it’s the only way to ACTUALLY protect women and children. Fight against the actual perpetrators and the institutions and social contracts that protect them.To be clear, I am not saying “ignore this issue (women or children being sexually assaulted in bathrooms) completely.” Never once have I said “the women who are boycotting Target are somehow less than in their thinking.” And never once did I criticize a Christian or otherwise conservative group collecting and posting incidents of people being attacked in bathrooms. I said “Fight the Bigger Fight.” Humans being sexually attacked and assaulted in public is a symptom of a MUCH larger societal disease. Take on that disease, don’t try to band-aid just one of the millions of ways sexism, misogyny, and benevolent patriarchy pervade our society.
I will fight for women’s rights and for justice when those rights are taken away. I want predators to be punished and I want the punishment to be such that other predators take pause before committing sexual assault, I want them to even decide “Ya know, the risk is too high, it’s no longer worth trying to molest or rape a woman because the reporting and investigation process is such that I will most likely be caught and punished to the full extent of the law.”
In ADDITION to that, I want women to have equal opportunity and equal rights in other areas of their life that have nothing to do with the gratification or pleasure or sense of power that our magic bodies can somehow give men, both our lovers and violent, predatory strangers. I want women to be seen for MORE than their body. I want them to succeed and excel in every other aspect of their lives, and I want society and the law to support that instead of hinder it.
Am I concerned about a woman being attacked in a public bathroom by a sexual predator who is dressed up like a woman? Yes. It is possible that such a scenario could happen, no woman (or man) should ever have to experience sexual assault. Do I think that boycotting Target will actually do a damn thing to reduce that likelihood? No. I don’t. Not one little bit. If women stayed home at all times, and were lucky enough to not have sexual predators or abusers living with them IN their homes (fathers, uncles, brothers, husbands, sons, etc), then they would always be safe. But that is not the world I would ever want for a woman, for myself, for my stepdaughter, for my sisters or nieces or friends or their children.
Boycotting is not the answer. Change is the answer. And to create change you have to fight the bigger fight. We–women and men–must actively women’s rights, equal protections, a reduction of exploitation and objectification, and harsher punishments for those who abuse, exploit, and objectify women. Is that harder than boycotting Target? Yes. If enough people demand a better society and governmental law will it lead to actual change? Yes. (Funny how that works). I want to encourage activism and women AND men taking a stand, fighting for women, and doing so against the every growing mountain of sexist bullshit. Will this activism lead to an egalitarian, gender-equal society within my lifetime? Maybe not. And I cannot explain how angry and fundamentally heartbroken I feel while typing that statement. But will I stop fighting for drastic and fundamental change? No. I won’t. Because I want a better world for myself, for my friends, for all of our daughters and granddaughters, our nieces and sisters and mothers. I want a better world for my sweetheart, for my brothers, my father, my friends, for all of our sons and nephews and husbands.
There is a line in the movie The American President where Michael Douglas says that, as President (in an election year), he should only fight the fights he can win. His Chief of Staff, played by Martin Sheen, responds with “You fight the fights that needs fighting!”
Fight the bigger fight. Fight the fights that need fighting.