I first began seeing tweets and retweets from people I follow, mainly writers, who were some of the first to catch on. I later discovered the hashtag was started by another writer who was part of mutual networks. It is difficult to explain the roller coaster of feelings I experienced over the course of reading several hundred tweets, some from people I know and most from strangers.
But here are one-word synopses of how I felt in chronological order: Shocked, Appalled, Defensive, Sad, Angry, Protective, Scared, Depressed, Frustrated, Focused, Resolved, and finally Optimistic. All of these—all in the space of about 24 hours. Bear with me while I take you through those emotions and ultimately explain why I currently feel optimistic that this can get better.
Shocked—When I first saw tweets coming through my timeline I was genuinely surprised. Tweets showing pain, fear and suffering women have experienced came one after another (and to my perspective out of the blue). Being in the middle of a move, I was pretty isolated and hadn’t really heard much about shootings, and knew nothing of the mass murderers misogynistic video hate rant. But these tweets certainly grabbed my attention; I quickly put two and two together and went to the hashtag.
Appalled—What I read appalled me. I have admittedly lived in a bubble, and to see things people have endured made me sick. Not just the tragedies but the prevalence! The prevalence was what was the most appalling.
Defensive—Yes I admit it. I felt defensive. We humans are emotional creatures and make horribly false leaps of logic all the time. We all do it. We tend to generalize and imply generalizations both in pointing out faults and when hearing faults. When I read the experiences and suffering at the hands of men, I inferred an attack on men where there was none intended. I read all these things that women, all women, have experienced because of men and my brain had this dialog, “Men have caused wrongs to these women. Uh oh. I am a man. *leaps off the logic platform into the irrational pool* They blame ME! But, but, but I have always tried to treat women with respect. I have never done these things, said these things. That’s not how I was raised or raise my children. How can they hate me? That’s not fair.” Before you judge me for that hear me out.
Sad—once I was able to quell my defensive response, I was able to see pain. I saw the pain in the messages these brave women were sharing. It helped that people I know were sharing their pain. It made it easier to shed off my defensive armor because I already cared about these people. I already believed them, why should I not believe everyone else? When I looked with that eye, it made me sad. Horribly sad.
Angry—that sadness led to anger. HulkSmash anger. I fumed at the unnamed men in these accounts. I fumed at the injustice that women have gone through. My inner Batman kicked in and I wanted swift and brutal justice. I have never been one for conflict and never been in a fight, but I wanted to be a vigilante. I wanted to go in and punish everyone myself.
Protective—when I realized that there was nothing I could do with my anger on a global scale, I turned to my family. I thought I could at least make a difference in my own family. I can arm my wife and daughters with means to protect themselves from the sickos. While these are good things, and things I will likely pursue to an extent. Many women shared that while many feel these things are necessary, none of them feel safe. The fact that they exist is part of the problem. Not enough effort is made fighting the fire, just donning heavy cumbersome fire protective clothing.
Scared—when I realized I cannot protect my family all the time, and that my efforts to fix things would likely be insufficient. I spoke with my wife and she confirmed similar experiences. I saw that eventually my daughters (3 and 7) would be sharing their experiences on the hashtag. I was terrified. Scared for those I love. Scared for our future.
Frustrated—I don’t do well with that helpless feeling. When I feel something is wrong I want to fix it, I want to help stop it. I felt that there was nothing I could do. It was incredibly frustrating.
Focused—I can’t let myself do nothing when there is a problem. This can be a good quality and a bad one to have. I will pace around for a solution until I can find one. In this case, I asked myself these questions. I already had begun the path of teaching my children that ALL are equal. Just like my mom and dad did to me. I know that everyone, man or woman, whatever their race, whomever they find themselves attracted to, wherever they were born, however they believe—is of equal value. Of infinite worth. But I wanted to get that message out there to others so they could learn. Tweets were not enough.
Resolved—after thinking it over, I realized that I CAN do more. My circle of influence is not limited to my family. I CAN do more. So I will. Tonight, I have my weekly meeting with my 14 Boy Scouts (ages 12-13). They are good kids. I will share with them how they can do more to fight this. I will commit them, as I commit myself, to speak up when they hear a conversation or see behavior with disrespect toward women and any other targeted groups. I will commit them to explain in those situations that real men, good men, don’t think, talk, or act that way—EVER. I will commit them to not patronize media (song lyrics, films, television shows) that excuse or glorify disrespect toward women. I will commit them to tell their friends what is wrong with that type of media. I can start there. But that’s not all. I don’t have to join a crusade to make a real difference. I can reach out more in the community, in the workplace, and in my daily interactions with others.
Optimistic—this is where I arrived, and where I hope to stay. As I considered my own social circle, and the chances I have to make a difference it gave me some hope. I can do something. It might not be much, but I WILL do something. I am flawed, I am selfish, I have time constraints, but even I can make a difference. This gives me hope. There are people out there with even more capacity than me, in even more position to influence. Perhaps #YesAllWoman hit them like it did me. Perhaps, they came to conclusions and resolution even deeper than I did. The courageous voices I saw on #YesAllWomen burst my bubble in all the good ways. They shed a light on my ignorance. They also shed a light on the work we men have to do. This is how change happens. Shed a light on the problem. Now let’s rally to fix it.