My generation is often criticized by anyone who can type, wield a pen, talk……. and a friend of mine wrote something I found very amusing one time where she said that if war broke out while our generation oversaw this country, perhaps we’d go to war with our selfie sticks.
My last Facebook post was where I promised that I am willing to help any woman who might be going through anything. I meant it and it didn’t settle right with a few male Facebook friends of mine. Let me tell you this story.
It was last year during my first semester finals week. The early birds we are, my dormmates and I woke up one morning to find the mangled remains of a new born baby in the toilet. There was blood everywhere and it was the most horrifying thing I have ever seen in my life. Most of the morning was a blur of proctors running around and people wailing. It felt unreal because you hear about these things but you never think you would ever actually experience them personally.
Apparently, our neighbor, a girl two dorms away, had been pregnant all semester. She told no one and a few girls suspected but never got a confirmation because how do you ask if your dormmate is pregnant? So, our whole floor was put on lock down and the female proctors went around questioning each of us to find the girl. They found her of course and even in her state, where she was lying on her blood-soaked mattress, she answered to the proctor that she was not the one who’d just had a baby in the toilet. She was rushed to the hospital. I never asked to find out if she’d had a miscarriage or she’d purposefully dumped the baby.
For a few days, a lot of us couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t know the girl at all but I couldn’t help but think that it could have been me, or anyone of us. And worst of all, I felt very very responsible that somehow, I should have known and I should have helped her. Someone should have told her that she would be okay and someone should have known to stand by her to defend her from all that judgement she’d feared no matter what she might have done to become pregnant.
So today, I go and post saying that I would be there for any woman who would in any way need my help and a couple of guys took some kind of offense from my very cheesy I know and derivative Facebook post. I didn’t insult men in this post. I didn’t say women were right and men were wrong. I simply and very stupidly said that I promise I would help a fellow woman who in anyway might need my help. What one guy did was tell me that more men were being raped than women in Japan and Finland. This same guy went on to say that I was making this scenario where this young girl, whose name I didn’t bother to find out, who got murdered in broad day light by a man proclaiming his love feel like a very urgent earth quake. Then he said the chances of this happening was 1 out of 100,000 and that I took it way too far while claiming not to be a feminist. The other guy asked if I was a virgin. I will not release your names for your safety and because I am really not a moron.
I grew up in the city. Some of my peers are rich, annoying, white girl wanna-bes who would definately go to war wielding a selfie stick and maybe a wand of mascara. I know a girl who didn’t know what ምስር ወጥ was. If you were an unclean, poor, uneducated fellow off the streets who didn’t look like Channing Tatum and dress like Justin Bieber, these girls may not take you seriously. Maybe they will call you names, maybe they will treat you like dirt and embarrass you in front of people who respected and admired you. Do you go and stab them in the neck with a knife? Do you poke their eyes out? Do you shoot them dead? Do you collect your friends, kidnap them, gang rape them then kill them?
People kill for less than injured pride. People kill for less than broken hearts. People kill for very very much less, but does this excuse anyone?
I was at a review of a friend’s article one time where a bunch of people gathered to talk about Feminism. A question was raised, “Girls in this group. How many of you have ever been sexually harassed or needlessly verbally or physically assaulted just because you are women?” Every girls’ hand went up. I swear I nearly cried. Some guys would tell us, “Don’t exaggerate,” or “You just want attention.” But none understand what that feels like because they have never experienced it first-hand. You think you get it because you see it, you think you get it because you have been told but you have never felt it, never been groped and smacked or whistled at. Rape and assault at any moment is not really a danger in your immediate life because how many women are really standing around to kidnap and rape you in Ethiopia? I mean you hear bizarre stories but how many men fear these dangerous man-kidnapping women roaming the streets of their home town that they will not go out alone or sit in an empty taxi?
Just because we heard about Hanna, about Selome, about Kemilat on the media once every year, it doesn’t mean there aren’t crazy things happening behind closed doors to other women. We hear about these victims because people write about them and document them and present them for the public to be aware of such dangers occurring much like if a lion went loose from Anbesa Gebi, there is certain danger roaming your city and the media is obligate to let you know. If we bothered to try to find out, there are very unsettling things happening everywhere.
I wish I could help the men being raped in Japan, I wish I could help stop sex trafficking in Europe, I wish I could stop global warming, I wish I could stop the war in Syria, I wish I could help stop poverty, I wish I could stop animal cruelty….. there are so many things I wish I could help stop. I am a writer. I have a blog. I have a social media with about 1450 friends, most of whom are close friends, peers, school mates, family members……. And with that very cheesy post I meant from the heart is all I can help with right now. If we could volunteer to manually hammer in how wrong some of you guys are about how serious this is for us, about how real the danger is for me and my friends, what a fucked-up place campus can be, I would stand in line and volunteer my time until I absolutely can’t.
Someone said that I was taking sides. I would understand a fellow woman better than I can understand a man or better than a man would understand her thereby making me a better candidate and a closer one to help her. I was closer and at least mentally a bit more equipped to help that girl last year. I once had to sit next to another pregnant student in a taxi as a drunk man sitting on the seat behind us said all types of disgusting things to her. It hurt. I wasn’t the one being called a slut, I wasn’t the one pregnant but his words physically stung me like they were directed at me. I am more equipped and capable of helping another women with social stigma, emotional trauma, physical injuries….she might be facing as a woman because I have most likely gone through it myself.
Don’t mistake the fact that I wouldn’t let Mikias call me a feminist to mean that I can’t sympathize with women. Don’t mistake the fact that I defend men’s rights sometimes to mean I believe men to be correct all the time. Don’t mistake the fact that I genuinely sometimes can’t stand some of my female friends to mean that I will watch while she suffers.
If maybe that girl had talked to me or anyone willing about being pregnant, I’m sure there would have been a less traumatic way to deal with the situation. Girls are always being pressured into sex, or being bullied by other girls who think men will save them, or being sexually assaulted by neighbors, tutors, family members…. Because you see it in the movies, doesn’t make it fake. Just because you haven’t heard about it, doesn’t make it unlikely to happen. Because worse is happening in Japan and even in the rural parts of Ethiopia where they have never even heard of Facebook to read my post, it doesn’t mean I cannot help my Facebook friend who just might be going through something she didn’t have the courage to talk about.
I will not take back what I said because it made a couple of guys feel that I “sounded like a feminist” or it seemed unfair to you that I said I would help a woman.
I don’t want to be someone hiding behind a screen, fighting the war using social media. It’s not easy being a human in this age where you’re supposed mold yourself into something very weird to fit in, be an educated woman and be happy and still fail and then also worry about people pulling you down when you think you can try to save the world. I probably won’t save the world. But you cannot tell me that I can’t try.