Today I came across a woman wearing this T-Shirt. Before I tell you about our interaction, I feel the need to talk a bit about my own feelings toward the shirt, and the sentiment that it expresses.
I understand that the intention is good. It’s kind of a silly joke, a pro-woman saying, “we don’t need men, we’re just as strong on our own,” and that’s completely true. Women can do literally anything that men can do, and should be able to do whatever they want.
The problem, for me, comes in the expression. The WAY the message is being carried out. Because the shirt isn’t saying, “Go women!” What’s it’s SAYING is, “Men are less than human!”
You can argue with me. You can disagree. But that’s what it’s saying. Literally, men, or “boys,” to try to put them down further, are “toys.” THINGS. To amuse yourself with. To have fun with sometimes. But not to take too seriously. Maybe even… to collect.
I’ve been raped. It took me a LONG time to be able to admit that. And I spent years feeling like I was, in fact, less than human. That I was useless, sexually. That men were terrible and that maybe I “deserved” it.
But let’s take a look at it in the reverse. Let’s say I’m wearing a shirt that says, “Girls R Toys!”
Doesn’t look good. In fact, I look like an asshole. Probably one of the lowest forms of people. Because, not only do I not respect women, I feel the need to put it on my shirt and wear it around. “Hey, ALL WOMEN, I think I’m better than you, and you’re nothing but objects to me.”
So I say to this woman, who has been complaining about how men don’t respect her or take her seriously, and how backwards people are in this part of the country, “maybe your shirt is attracting the wrong kind of guys. Maybe saying, ‘I don’t respect men’ is attracting the type of men who also don’t respect women.” And she laughed and said, “you’re probably right. But people tell me all the time how much they love it.”
And I went a little further. Probably crossing a line, but I was bothered. “I’ve actually been raped,” I said, “and this shirt is offensive to me.” Her response, “Oh, you too? I was raped when I was 15, that’s how I lost my virginity.”
And that’s terrible. That’s a horrendous story, and very sadly, one that I’ve heard FAR too many times. It’s sad to look at the world, and all of my friends, and say, “at least half of the women that I know have been raped.” That’s just not okay. But it’s a sad truth.
“That’s terrible,” I said. “I wish it on no one. I’m very sorry. As for everyone who ‘loves’ your shirt… well, like you said, people are backwards.” Her response: “Since I’ve always been mistreated, manipulated, used & abused by guys, I saw the shirt as more empowering than offensive like a laugh to their face, eye for an eye.”
Me: “I understand why you feel that way. And I understand that you feel vindicated and empowered by the message. But know that you’re hurting other men, and making them feel worthless. How would you feel if I had a shirt on that said ‘Girls R Toys!’ and then when you asked why, I said, ‘well, a girl raped me so now it empowers me to think of all women as less than human’?”
From this point, she got angry. “It’s okay for men to wear awful shirts but when I do it, it’s disrespectful?! You don’t get to judge me for what I wear!” And I pointed out that I was merely trying to point out a different point of view. That MAYBE we ALL need to treat each other with respect. That respect goes BOTH ways. That in order to GET respect… you have to GIVE it.
This is a small, tiny microcosm of the actual issue, which is that we’re living in a rape culture and most people are completely unaware. But the fact that this type of shirt is allowed is a major part of the problem. The fact that NO ONE sees the issue with declaring that all men are playthings, despite constantly calling out every day on twitter when someone says the same thing of women.
The truth is… IT’S NEVER OKAY. It’s not okay for men to degrade women. It’s not okay for women to put down men. It’s not okay to disrespect each other or degrade each other or any of the things that happen every single day. But we’re still living in a world where, if a man gets raped, people laugh at him. They say he’s lying. He’s making it up. They say it’s “impossible.” This woman heard me say, “I’ve been raped,” and she said, “get in line.” As if to say, “there’s no fucking hope for any of us, so why even try?”
And yes. I’m fighting an uphill battle. But I know that. I’m proud to be fighting for equality. I’m proud to be a feminist. I’m proud to be able to say, “let’s stop being assholes and just love each other for a change.”
And for the love of God, can we do something about these awful shirts?