A curious and exciting thing has happened in the wake of the horrible mass murder in Southern California over the weekend: women are speaking out. Women are telling their stories loud and clear over twitter. What are women talking about? The daily lived experience of sexism, misogyny, and the daily threat that women experience at the hands of men. One of the most startling and effective things about the twitter explosion of #YesAllWomen is that women have 142 characters to sum up some of the most fear-inducing, vile experiences of being a woman threatened. And the fact is, most women don’t need more than 142 characters to sum up an experience of sexual harassment, violence, rape, or other threats. Why? Because it happens with such startling regularity that we, as women are used to telling these stories. We throw them in as we’re meeting a friend for a drink. We greet our partners home from work with them. We exchange them with our female friends in round-robin. These stories are a constant staccato of our lives, and the brevity of the stories, and the vast number illuminate the ways in which our society is steeped in misogyny.
So #YesAllWomen because I interact with women at their most vulnerable on a daily basis, which puts me at the front lines for experiencing sexism through the eyes of every single one of my patients.
#YesAllWomen because your boyfriend should never threaten you if you terminate a pregnancy
#YesAllWomen because your partner doesn’t get to decide if you shave your pubic hair or not
#YesAllWomen because I am tired of having to find invisible methods of birth control that abusive partners can’t tamper with
#YesAllWomen because I shouldn’t have to have memorized the local domestic violence shelter number so I can quickly scrawl down for patients
#YesAllWomen because too many women come to me after being sexually assaulted for STD screening
#YesAllWomen because of too many red checked off boxes in my patients’ charts for “history of abuse”
#YesAllWomen because anti-choice protesters can legally harass me and my patients
#YesAllWomen because too many of my active duty patients have been assaulted by a fellow soldier and can’t tell anyone
#YesAllWomen because my male patients feel entitled enough to hit on me or make inquiries about my relationship status
#YesAllWomen because I’m tired of treating reinfections because a partner keeps exposing his girlfriend to STDs.
#YesAllWomen because my patients’ other doctors believe “women’s health” to be a specialty that they don’t have to study
#YesAllWomen because I’m tired of yelling at pharmacists who refuse to stock Plan B
#YesAllWomen because I never want to have to look a woman in the eye again and tell her that if she thinks she’s been raped, she has.
#YesAllWomen because I’m always terrified of the response I might get when I ask about fresh bruises during an exam.
#YesAllWomen because my patients feel ashamed at the number of sex partners they have had in the past year and lie to me, fearing judgement
#YesAllWomen because, “Well, he just won’t wear a condom when I ask,” should never be acceptable
#YesAllWomen because my patients live in a world where products to make their vaginas smell “more pleasant” give them infections, but they are still marketed anyway
#YesAllWomen because every single woman deserves a healthy, safe, loving life free from abuse, harassment, and fear, and all I know is I see far too little of the former and way too much of the latter in the women’s lives whom I care for.