Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post by Samantha Merrill is one of many powerful stories that have come out since the Isla Vista shootings. #YesAllWomen.
Note: Edited to add a TW for Domestic Violence.
I’ve been a proud, outspoken feminist for a long time now. I have no problem talking about the injustices women suffer on a daily basis. I add my voice so that maybe I can help make things a little better. I have never talked about my own experiences though. I have only made broad general statements about things that happen to everyone. The thought of talking about specific events that happened to me gives me a really uncomfortable feeling that itself is hard to talk about.
But now I think it is time. In the wake of the Isla Vista shootings so many women are finally stepping up to tell their stories. Collectively, we have decided to be louder.
I’m not going to go into great detail here, but I do want to talk about a specific instance, the memory of which was triggered by one of Elliot Rodger’s videos. Not the “Retribution” one where he announces his plans, but the one titled “Why Do Girls Hate Me So Much?” in which he lists all the things he does to appear more attractive to women. I once had someone say something very similar to me: He watched what he ate, he worked out, he dressed nice, he kept himself well groomed. All for me. All so that he looked good for me. So that when we walked down the street together, he would make me look good. He wanted me to be the envy of the town. Why couldn’t I do that for him? He deserved a girl that worked as hard as he did.
The sentiments differ. Rodger was expressing his entitled rich boy bewilderment. When it was said to me, it was to leverage some guilt. He wanted to control me and change me and this was one of the many tactics in his arsenal. There are many similarities though. Both men felt entitled to women’s bodies. They both felt they were owed something. They both thought they were magnificent. They were both terrifying.
Now, re-reading that, it seems concerning, but not overtly abusive. Certainly not terrifying. But that’s the thing about abuse—it starts off as micro-aggressions that seem maybe a little off but really not all that bad. It’s something you tell yourself you’re overreacting about. Nobody is abusive off the bat. Abusers lull their victims into trusting them, and then they pick at them, little by little, gaining momentum as they go.
It was no different for me. Little comments on my appearance turned into vehement disgust about my weight. He started to monitor what I ate and I was forced to spend an hour minimum at the gym daily. Once, I missed a day and was not allowed to sleep that night. He yelled at me until it was time for me to go to work in the morning. The next time I made a mistake, he screamed at me in a crowded coffee shop. The time after that I was allowed to go to bed after a few hours of yelling but I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of ragged breathing. Eventually I fell back asleep. In the morning I learned that he had been cutting himself next to me. He said it was my fault. I made him do it.
It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be blamed for someone else’s self harm. It’s sort of a twisting of the stomach mixed with disgust and terror and worry and self-loathing. Even now, years later I can feel it.
For a while, I didn’t even think what I had been through would be considered abuse. Society raised me to believe that my place was lower than that of a man. He had every right to treat me like that because, as a woman, my worth depended on how well I could compliment a man, and clearly I was doing a terrible job of that so I deserved what I got. That is why Elliot Rodger terrifies me so much. He was an exaggerated example of society’s hatred of women.
This needs to change. I am not a lesser being. My purpose is not to be someone else’s accessory. I am angry for how I’ve been treated. I am angry for those who have suffered worse for nothing more than having been born female. I am through with being polite and ignoring micro aggressions. I will not be quiet.
Author’s Information: Samantha Merrill is a feminist in her mid 20’s living in Maine. Her passions include art, astronomy, robotics and taxidermy. Follow her on tumblr: http://sensualcheezewhiz.tumblr.com