Maybe when you were six, skipping rope, a stranger showed you a part of himself you should never have seen. Maybe when you were eleven, one of the uncles who sat around your dinner table touched you in places you didn’t even know you had.
Maybe when you were fourteen, Love’s Baby Soft and Sweet Valley High, a group of guys screamed whore as you stood by your locker, even though you’d never kissed a boy.
Maybe when you were fifteen, on your first date, he groped you in the backseat until you were pressed so far agains the door the handle left marks on your skin.
Maybe when you were seventeen your boyfriend slapped you across the face because you didn’t pick up the phone when he called.
Maybe you laughed it off. Maybe you thought you deserved it. Maybe you just got on with it.
Maybe when you were eighteen your friend’s boyfriend cornered you at a party and grabbed your breasts, squeezing hard enough to leave bruises on your skin. Maybe when you were twenty-one the guy who promised to get you home safely raped you instead.
Maybe you told. Maybe you didn’t. Maybe they called you a liar. Maybe you learned it wasn’t worth it, it didn’t matter, it wasn’t important.
Maybe you learned this is what the world is like and in order to live in it, you have to get used to it.
Maybe now you’re a grown up. Maybe you’re forty or fifty or sixty and your life has been filled with men who take what they want, even when it hurts. Maybe it’s all you know. Maybe the men in your world toss around words like pussy and c*nt and leer at young waitresses and brush a bit too close to your teenager daughter’s skin. Maybe they alk about women like they’re nothing more than holes to fuck. Maybe your son comes home and tells you another kid on the football team was bragging about getting a blow job before the game and the coach laughed and laughed…before he encouraged him to make sure it happened again.
Maybe, to you, this is the truth. Maybe it’s all you’ve ever known. Maybe this is the world you live in.
There are a thousand maybes.
Maybe you think things have gone too far.
Maybe you think it’s no big deal if boys cop a feel or pressures a girl into sex, and why are we making such a big deal about this anyway? Maybe you think this is how boys are and that in this world it’s a girl’s responsibility to avoid getting raped. After all, what did she expect?
Because maybe that’s what happened to you. Or maybe not.
Maybe any or all those things or none of these things are true.
Maybe that’s your world. Maybe you’re ok with it.
Maybe I don’t want to live in that world.
Maybe I don’t want to live in a world where girls have to hide their bodies or run in packs like wolves just to use the toilet. Maybe I don’t want to live in a world where unless a woman gives in and puts out she’s got to choose between keeping her job, or her reputation, or even the breath in her lungs.
Maybe I don’t want to live in a world where some girls are scared to talk about what happened to them, where they’re called a slut or a whore and run out of town for doing nothing wrong. Maybe I don’t want to live in a world where when a girl or a woman is hurt, the first reaction is to laugh or find a way to make it her fault.
Maybe that’s the way it’s always been. Maybe it’s easier to lie down and let it wash over you like a thunderstorm.
Maybe I will fight that notion tooth and nail every, single step of the way.
Maybe you feel a man’s not a real man unless he’s dragging you by the hair to his den. Maybe you think boys don’t know any better, or that men can’t help themselves. Maybe you think men shouldn’t have to live in a world where they carefully weigh what they have to say, or do, when they are around women.
Maybe I’ll never change your mind.
Maybe I’ll never, ever go away.
Maybe I don’t want to live in a world where ten year-olds are married off or can’t go to school because they can’t afford a maxi-pad. Maybe I don’t want to live in a world where a woman who gets a meaty fist to the eye socket blames herself. Or a woman who falls in love with the wrong guy worries he’s going to kill her because if he can’t have her, no one can. Maybe I don’t want to live in a world where a man convicted of rape gets no jail time because twenty minutes of action should not ruin his life.
Maybe I will fight you every step of the way.
Maybe I will make you uncomfortable. Maybe I will make you question the world you live in. Maybe I will never accept this is the way it has to be. Maybe I will not let you just go on your way. Maybe I will not agree to disagree or let it go.
Maybe we’re going to lose this battle. And the next one. And the one after that.
Maybe you’ll laugh at the women who retreat to lick their wounds. Maybe you’ll mock them. Maybe when the men in your world do it you’ll tell yourself it’s no big deal.
Because maybe, that’s the world you live in.
I will fight against that world, every step of the way.
No maybe there.
This story is up over at Medium, where I’ve been posting some of my work not related to parenting and expats. But today I needed to write to work through the cascade of flotsam and jetsam coursing through my veins. This was the result. You can “applaud” the story by using the link.