We’re Still Not Talking Enough About the Cost Women Face When Men Use Abusive Language

Bethany Bannister
Jul 24, 2020 · 6 min read

The sweat was dripping off my body as I waited at the bus stop. Even though it was twilight, the Houston humidity isn’t learned enough to stop just because the sun is setting. I had my headphones on, trying to project an air of “leave me alone” that women are all too familiar with, out of survival. But, it was Houston. And I was dressed for summer.

Houston has not had an adequate investment in public transportation in decades. The bus stop was merely a pole, not even a bench to sit and wait at.

I was listening to music and focusing so hard on my book that I barely registered the honking of the horn. It did register, because when you’re a woman, you remain vigilant of your surroundings, out of survival. Another honk and then, the unintelligible shouting began from the left-hand turn lane. I wasn’t going to be able to pretend to ignore him for much longer.

I was thankful when the light turned green. I didn’t know what he wanted, but I really did not want to know.

Minutes passed and the same car pulled around, this time in the right lane, closer to the bus stop. When I wouldn’t respond to his request to acknowledge his presence or his motions to come closer to his car, to get into a vehicle with a strange man I did not know, he called me a “fucking bitch,” and drove off.

Because a woman who would rather be sweaty and arrive home safely than getting in a stranger’s car ending up who knows where was a bitch.

“I’d rather be a bitch than a Dateline story,” is a thought no woman should have within our advanced human experiment.

Years later, the property management company my home owner’s association contracted, announced that they were putting cameras up in the public areas in the neighborhood and our carports, by way of a flyer attached to my gate.

My parent’s owned the property, and even though I paid rent and my dad gave verbal and written authorization to allow me to communicate directly with the property management, I was not informed of regular meetings of the Board.

Once I got the notice, my security and privacy became a question that the men who desired the cameras had not considered. When they showed up to install the camera that would be mounted and give a vantage point of my carport and my back gate, I began to fight for that privacy. I asked the elderly white man who had turned up, never introducing himself, who would have access to the footage and he said, “well, I will,” as if this would placate me. When I further pressed for answers before opening up my storage unit on the property, I was told that either I was going to unlock the door or they were going to break the door down, but they were going to install the camera for my safety.

I asked about security training, gender and racial bias training for those having access to the cameras, only to be laughed at and further threatened with the forced removal of my door by the contractor standing beside this white man, neither of whom identified themselves, only to find out he was a board member of the home owner’s association. When he told me the police would have access to the cameras, alarm bells went off in my head, and I immediately called my Dad, the homeowner, and let him know.

It took weeks to get them to take down the camera they placed illegally on my property, but more importantly, the next time I saw the contractor, the only one the property management company hires to perform work on the property the association is responsible for, he called me a “fucking animal,” because questions of my safety caused him to lose time at work. I inconvenienced him. How dare I?

How dare she? Is a question that women are often faced with whenever we challenge anything.

Represenstative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives

When Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rose to speak two days after Representative Ted Yoho first accosted her, calling her disgusting, and then furthered his vitriol by calling her a “fucking bitch,” for her simply pointing out that he was being rude, she spoke for millions of women who have been accosted in such a fashion.

Then, a simple speech that should have heralded a victory on a two-day story, somehow got worse when mainstream media outlets NBC, USA Today, the New York Times, and many others led their stories by quoting Representative Ocasio-Cortez as saying, “I am someone’s daughter, too,” dismantling much of what she said into an applicable soundbite that belies almost her entire point.

Representative Ted Yoho delivers a non-apology apology for abusive language directed at fellow Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

For years now, when men have defended women from attacks, they have used another man to humanize us. Our humanity should not be determined by our relationship with a man. It should be enough that we are human and therefore should be free from experiencing abusive language from men. Representative Ocasio-Cortez makes this exact point when she said:

“I do not need Rep. Yoho to apologize to me. Clearly, he does not want to. Clearly, when given the opportunity he will not and I will not stay up late at night waiting for an apology from a man who has no remorse over calling women and using abusive language towards women.”

That most of the headlines refer to the Congresswoman as a “daughter,” and do not reference the fact that Representative Yoho used abusive language in his initial assault on her, his second assault, and in his non-apology apology is the problem. It doesn’t address the greater issue at hand, that women face daily.

Women take so much emotional energy just trying to decide whether fighting is worth the risk because often the man wins in the end. Worse, when we do, we often find our corner lacking male allies to help us further. These are the men that say they are for equal rights and that they are feminists, yet they allow abusive language in their presence. These are the men that tell us to, “let it go,” because their careers, their economic freedom isn’t on the line. These risks don’t affect their head of household status when it comes time for their reviews and raises.

Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s nearly 10-minute speech went viral for a reason. There wasn’t a woman I know that wasn’t virtually standing and applauding, having an ingrained understanding of her speech because we have all felt it before.

I felt it in that moment I refused to get into a man’s car, but more importantly, I felt it when a board member and a contractor knew I was the property owner’s daughter and still disrespected me.

Moving forward, all we can do is pick up the pieces and hope that things will get better, as they seem to do glacially. As of now, that, most of us have a clear understanding that even though “bitches get stuff done,” we also all pay a price. Until we are free from being someone’s daughter, wife, mother, and we are seen as human beings deserving of respect, things will never change.

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