Sometimes I find myself reading an article online, or participating in a conversation in real life, and I just get kind of fired up about the topic. I've got a passion for the truth. I want to know what's fact, I want to know what's right and real. If I'm wrong about something, I want to know. Basically, just give me all the information.

I feel like there are so many misconceptions, and myths all over the internet and media, preaching misinformation, and leaning on stereotypes and old-fashioned ideas.

So, these are just a few things I have to say about frustrating misconceptions I've come across regarding feminism, rape culture, domestic violence, and women in general. (Obviously some of these things can apply to men as well, and that is just as important. I'm focusing on women because it's clearly the majority.)

What we need to understand about feminism:

Feminism is a word that seems to confuse a lot of people. There are tons of conflicting ideas about what it really means to be a feminist. And I think the best way to explain what feminism is, is by first clearing up what it isn't.

Feminism isn't about hating men, politics, religion, thinking women are superior, or victimizing women for their own gain.

Here's another helpful reference. You can be feminist and:

  • own a gun
  • hate guns
  • dress conservatively
  • dress provocatively
  • shave your legs (and other stuff)
  • not shave your legs (or other stuff)
  • be an atheist
  • be a christian
  • be agnostic
  • be literally any other religion or belief system
  • be pro-life
  • be pro-choice
  • be any gender
  • be any sexuality
  • be pretty much any human being at all

Everybody deserves the right to express themselves however they see fit.

Feminism is about empowerment. All they want, is rights for women, equality, and freedom. Although, this typically begs the question, should everyone be a feminist? The answer is ultimately up to you. But at the end of the day, no matter what you believe, you can do so without putting down another set of beliefs you don't agree with, and that's important to keep in mind.

What we need to understand about domestic violence:

Another more troubling issue with just enough misconceptions to make me want to punch a wall, is domestic violence. When it comes to DV, victim blaming is rampant. There are so many cases all over the news, including Ryan Phillipe, Nick Gordon, and countless others. Whether you are a celebrity, or a citizen, no one is safe.

People are always too quick to ask "why didn't she just leave?" instead of asking, "why did he treat her that way?" or "why isn't that guy in prison?" We look at the victim and ask what they could have done differently to avoid being assaulted.

And sure, we should protect ourselves, and I'll get more into that later, but instead of focusing on what the victim "did" to be assaulted (or what they did afterward, i.e. stay with them), why don't we focus on why they were assaulted in the first place?

Spoiler Alert: the problem is always the abuser, never the abused.

And I think what people really fail to realize, is how strong manipulation can be, how deep words can go, and how someone can make a person believe whatever they want, no matter how untrue it is. If you haven't experienced it, it's hard to understand.

Abusers are not limited to physical violence.

Verbal abuse is much more common, and all too real. They tell them they deserve to be hit, or abandoned, or alone. They tell them they have to put up with the name-calling and threats because they are failures, stupid, ugly, and don't deserve anything good. That no one else in this world could ever love them, everyone they know actually hates them, and they have nowhere to go but here, with them. They tell them they are useless. And when that's the only voice you hear, it's nearly impossible to think anything else.

They can make their victims feel crazy, doubt themselves, doubt their friends and family, doubt everything.

A girl isn't crazy or stupid for staying. Brainwashing is real, and manipulation is overwhelming.

As a crisis intervention specialist at a DV shelter for women, I had to listen and document story after story, assault after assault. And the recurring theme, is always manipulation. Verbal abuse has the ability to cut deeper than physical abuse ever could. To destroy the mind is to destroy a person.

To wrap up my point here, when it comes to domestic violence, I just think it would be awesome to see more compassion, and less victim blaming. You never know what someone is truly going through.

What we need to understand about sexual assault:

Lastly, and most frustratingly, I need to make this last point. Here's the thing, no matter what the circumstance: it takes a rapist to rape. There is nothing a rape victim could do that would make it her fault. Maybe she was in a bad situation, maybe she got really drunk, but at the end of the day, if a rapist isn't there to rape her, she's not getting raped. It's just that simple.

Of course, we need to be smart, we need to be prepared, we need to be aware of our surroundings. The world isn't perfect, and it would be naive to think we can do whatever we want without consequence.

We need to be smart, but that doesn't take the blame away from an awful person, and put it on an innocent woman (or man).

The monsters who take advantage of vulnerable women, these are the people we need to focus on, not the victim, not what she was wearing, not where she was, not the way she acted. If she didn't consent, if she said no, if she wasn't physically or mentally able to consent, it's not okay, and it never will be.

We can't look at victims and ask them why they were targeted, we need to look at the offender, and why they offended. What made them this way? What can we do to prevent this kind of thinking and behavior in the future, and for future generations?

And ask yourself this: would you blame a rich person for being robbed? If they drive a nice car, live in a nice house and wear nice clothes, would you say they are flaunting their wealth? Would you say, "Oh, well, did you see what he was wearing? He practically asked for it."

Anyone can be a victim, anyone can be used or taken advantage of. Everyone has the freedom to believe in what they want and to fight for their rights as human beings. It is impossible to truly understand another person's demons, so let's all have some compassion. Moving forward, I just ask that we all keep an open mind, and understand that everything, and everyone, is not always as they seem.

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