My Wheel Life

The stories of how I got this way, and the motivations that keep me rolling.

Yes #YesAllWomen!

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Students walking in front of schoolI’m fascinated by people that commit murder. My husband already knows this because I look forward to watching Lester Holt explain murder mysteries on Dateline each weekend. And each time we watch an episode I can’t help but ask him the following questions:

So… do you think he/she is guilty?


At what point do you think he/she thought, ‘Yep, murder is the only viable option left. I’m going for it!’?

I can sense my husband is starting to find this routine irritating.

“Of course he/she is guilty. And why are you always surprised by this show?” he asks. “The same thing happens every time.”

“Technically it’s not the same type of murder every time,” I clarify, even though I understand his point. I simply cannot wrap my head around what it must take for someone to end another’s life, nevertheless when it comes to lovers. So this is usually when I remind Cory he’s lucky because besides the fact I find murder morally bankrupt and cowardly, the physical aspect of killing another person is too much for me. I can’t even do needles. (But who marries someone thinking one day they’re going to murder them? I mean it can’t be that many, right?)

For all of these reasons I found myself obsessed with reading Elliot Rodger’s 140-page Manifesto Saturday night. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit this and to further admit that I put aside my current Dateline episodes for the future Dateline episode happening  in real time, but I did. I had to. I couldn’t stop reading the twisted memoir of Elliot Rodgers written by Elliot Rodgers, not even after my husband begged me to stop and go to bed. I’ve truly never seen such narcissism and hate and the plotting of someone about to do something so terrible, and then know it’s a revenge that actually plays out in some degree. So I had to continue reading it all to try and make sense of any of it, except now I still can’t understand because it’s some twisted shit, and this coming from an avid Dateline watcher.

The following Monday morning I turned to Twitter to read Tweets with the hashtag YesAllWomen, a social media reaction to the tragedy in the format of an open discussion. In just 140-words or less, women of all races, shapes and sizes, came together to share convicting stories of gender discrimination, even rape. One hour of Tweets in, I felt horrified for my gender. Specifically at the comment that gender discrimination and harassment happens to every woman. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

Had gender discrimination happened to me? I sat there and really thought about it. Had I been harassed, mistreated, or even taunted by a man before? Strangely, I couldn’t think of a single time. So I turned to my husband and said, “I’m not sure I can relate to any of these women. I grew up in households where women were strong and in control of the family business, the family, everything and anything really. I’m trying to think of one time I’ve encountered unfair treatment by a man and I can’t.”

“What are you talking about?” my husband retorted quickly. “You were harassed less than a week ago in Chicago when that guy asked if you could have children and if you could ‘feel down there.'”

His comment caused me to sit way back in my seat. He was right. SHIT.

I had been looking at my phone when a sluggish, middle-aged man approached me at a Chicago “L” train stop and said, “Excuse me. Hi. Are you by yourself?”

“No, I’m just waiting on my husband,” I answered. Cory had gone back to the hotel to grab our bags while I remained at the closer station to the airport. I was running low on wheelchair battery power.

“Can you have children?” the man continued.

“Yes,” I replied, looking him in the eye and now also gaging my surroundings because, you know, just in case.

“So you CAN you feel down there?” he proudly stated, a flippant comment stuck somewhere in between a statement and a question.

I let his curiosity linger in the air for a few long seconds. It had taken him fifteen seconds to approach a subject that’s taken me a decade to confide in my best girlfriends. And I didn’t know how to answer the question, nor did I want to, but I felt not answering the question would cause him to hover longer.

“Yes, I can. But the sensations are different of course since my body is paralyzed,” I replied, hoping this answer would make him leave.

It didn’t.

The man continued to inquire about the history of my disability and out of obligatory social responsibility that sometimes comes with being a wheelchair user I obliged. He must have sensed Cory’s presence because it was just a minute before my husband’s arrival that he finally left. And when I told Cory what had just happened his eyes widened and his head shook in disgust. It was only by his reaction did I truly realize how inappropriate the man’s encounter had been. Even sadder, it only took six days before I repressed this memory completely.

I continued to look at Cory completely bewildered. Now that he had reminded me of the Chicago encounter, memories were resurfacing and resurfacing fast. I thought of all the times I’ve wrapped my arm around the cane of my wheelchair to protect my purse. And then the time I didn’t expect to get the job because it was a male-dominated industry (but then I did! And everyone was shocked, and my friends and I celebrated because we had already planned to celebrate my defeat). I started thinking about how my girlfriends and I have always traveled in groups because there is strength in numbers. And then I thought of the worse thing–I thought about how I’m scared to death to have a daughter because I’m not sure I feel equipped to teach her the dangers of our society, and just in case it does happen I think about what it was my mother did so that I made it through most of my life without too much discrimination, and how I can only hope I pinpoint what my mother did so that I can share it carefully with the next generation of women.

Yikes. Gender discrimination has happened to me, and continues to happen on a daily basis.

This is why the #YesAllWomen discussion is important. I have become so good at battling the world as a woman I don’t even notice the blatant equality of it all. So thank you to all the women who have taken the time to share their stories so that I could remember mine. I’m hopeful that these same women are the one’s that take great care in shaping the minds of next generations. After all, we women have the power to do that.

PS. To the man in the Chicago, excuse me… but fuck you. You have no business asking about my vagina.

Posted Tuesday, May 27th, 2014 in My Wheel LifeTags:

2 Responses to “Yes #YesAllWomen!”

  1. Gerri Helms says:

    That sucks. That totally sucks. If I were with you, I’d have punched that man ‘down there’ and see if he could feel it.

    That’d fixed him, eh?

    I’m sorry you went through that, Jana.

  2. Cheryl Bianchi says:

    there is the blatant which is much easier to get outraged over and there is the insidious, constant little shit…and when one responds to it we get grief for being too sensitive or making a stink over nothing…i mean, what’s the big deal?? it is just so deeply embedded in our culture…in media, advertising, music, hiring practices, medical research, social interactions, on and on…i feel we must continue to chip away (or sledgehammer away) at this by educating our sons and daughters, choosing political leaders responsive to this issue, voting with our pocketbooks, speaking out and standing up. i don’t consider myself particularly delicate about gender issues, i make bad non-PC jokes and many, many times out of ‘politeness’ let things slide but it really is a disservice to all to not call it. when i was younger i was considered pretty good looking and was in a business where the barrage of inappropriate behavior was part + parcel … after a while you actually don’t even register the insult to one’s humanity…we can’t get comfortably numb. how dare this guy approach you like this…ugh

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