Hannah Betts is many things: Hollywood stuntwoman, professional skydiver, powerful voice for change.
Content Warning for discussion of rape.
This episode covers A LOT, so who is it for?
First things first, when we say “women” or “woman” in this episode (and anytime, really), we are using an inclusive version of the word that includes our trans sisters, NB folks, and anyone who identifies as a woman or with womanhood. We’re not only talking about those who feel aligned with the gender they were assigned at birth.
This episode is for every single woman who has ever wondered, “AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO’S EVER FELT THIS?”
This episode is for every person who has felt that twinge of discomfort in their gut/heart/brain when a woman has unapologetically shared her lived experience. That moment of “yeeaaaaaaah but maybe she’s exaggerating a bit”. If you’ve ever felt that, and we all have, this episode is for you.
This episode is for any woman who has had to scan the environment they are currently existing in for potential threats.
This episode is for any woman who has a “what if shit goes down” plan – the plan that keeps you safe/alive in case you are attacked, followed, harassed, raped, etc.
Either way, watch with caution – I think we have whiplash from our aggressive head-nodding on this episode.
IN THIS EPISODE:
– Sydney opens with how Hannah helped her through one of the most difficult experiences of her life, and why supporting other women is absolutely necessary
– Hannah talks about her career path from Volunteer English Teacher abroad to her current gig, Hollywood stuntwoman
– “Men are confident until proven otherwise, women aren’t confident until they prove they are able to be confident”
– For female skydivers: “You have the right to be here and not be treated as an accessory to the dropzone” (and as Jess points out, this applies to literally everyone, not just skydivers!)
– Hannah talks about a recent harassment situation – what happened in the moment, and what happened when she shared that lived experience on Facebook
– Why victims of harassment/sexual assault often don’t speak up: “The same oppression that causes the incident is thrown straight back at us [when we speak up/out]”
– Defense Plans & Paranoia: Damned if we do, damned if we don’t
– How good men fall short: Fortunately/unfortunately they are so far removed from the vile behavior of other men that they don’t believe that kind of behavior is even possible
– Victim blaming: what they [blamers] don’t realize is that we [the victims] have an entire lifetime of conditioning that led us to this situation & helped us internalize the trauma
– And, of course, we discuss strategies to bring us to solutions faster in this area.
– Hannah Betts
– sometimes on the dropzone at Skydive Perris
– but mostly being a badass in these films: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6210923/
– watch her stunt reel – https://vimeo.com/216753009
Unfuck Yourself Show Season One Episode Seven
Jess: Welcome to episode 7 of Unfuck Yourself, the show about reclaiming you. I’m Jess.
Sydney: And I’m Sydney. We are here with our good friend Hannah Betts. Holy shit.
Sydney: Hannah is going to be talking about being a woman in male-dominated sports, work environments and all of it. One of the things in keeping that topic in mind is normally I let guests introduce themselves and I will let Hannah introduce herself, but I wanted to set up how Hannah helped me with being a woman in a male dominated sport which was also my workplace. I got to have all of that wrapped up in one.
In 2014, I had just come out of my first year as a competitive skydiver and she taught me how to fly like a badass which is pretty rad and my boss, who was on my team as a coach, and was my mentor in this sport, and was my boss. I found out that he was charged with two counts of rape with his 14-year-old niece. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew exactly what I wanted to do– and that’s what I did.
In the interim, I was starting to connect dots, thanks to Hannah’s help. She helped me process this. I remember very distinctly when I was like ‘Not anymore. This is it.’ I was sitting in my car parking lot of where I worked at and I was talking to Hannah and she was explaining how basically everything I had been told for the last three years was to breed me into thinking I was a very shitty human being and I started to understand what gaslighting was when I was going through it.
We wrapped up that conversation and then I walked into the office and I cried I said, “I as a woman cannot be here to clean up this mess. Regardless of whether this allegation is true, I won’t be here. I serve as your PR and marketing person and it will affect the business. I will not be here to clean up that mess. I’m out. I’ll give you until the end of the year but right now I can’t do it.’ When I think about feminism, when I think about being a woman in a male-dominated work place, I think about November 11th, 2014 with Hannah in my car getting the courage to stand up. Now Hannah Betts. Welcome to the show.
Hannah: I am very happy to be here. What you guys are doing is awesome. I am happy you thought of it.
Sydney: So, tell us about you. We have introduced you to our community as an English teacher– a broad term. You have got a crazy path– we would love to hear.
Hannah: I think all my life has been in stages so I guess volunteering as a teacher, travel, working around the world. I then did my associates degree in outdoor education and sport psychology. I worked for kids in personal development programs and working in the outdoors with them. Randomly, I was a police officer for 4 years which was when I started skydiving because I needed something else and that was when I got the opportunity to train fulltime on a British skydiving team which turned me into an instructor and coach. I worked with a lot of military groups and training special forces. That’s what also broke me into my current main job which is a stuntwoman, which is super normal, right? That’s me in a nutshell. Drinking coffee.
Sydney: Jess, do you have anything coming off of Hannah’s introduction?
Jess: I’m processing all of the different stages.
Hannah: It is always stages but each one leads to the next one, almost like it was a training ground for the next career which I find interesting. I like that about this one.
Jess: The name of our show is Unfuck Yourself and each of these stages that you have been through and currently in– what do you feel like you have been unfucking right now, or in the industry right now?
Hannah: Being able to be woman in a massively male-dominated field is just interesting that I have always ended up in huge male dominated field where the women are an absolute minority. Being around women, I love women. I am a woman’s gal. I surround myself with douche men which seems counterintuitive.
Looking back from when I started in these fields, before I realized I’ve been conditioned to take a whole heap of crap and be treated differently because of my gender, it is interesting to look back from the beginning until where I am now slowly awakening to just awkwardly laugh at things have been said to me or the way I have been treated– it’s just horrifying. Now I am at this place where I am happy to stand up for myself and stand up for other women and encourage other women to do that to be stronger and to have way more confidence in yourself. That’s a huge thing.
I still struggle with this a lot– and people would be surprised– but I am not that confident at all. I really struggle with self-confidence but back in the day, it was terrible. That was super hard because I was surrounded by all these dudes that had this exuberant confidence but I didn’t realize it was based upon nothing. It was based upon the world and they are confident until proven otherwise. For me and for other women, you are not confident until you have proven yourself to be able to be confident. I have been slowly shifting that so other women can see that as well, if that made sense. Stop me if I’m rambling.
Jess: That makes perfect sense. Sydney has said that to me a couple of times if I get into that space of not fully trusting myself. She would say, “What would a mediocre white woman do?” I’m like, “Oh, okay.”
Hannah: I can’t tell you how many times it has suddenly dawned on me to just be like,” Oh, I have the confidence of an average white man. It just must be amazing to be in that world.” That’s a huge thing. It was so bad back in the day when I started coaching– this was me coming back after a world championship– I knew my shit. But now, I understand that I am a very good coach and I am happy to say that out loud. I am a very good instructor and coach and I get results.
When I started, I was just terrified. I would be coaching them and instructing them and they would be looking at me stone-faced. My first reaction was in my head as I am watching them, “Oh my god. They aren’t going to pay me because they hate this so much. They are not talking and they are stoned-faced.” Turns out what it was at the end of the day was ‘You were so mind-blowingly good that we were just absorbing what you were saying at some point. Sorry if we zoned out on you. There was so much to take in.” But my reaction was that they hate me and that they are going to tell everybody that I’m shit and I am never going to work again and they aren’t going to pay me and I am wasting my time of day.
Things like that– the more that I have noticed that I have leaped to that conclusion initially, I am slowly trying to break that mold. If I do fuck it up and I am shit for one day, that’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. If I fail and bad at something for once– people do that all the time. It’s taken me a long time to start to have an ‘I got this.’ philosophy. And if I don’t, I’ll figure it out. It’s okay.
Sydney: That’s a big one.
SELF-CONFIDENCE AS A WOMAN
Hannah: That’s huge. All the time. That’s what is so hilarious. A lot of people see the job you do and they associate it with not being scared and not being afraid of anything. I’m scared all the fucking time of everything I do. I just do it anyway. But I’m always scared and nervous. But I have learned that you just have to do it. The fears are probably not going to go away and that’s what drives you sometimes. So, it’s okay to be scared and worry.
Sydney: So, a little bit of unfucking fear and powering through that.
Sydney: Unfucking self-confidence by giving yourself more of it.
Hannah: A little bit. There’s a whole to saying, ‘Fuck it.’ and just diving in. That’s coming from some women– and this is not all women, there are some badass women who have never had these confidence issues and have that right kind of nurturing and just charged, which I think is wonderful– but I think on a whole if you compare men and women you definitely see that self-worth issue where girls have way more questions than guys ever do.
It is because we are constantly told throughout our life that we shouldn’t be really dipping our toe in this field and that we are not good enough and that it is really about what the fun little pretty girl is doing. As I have slowly broken away from that and stood my ground on most things, I have become labeled as more of a troublemaker, opinionated and all that. I will happily take on those labels if it makes other people’s lives easier in the long run. But that’s the confidence side. And then there’s just dealing with the plain old sexism–
Sydney: One of the things that I think is interesting particularly in skydiving– and I think skydiving in a sense is an interesting representation of society in that there’s so few females that you have to put on a different face to survive there. I think if I started skydiving now, knowing what I know and speaking as freely as I do, thanks to the situations that happened in 2014, I don’t know how that would land with people and I don’t care.
For women who are new to skydiving or new to male dominated fields, what are some of the ways you seen that are helpful in helping them understand these issues actually affect them? It is really easy to play the cool girl and be like ‘I don’t do drama.’ and remove yourself from what it means to be a woman-sisterhood and put that down. Where it is easier to be one of the guys instead of finding a community of women to be supportive of each other. Do you have any thoughts or have you had any conversations with younger women that helps them see that? Or work through that?
Hannah: That’s a huge one. The fitting in a guy’s world is huge. That took me a long time to realize that was what I was doing. Initially, I was like, ‘I’m super cool. I’m kicking it. I’m doing stuff for women.’ But what I realized is that I was working in a man’s field and I was doing it but at the same time I was laughing at really inappropriate comments and being super offended by the way I was being treated, doing the job quite often and not getting the recognition for it. Being spoken of and not listened to and not doing anything about it and not standing my ground. I was breeding this place of ‘Women are allowed to do the job but we have to fit in the criteria of doing it and not having to change the way that they think do or act about things.
When I realized that was happening, I looked around the zones, and people are surprised when I say that skydiving only makes up 10-12 percent worldwide of females. You see a lot of women but it is only some women. You assume that it is super equal because women are doing things that men are doing. No, it’s not. We are only 10 percent. There is not a lot of us there. It varies from drop zone to drop zone, attitude to attitude and the age of the skydivers. There is this unspoken, oppressive dirty old man sexist joke that young women commit to and they feel as if they are lucky enough to be joining this world. So, I’m here and I’m doing it right now. God forbid if I stand in a circle why we skydive and say, “Could you not say that about my ass when I am trying to figure out this move?”
When I hear or see something that is inappropriate, I always stand up for that woman for sure. Quite often, I think we are so condition to take it onboard that it’s when someone stands up for you it’s like,” Fuck yeah. That’s horrible.” I don’t want to feel like this is going to happen every time I do a certain thing, or if I walk through the drop zone someone is going to tell me to smile– even though I smile all the fucking time and the two seconds I don’t that happy face. That is a long-winded answer but I’m trying to let women know that you have the right to be here and you have the equal way and not be treated like you are an accessory to the drop zone.
I think that’s the way it makes it pretty– We’ve got girls to hang out with. I know some people are going to be freaking out with what I am saying and it is a sweeping generalization– there are obviously sometimes and some places and some people with a lot of men that are awesome. But every time I am on the hole and I am in the drop zone, I could write a book about something sexist that is said or underhand or based upon how I look instead of what I have done and what I have achieved. I can see it with young girls turning up as well. I’ve never said that before but it is the accessory feeling. We have to encourage women to say, “You are allowed to be here in a space that is equal too.” I don’t know if I answered your question.
Sydney: I think the answer to the question was the way you bring it back to how we have to stand up for these women in these spaces in those situations– those little seeds get planted and you start noticing stuff in life and it can go around. One of the things I am seeing and now I am almost three years removed from my time in the sport which is fucking crazy to be thinking about, it feels like it is very much like high school where I haven’t found an environment when I was in this sport where I felt uplifted and empowered. I saw from our coaching relationship that was the closest thing I had. That’s why I left because I didn’t have that support and I didn’t feel like this was a place I could grow. It was not a challenge professionally in that career.
Hannah: It is in some ways a tough environment to be around– I felt the same thing. The thing that got me nourishment was the team that I was training– that was my goal. I have blinkers on. I didn’t realize what the rest of the team was in. I was in straight competitor mode and I blocked out most of the stuff. When I started working fulltime in it, I started seeing a lot more going on– I had something really important to say and I just forgot about it. It is definitely a sense of environment and skydiving comes with a lot of escapism as well and I do think it attracts–everyone says that we all do come from different walks of life and that we are a diverse family– it is not that much. Everybody has really similar attitudes, I think.
Just because we have different jobs and different ages, I see a theme in skydivers and I think it is a hard environment to be around if you don’t have the skills or the power– the power is a big one–to stand up for yourself. This was what I was going to bring up– I stand up for people. I don’t give a shit. I’m at that place where I am happy to speak out and not worry about any of the consequences. I think when you are in a new environment and you are trying something and it is already terrifying. It is terrifying to learn how to skydive. Like can you not make a comment about my boobs and my jumpsuit when I am trying to go and skydive?
Jess: It is interesting to me that I didn’t know how much this conversation would actually resonate with me like life experience wise and yet whatever you have said it is like, ‘I know that one.” It is just every day and everywhere. You have these very specific examples, which is great and we need the majority of women can sit there and say, “I know that one– that exact experience.”
Hannah: Completely. I can carbon copy what has happened to me working on the set of Warner Bros studios to buying apples at the supermarket. It is just a template of the same thing. It is just sometimes it is in your face a little bit more because you are such a minority that it is harder to have a voice. You have to challenge more people and there are less people to stick up for you. There is people of your gender to be there for you. But it is the same shit. It is just different places.
Sydney: Hannah posted something– by the time this will air it will be last week– about how she was at the airport and I was behind her and I recognized her from the front in the morning– do you want to tell that story about what happened? About how people questioned your lived experience? Jess hit on something important and something that I see time and time again. Most of our episodes have been for an audience of people who are coaches and activists and the guests we have had reflect that. Everything they have been saying– some of the language has been a little above people who might not be in the activism space.
I think what you are talking about it a great way to support what is the large conversation about how fucked up this is and some real practical and obvious every day stories. I would like to talk about when you post stuff, just men come rushing in to tell you how to fix it, tell you how to make it better, question your intentions. You could post about how you are on your period and a guy could say, “I have a better solution. Let me tell you about these tampons or something.” Legitimately, every single time you post someone does that.
Hannah: It’s unfathomably amazing. So, what happened was last week– I would like to preface this as this is not a super unusual thing and every woman I know has had at least one of these similar experiences in the last month, 6 months, week, or day. This is not an uncommon thing. I stood not even close to the line of people at Southwest. I was on the other side of the walkway because I wasn’t ready to board yet. I was looking down at my phone like this with my headphones like this in my own space. A guy comes up to me. He said something and I didn’t hear him so I pull my headphones out. He asks me if I am on the flight that way.
I thought I was about to miss it or I’ve missed it so I said “Oh, yeah I am.” He said he recognized me this morning and that I am on that flight. I was like, “Oh, cool.” He just stood there silently for a second. It wasn’t like we had a conversation to talk about and I was about to get back to my thing and then he looked at me and said, “You have a scar on your right ankle, right?” That’s when I thought to myself ‘Fuck me.’ I do have a scar on my right ankle which I completely forgot about. I went, “Yeah. you’re observant.” He’s like, “Yeah. That’s what I do.” So, I was like nice to meet you. He didn’t go away. It was one of those awkward, asking me very specific questions that just wasn’t a conversation starter. I felt so uncomfortable already. I’m a grown ass woman. I know the difference of when a guy is having a normal, non-intentional, non-motivational non-weird conversation.
Believe it or not, I have had some very nice pleasant conversations with men at airports before. I have not assumed that they want to get my insides and skin me. I am very aware of when someone is having a pleasant conversation or when something is fucking off. You guys might not know that because it is not your reality and you don’t deal with it every fucking week of your life. I can tell you right now that it was weird and it got weirder to the point he just went, “Where do you live?” I went ‘Ha-ha.’, put my earphones in and walked away
. It bugs me because wherever I sat I would turn around and he was just staring at me. It was horrible. I just felt violated and it sucked. It just makes me want to cry. When I get on the plane, I’m hoping that he doesn’t end up sitting next to me. I invite a large group of people to sit next to me and I told him, “I’ll take the middle seat so that you can have space.” I probably would have done it anyway because it was a short flight. But when I am getting off, I watched him– I made sure I was directly behind him at a distance, so I’m just slowing down, looking around everywhere. I’m sure he wanted to talk to me again but it was just annoying.
So, I post about that thing– the ‘oh you have a scar on your right ankle’– slightly in jest, slightly in making an awareness of this is our reality and shit. But then I get a mixture of responses– some very understanding and wonderful but the most common thing I get is that I am told that I am wrong. I shouldn’t be making a fuss. What should I expect? I didn’t understand the guy’s intentions. These are people here and that I should be lucky that I wasn’t physically, sexually assaulted.
Sydney: God forbid, you just want to travel in peace.
Hannah: It is hilarious. Not only did I get a mixture of response, but I ended up feeling more violated at the end of the post because one particular, delightful man was talking specifically three posts about ’What was your fuss about? Did he rub his hairy arm up against you? Did he breathe on your neck when you were in line? Was he counting freckles on your neck? Did he sit next to you?” I was personally offended and very specific about what this man should have done that I could have been upset about.
It was really odd and horrible in the sense that I shouldn’t have been making a fuss. And then another student I don’t even remember was like, “I remember that scar. It was sexy as hell.” I had a shit afternoon. That one got me. It made me cry. I was so exhausted. I messaged Sydney and I didn’t have to say anything anymore and she basically knows that I was posting something on Facebook some pretty infuriating responses there. What was very wonderful is that she posted a very succinct comment about this pattern of the people that feel like they should insert themselves in the conversation– a funny dismissive comment have the tendencies in them that I am particularly calling out in men.
You need to recognize that if I am not mentioning your name, it’s not about you. Just listen to what I am saying and if you don’t believe me then don’t comment about it. What was wonderful was that I was feeling so frustrated so why do we bother? So, I wake up in the morning and I see that Jess commented and Sydney’s comment had 27 likes. It had a real impact on other women and she did it so succinctly that she gave 27 people that liked it real tools and real verbiage to remember these dialogues to educate people. It is so important that we do that for our friends. It is important that we take on each other’s fights because shit that happened to me yesterday happens all the time– some on much more horrifying levels, some on more subconscious levels. Admit it.
It is unfair and oppressive. Men don’t know that this is happening all the time because we don’t talk about it. We don’t talk about it because of what happened yesterday– when I spoke about it the people that think that I am a fucking badass and end up being blown off buildings ended up fat and crying in my car before I could drive home. That’s why we don’t talk about it. That’s why I did talk about it. My friends came to the rescue. I woke up today and I didn’t regret posting it. I made a difference. It was horrible. I didn’t die. It is okay. But there is that cycle of why we don’t talk about it. When we talk about it we are told that we are wrong. That same oppression causes the incident of why we want to talk about it and have it thrown straight back at us. It is horrible. That’s what happened yesterday.
Jess: I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had a similar experience. When you started telling this, you were like ‘Yeah, everybody has had that experience.” I know that is similar.
Hannah: I know that it’s not just something like that. I can list names of women I know that their first sexual experience was rape or abuse or domestic value. It is so much more common than you think it is. So, when we do post it because it is a rarity for them to hear it in such an honest way. They think it is a one off and that we should be like, “Oh those guys are idiots. We should just ignore it.” I get that a lot. But it is like ‘Hey. Look at this guy’s comment.’ They say you should ignore that but it is not just that one guy.
There are a lot of idiots out there and no I don’t want to ignore it because you think I only have to ignore it this one time. This is the first time I have spoken about it. It is very hard to ignore it when it happens on a weekly basis. So many dudes don’t know it because it is not the reality that they live in and they struggle so much to understand that we have it so much worse than them on a daily basis.
DEFENSE PLAN & PARANOIA
Jess: I’m connecting a bunch of different dots so forgive me if this totally comes out convoluted, but I am thinking about how every woman I know intimately has a self-defense plan of how they walk through the world. If they walk at night, they take a dog. If they walk in a public space, we scan the room. Who do we need to keep an eye on? All these very honestly awful measures we have to take because of our experience over and over again has shown us that if we don’t take those measures things can change drastically. These seemingly little things — a guy who is overly familiar– if you give them an inch, they take two miles.
That overly familiar conversation comes something way worse. We know it is coming. The fear is there. We have been through it and it’s like we are on constant high alert for the next time that someone is going to take advantage of us.
Sydney: All the time. Every single fucking time. Even when I am with Barry. When I go to concerts, I’m always constantly scanning. I don’t know these people are. I don’t know what they are about. I don’t know if what I am wearing is offensive. I find it most commonly at concerts and just navigating public spaces like this: subways, elevators stairs etc. Even the smallest things– I’m the one that moves out of the way. Some dude could be walking down the street, looking at his phone, plowing forward not paying attention and I’m the one that moves.
Jess: I move out of the way because I don’t want to be touched.
Sydney: Also, that shit. Right.
Jess: They should ignore my very presence.
Hannah: Quite often when we talk about this thing– when we are labeled as being paranoid or offensive or reading into things too much. What people need to understand is that these defense mechanisms are based on real experiences that has happened to us. This isn’t ‘Make sure it doesn’t happen.’, no it has happened.
When I have felt like this before, shit has gone really bad and it is fucking horrible and we know we’ve developed a high intuitive system of having to have ‘Fuck off.’ written on your forehead or when you are like, “This guy is super normal and can have normal conversation.” It is really easy to spot but what we are told is when we spot the ones that are not right and off is that we are wrong and we are paranoid about nothing.
It is based on something real. It is hard for good dudes to get it either because it is not their reality, they struggle because they would never behave in that way. They struggle to understand this is happening to us. Wonderfully, it is out of their realm of how they would behave but what pisses me off about wonderful dudes who would never behave like that– they still struggle to believe what I am saying and they rather not listen to what I am saying. They go on the defense about what those dudes’ intentions were. It’s like ‘Listen to me. This is not your reality.’ Has this happened to you? What sexist thing has happened to you last week or last month or last year? Nothing. Shocker. So fucking listen to what I have to say because this is my reality and hear what is happening. And then help educate other dudes that are doing it.
Because it is not their reality and because something sexist doesn’t happen to them every week— that’s the hardest thing is to convince the dudes that this is really happening to. When they do finally listen, it is quite amazing. I’ve watched dudes and I’ve had patience and they have had patience with me and finally changed their perception.
They too say, “Oh, my god. My world has changed. I hear things all the time now that I was completely closed off to.” If we can just get one guy to see that, it is such a huge ripple effect. It sucks that we have to spoon-feed that to people and be calm and be rational about it when we have every right to be raging angry because we are the victims here. We have to take it on as if we have to spoon-feed and tell them why it is wrong very gently. Then they will get it and that is great. That is pretty hard to do that all the time.
Sydney: You are talking about how they don’t understand someone else’s reality and I think that’s super important. Let me set something up for you guys. If you are saying I am paranoid and defensive and all these negative things when I speak out about this shit, how do you expect me to move through the world, me as myself and women in general– what is it? 1 in 4 women are sexually abused —
Hannah: I think it is more than that but yeah. That’s what is reported.
SEXUAL ASSAULT AND RAPE
Sydney: Take the stats around sexual assault and rape. How do you expect me to move through the world when I was assaulted by somebody I know? By someone I trust. How do you expect me to not assume that every single person would do that to me unless they don’t? How do you expect me to not be defensive and stand up and not have a plan, when I have been assaulted by someone I trust and I know?
Jess: Most people are. I want to drive that home because the majority of the time it is by somebody they know.
Sydney: It’s not the violent shit we see in movies– it is that but it is also somebody waking on top of you that you thought was your friend.
Hannah: It’s all been boyfriends or older men that you shouldn’t have been around when you were young and vulnerable. It sucks and it needs to get better. The only way it is going to get better is if we talk about it and stand up for ourselves– we don’t laugh awkwardly at that sexist joke at work and we don’t start agreeing on things that we disagree on. It would be great if we could talk about things that have worked for us in the past that we got results– that have had real impact with people trying to see the bigger picture with woman below us. I am still working on it but there have been times for me when I have gotten through to people and I’m sure for you to hear that too or when stuff goes bad.
Sydney: For me, the most recent situation I could think of was a weeks ago–I post this regularly that if this is something that you are interested in talking about but you are scared and you don’t know the language, send me a private message. Because if I know you are trying, you get a lot of my patience. I have posted that multiple times and only 2 men have taken me up on that. One of which I expected to come at some time and the other I was like ‘Interesting.’ The most success I have had was from the two guys– I do this in the comment section all the time and in my real life–initiating these conversations.
For me, my focus is on helping white men understand how they play into this and have them agree with me. If I can get a white man to believe a white woman about sexism, I can start to connect the dots on racism and gender stuff. If I can start with sexism between a white man and a white woman, then I can start to explain racism. I can start to explain all the other ‘ism’s and that’s the first thing I will always say- there is this article I always send them and it’s the “How to Survive and be an Intersectional Feminist” It goes through here’s how all these conversations are happening and here’s how your place in it should be.
So, I send them that and say please don’t be concerned about the languages that you are using because you are going to fuck up. Talk to me and ask your questions in the normal language that you are using. We can get through that and I can help you understand why that language is problematic but ask the questions so that we can start identifying stuff.
Hannah: Say what you are thinking so that we can talk about it. It is okay to make mistakes. I can’t stand it when guys go, “Oh, I can’t do anything right.” Well, you can. You can just listen. Don’t say, ‘I won’t say anything because I will say the wrong thing.’ That’s not learning anything. As infuriating as it is, we need to let guys on a personal basis– what is it you are really thinking? What is it that you don’t get? What they are going to say is offensive and wrong but they don’t know why it is.
Sometimes, If I’m in a good place I tell them, “Tell me what it is.” They will say it and I’m like, “Okay. This is the solution to this. This is where you were misled. This is from your reality. Let me talk about my reality.” It slowly dawns on them about why what they said was super offensive or why we were making a fuss. What has worked for me in the past is when we start having these conversations about what sexist thing have you said last week. It is always crickets. What specifically got you down the way you were treated because of your gender. That’s when they say nothing.
So, who is the expert right now? Is it you or me? That got people through it. I used to have two modes: rage– where I can’t take it anymore or slumped in the corner crying. I think it was Renee Brown that talked about– this is just life in general but for me as much as I love confidence in things I can be feisty because I hate injustice. It pushes my buttons. I say to myself, “Don’t puff up. Don’t shrink down.” I think that was her thing. That is huge for me– when I say that I get across so much better. People hear me instead of just seeing an emotional female and listening to words coming out of your mouth. It a tough one. You need to say the words ‘Let me finish.’ We need to get much more out of that and say, ‘I’m sorry.’
Sydney: What about you, Jess?
Jess: I’m looking at these statistics I pulled up a minute ago.
Jess: I came up with the data. It has been about 6 minutes since I went to go look for those statistics. Every 98 seconds, someone in America is sexually assaulted. That means in the 5 or 6 minutes of Let me go look it up, more people.
Hannah: Many women have been killed by their domestic partner. The biggest war on our people in this country is women being killed by men they know. Thousands a year but we are not talking about it.
Jess: Senseless murder across the board. To check that statistic that made me go and look it up– 1 out of every 6 women have been victim of an attempted or completed murder in their lifetime.
Hannah: But what are we making a fuss about guys.
Sydney: That is only what is reported.
Hannah: We are living in an equal world.
Sydney: One out of every 6 isn’t that bad.
Hannah: We should be happy that we have more rights than we did 20 years ago. We should stay in our space.
Jess: If you don’t care about the women, let’s talk about the children. Majority of child victims are 12-17. 34 percent are under the age of 12. I’m just looking through these.
Hannah: It is just horrifying.
Jess: From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services substantiated or found 63,000 children a year are victims of sexual abuse.
Sydney: You know what is fucked you guys? For three years, I based my self-worth and my career. I based everything that I thought I was, my entire identity on what a man who made what his 14-year-old niece and how well I could perform for him and his pistol.
Hannah: Here’s the scary thing. A lot of guys are going to hear that and say “You are an idiot. It’s your fault. You chose to do that. And you chose to see that. You chose that situation and you should have done it.” People don’t know leading up to that time you had a lifetime of conditioning of believing things about yourself that you don’t know is not true.
There are so many messages that are being spouted at us on a daily basis that got you to the point where dudes like that can fool you for a very long time. What pisses me off is that I know when you just said that is a lot of people are going to be like,” You are a fucking idiot. You let that guy do that to you.”
Sydney: You shouldn’t give him that much leach over your emotions and your shit–
Hannah: Where was he from? A place of power. He was the person in charge of your job. He was the person with experience. It is fucking obvious how it happened. But we need to shut the shit down when people are like ‘It’s your fault.’ We talked about the defense mechanisms like ‘Oh, you are so paranoid if you constantly have your plan out at night.’ If I get attacked, instead of people saying we need to educate them more on not to be fucking violent towards women, the first thing that we are told is ‘You were there at that nighttime.’
Those comments seem so 1970s but they are still out there. The first reaction would be why did you put yourself in that vulnerable position as opposed to ‘Man, we need to work harder at men understanding that women aren’t objects. That should be the first reaction. It shouldn’t have to be us working harder. It should be work harder at teaching your sons women are equal human beings that deserve respect and equal space. That should be the first reaction.
Jess: So, I want to tie this together– I am looking at all of this stuff that we talk about individually in our own private conversations, Facebook pages, things we have talked about with previous guests that we are going to talk about with future guests, all of the different ways and contributing factors of oppression, the sections of it including this– how we treat women as a whole.
The step towards the solution across the board is to fucking listen and believe people when they tell you something. Like Sydney said, the language doesn’t have to be right. We don’t have to get every single piece. We just need to shut up and believe people and acknowledge that they are the expert in their own life and their own experience. We can all start from that place. We would get to solutions so much quicker.
Hannah: 100 percent. When the inevitable happens and they are not being believed, back up your girlfriends and fight your corner a little bit because it makes a really huge difference. When we commit to those truths, and aren’t scared about what people think. If you stick to being true to yourself, you are going to have the right opportunities in life rather than hide away or shrink down. You are not going to have a fulfilling life if you are scared of speaking out. That’s okay. Just know that women are going to come out and have your back. There has been a lot of people I didn’t expect to fight my fight for me. Have faith in what you are saying is real, valid, and true to be talked about.
ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF
Jess: We are on time but I want to ask you this one last question: what words of wisdom if you had to choose one thing to say to younger self to other people to put out into the world, what would that be?
Hannah: To my younger self, you don’t have to be like them. Ignore them. That whole feeling of having to fit in and do what you need to do to be popular. It is not relevant. The end advice— if you are scared to say it, you really should say it.
Jess: Beautiful. I love it.
Sydney: I love you so much.
Hannah: I hope it wasn’t too rambling. I hope I’m not going everywhere. I could talk about this for 10 hours.
Sydney: Thank you for being here.
Hannah: Thank you for having me. Props to you two for doing it. It is wonderful. It is still early days and it is making a difference. There are some points that have really helped me. It’s fucking awesome what you are putting out.
Sydney: Received. Thank you for that kind feedback. I will take that and love it.
Hannah: As you should.
Sydney: Thank you so much for being here. We love you. We should have you back because there is so much we could talk about.
Hannah: We didn’t even talk about my work– it’s hilarious. It’s so big. Thank you for having me. I’m very honored.
Sydney: Love you a long time.
Sydney: Tune in next week for episodes every Tuesday. Unfuck Yourself. That’s it.