I’ve just finished watching Thirteen Reasons Why and I’m a wreck. I am sobbing, I am heartbroken for a character I deeply sympathised with, I was willing for there to be a twist that she wasn’t dead somehow (that isn’t a spoiler, you find out she’s dead within a minute or two of the first episode). I started this post a couple of ‘tapes’ in and it was mostly focussed on how women are sexualised and how attitudes needed to change in that respect but now that I’ve watched the entire series I’m inclined to say that it’s also highlighted, more than the first point, that the way we approach mental health needs to change dramatically.
The following is a collection of what I’ve written/rambled/ranted over across the past week of binge-watching the series…
On How Women Still Get Treated Differently
Thirteen Reasons Why is fiction, exaggerated, in some ways unrealistic but, infact, in most ways completely realistic and relatable. I’m not versed on modern feminism as much as I should be but I know that there are things we have come to expect as women. Things that are dampened down in terms of severity or level of reaction because they’re so common. That we cannot accept but that we often do because ‘boys will be boys’.
I absolutely agree that these points are not true of every man (not by a long shot) but I do think that they are typical of the world we live in. I also agree that they can certainly be turned the other way around gender-wise but I don’t think it’s as prevalent as we all know.
This show should be played in schools and colleges. People need to know that what they say and do can massively affect people. Your jokes are somebody else’s nightmare. This series needed to be made and seen — for more than the purposes of entertainment — because all of those things that we bury our heads in the sand over need to be addressed because they do actually happen.
To the bad guys. You’re out there somewhere amongst the good guys and you’re seedy and sleezy and disgusting because you have the kind of attitude that requires a brain transplant to repair. These apply to you and are just some of the reasons why we still aren’t living in a society where women can consider themselves safe or equal.
- Because women are still considered property. A lesser sex to be controlled and manipulated. Whose emotions can be toyed with so very easily, apparently. Who still don’t earn as much as you for the same role. Who are more likely to suffer abuse at the hands of their partner. Who are more likely to be sexually assaulted. Who are more likely to have their opinions discounted, fobbed off or any emotional outburst blamed on her period.
- Because consent isn’t a dirty word. It isn’t ‘unmanly’, it’s exactly the opposite. To those who think consent is nit-picking or unnecessary, let’s see how you feel when you realise your actions weren’t wanted or how your precious pride feels when you’re outed? And if you don’t get consent and decide to stop when asked, don’t think you’re a hero just yet (or ever, because does it really take a hero to respect women?) because if you then go on to pretend your fantasy was a reality (i.e. you say something happened that didn’t) then know that ‘saving face’ or ‘male pride’ is not an excuse. There is no excuse. Yeah you’ve not ruined a life in one way but you have in another. Good job. Oh, and because the guy with arguably the most powerful position in the world got voted in after being recorded saying the words ‘grab her by the pussy’.
- Because street cred shouldn’t be determined by sexual conquests. You guys are arseholes. One day you’re going to look at your daughter and hope to hell she doesn’t end up anywhere near a guy like you.
- Because have you ever heard a girl call a guy ‘easy?’ Jeez, I hate that word. (OK, I have, but it was Michelle in American Pie and she’s not real so it doesn’t count right?)
- Because some men have no idea what we go through every 28 days (or thereabouts). We get taxed on sanitary products. We bleed because we’re designed to carry children. Just like you were carried by your own mother. Period-related sick days are pretty much unacceptable in the workplace you’ve just got to make do and push through regardless of how much pain or discomfort you’re experiencing. Would it be the same should things be the other way around? There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s still shame and stigma attached to the natural process of menstruating, do you agree? Do you think we should lock ourselves away for a week out of every month just so you don’t have to hear about it?
- Because it’s assumed that contraception is our responsibility. When you ask to take the condom off because it’s slightly hindering your sexual experience because everybody knows that taking the pill is a picnic (or not). Mood swings, headaches, weight gain, the list is endless but so long as you’re enjoying yourself eh?
- Because we still have ‘mother and baby groups’, no changing facilities in men’s toilets, a lack of stay-at-home Dads and the perception that continuing to have any ambition, career motivation or needs of your own when you have children makes you a bad mother.
- Because some guys still think girls are lesbians for their benefit. Yes, really. They’re just doing it to turn you on, clearly, it’s impossible for girls to have actual feelings for each other that are absolutely nothing to do with you. Everything women do must be to grab your attention somehow because it’s what we so desperately crave 100% of the time right? We dress up and wear make-up for you, not ourselves, isn’t that right? No, it’s all so very wrong actually.
- Because when I say ‘firefighter’ or ‘surgeon’ you automatically think of a man. Because when I say ‘hairdresser’ or ‘childminder’ you automatically think of a woman.
- Because ‘ladylike’ is still a word. In fact, it’s still a compliment. You don’t pass wind. You don’t order seconds. There’s a sizeable list of things that are OK for guys but frowned upon for us. By the way, when was the last time you covered your entire body in shaving foam and removed every last hair? The sphynx cat is our spirit animal.
- Because women who say they’ve been raped are asked if they’re sure. Are you sure you were raped? Were you drunk? What were you wearing? Did you say no explicitly? Because phrases like ‘she was begging for it’ still exist.
- Because the media still churns out front page headlines about two female politicians’ legs (or, more specifically, who has the best legs) rather than what’s coming out of their mouths.
- Because we’re still arguing over the division of household chores and statistically women are still spending 30-40% more time on chores than their male counterparts. It’s just expected isn’t it? The amount of times I’ve heard about colleagues or friends moving in with their boyfriends and being batted with statements from people like ‘thank goodness, he’ll finally start to look ironed and smart at work’ or ‘he can stop living off pot noodles now’. They’re not just insulting to us but offensive to you as well surely? Why do you assume that those things are automatically going to become our responsibility?
On Mental Health
We all know that we need to be thinking more about mental health. Nobody has a perfect mental state. It’s just not possible because unless you hide yourself in a room and don’t let anybody in emotionally, you’re going to get hurt somehow. You can’t control other people but we, as those ‘other people’ to somebody else, can be more mindful.
In a world where we are all so connected (I’m talking social media and so on) we are also so disconnected. Social etiquette dictates how we approach each other and fear rules all. Fear of a negative reaction simply for reaching out or the wrong message being construed. Quite often we, as a society, don’t know how to communicate properly anymore and that’s really sad.
I said above that the show should be played in schools but, on the same page, would I as a parent of a sixteen-year-old think it too graphic? Is it worth my child seeing that and being so deeply affected by the footage? Would it set them up for the world, make them think more about others and their actions (or lack of)? Or would it make them scared of their world, depressed by the truth of what can lie ahead of the innocence of childhood? I don’t know. I turned twenty-six yesterday and this show has been in my thoughts since I started watching the first episode. It’s one of the most powerful things I’ve ever watched and I’m grateful for having watched it, everybody needs to watch it but prepare for it to hit you like a ton of bricks. If you say it didn’t I truly won’t believe you (or you have a heart of stone, eek).
It’s uncomfortable watching, there’s two particular scenes that will probably destroy you (you’ll see what I’m on about when you watch it). It might seem dramatic but it’s honestly changed me as a person and I’m glad. This has pulled mental health issues out of the depths and shoved them right in front of my face.
It’s saying “watch this, stand up, do something, act differently — or else.”
You only know your own mind. When something happens to you, you won’t react the same as other people. There’s probably a majority reaction but it could be anywhere on the spectrum and we need to realise that it’s OK to be at the top or bottom end of that rather than in the middle. You have no idea what people are thinking, what they’re going through, how what you do can affect them and whilst we can’t dwell on that or feel unnecessarily guilty — we can be kinder to each other, we can make more of an effort to make connections and we can embrace those around us.
We can acknowledge each other, we can accept each other and we can have the guts to break the taboo, reach out to each other and admit that life is hard sometimes.
Perhaps that in itself would make life a little easier.