By Jillian Gilchrest, Age 33
It’s hard to hear that women lie, over and over again. As the Senior Policy Analyst at a feminist state agency, I am working with lawmakers on a variety of public policies. Two of those policies- one requiring campuses to adopt an affirmative consent standard in their disciplinary proceedings and one requiring the removal of firearms when a judge determines someone is in imminent danger and grants a temporary restraining order, are met with the incessant refrain that women lie. For some people, the fact that thousands of women throughout time have been victimized by sexual and domestic violence doesn’t seem to matter if just one man may get falsely accused or has his rights infringed.
When discussing these policies, I have been warned that young men will have their lives ruined by women who claim rape after a night of regretful sex and I’ve been told on countless occasions that women make false claims all the time just to get restraining orders to get back at men. When I hear these things, I hurt for the countless women who are victimized by sexual and domestic violence. I also grow annoyed that a woman’s right to life and liberty still comes second to that of a man’s.
The history of women in this country, and throughout the world, is fraught with beliefs and laws that place men’s rights above women’s. For centuries people have been taught to believe that God made women inferior to men. As recent as this century, state and federal laws prohibited women from voting for public office and classified women as the property of their husbands. Less than 30 years ago, women in Connecticut, and many other states, needed corroborating evidence to prove rape– the only crime to do so, and up until 1989 it was legal for a man to rape his wife in the state of Connecticut.
I could go on and on about women’s history, but I won’t. I only cite history to frame the current debate in a context. A very real context in which state and federal law has favored the rights of men over women. If you haven’t, please watch ‘Suffragette’, a movie about the women’s movement to secure the right to vote in England. The movie does an outstanding, albeit infuriating, job of portraying women’s complete lack of rights, particularly as they pertain to their children.
The policies that my agency supports simply say that two people must consent to sexual activity and that women should be protected against imminent harm or death by a firearm. These policies have the potential to improve thousands of women’s lives, but they are labeled as government overreach and delegitimized by claims that women lie. I reject the narrative that women lie because it is not an accurate account of women’s lived experience. I also reject it because in no other realm of public policy making does the potential that someone might lie (and break the law) prevent that policy from becoming law. But when it comes to women, their right to life and liberty remains second to that of men.
I hope that we are able to lift the fog of sexism under which the argument that women lie is accepted. I am hopeful that once lifted, Connecticut will be a state that views sex as an act between two consenting adults and a place where women at risk of serious injury feel protected and secure.