One thing I consistently deal with from anti-feminists and other misogynists is the constant demand for "proof" of my and other women's lived experiences. We say we deal with threats and harassment online, and we get calls for "proof." We talk about how we get cat-called and stalked on the street, but somehow we have to "prove" it or it didn't happen. Sexual harassment and rape jokes at like every job we've ever had? Prove it. Mansplaining and the constant assumption that we're less competent with technology? Prove it. Dismissed and gaslighted about our own experience? PROVE IT.
My favorite sentence ever crafted is probably Lindy West's: "Like, you might as well write me a note on a banana peel demanding that I prove to you that bananas exist."
Most recently (I woke up to this shit today), I was asked to provide "proof" to back up a complaint that anti-feminists are constantly derailing feminist conversations to demand that we switch our attention to problems that men face, and then when we point out that addressing toxic masculinity and male violence will solve pretty much all of these man problems, they go right into "you can't stop bad people from doing bad things, there will always be bad people, you just have to deal with it, etc." They wanted proof that men had actually said these things to me.
I had to laugh. Asking me to pinpoint one time this scenario has occurred is like asking a tall person to identify an exact instance in which someone made a joke about "the weather up there." It's happened on Facebook, on Twitter, on Tumblr, on message boards. It's happened to me and I've observed it happening to other women.
The funny thing is that this particular post of mine was quite old. I don't remember when I posted it, but it was at least several months ago. How they managed to find it is a mystery, but I can guarantee you that if the proof-demander had spent as much time actually reading my Tumblr blog and going through arguments I've had with anti-feminists and other crap baskets on that site as they did digging up old, dead posts of mine, they wouldn't need proof because they would have seen it with their own eyes already.
The irony and hypocrisy goes so deep that it in and of itself is proof of systemic, cultural misogyny. The only reason anyone would need proof of sexism in our society is that they haven't been listening to women at all. There are multitudes of websites dedicated to sharing the millions of stories of women about how they've been harassed and abused by men. There are scores of studies on the subject of domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, workplace discrimination, educational discrimination, and general misogynistic attitudes. Women have written plenty of books on the subject. If you really want proof, it's out there. It's all over.
What else do you want proof of? That the sky is blue? That the sun is hot? That it hurts when someone smacks you in the face? That oxygen exists?
Open your eyes. Stand in the sunlight. Breathe and feel the sting of my hand across your fucking face.
These demands for proof only show that the proof-demander has failed to do even the most rudimentary research. That they've failed to or outright refused to (more likely) listen to women. It's funny, though, because you know these online anti-feminists dedicate a whole lot of time to go through feminist writings just so they can scream "PROVE IT" at every opportunity. If they weren't so hardcore dedicated to their denial and their unshakable belief that feminists (women) are liars, they would be pretty well educated on systemic misogyny and would probably be advocates for feminism by now.
But either their too dedicated to their own misogyny, or the "prove it" calls are a calculated or subconscious tactic to derail feminist discourse and put women on the defensive. It's difficult not to be drawn in by these demands for proof simply because it's so enraging to be basically accused of lying about things we experience every fucking day. Telling someone that their own reality is not valid is a terribly cruel and dehumanizing thing to do, and is also a standard form of gaslighting - it's meant to make us doubt our own reality.
I once had an argument with a guy on The Escapist's message board, which I used to treasure as my online home until the backlash against reasonable demands for decent representation of women made it inhabitable. He, among other men there, were insisting that harassment of women wasn't a big thing. He said that my own experiences weren't good enough as "proof" of a widespread problem because they were just mine, and my assertion that every other woman I'd talked to had similar experience wasn't good enough, either.
His response, after several posts asking him to do this? "No, I don't care to."
I was taken aback. This was early in my awakening to my current feminist state, and so I wasn't prepared for this reality. Many men just don't care to listen to women. They don't care to turn their attention to a problem that we've been begging them to address for centuries. They don't care to make an effort to even start to understand issues which have been holding us back, hurting us, and killing us for so long.
They don't care about us.
I engage anti-feminists for fun, to get myself pumped up for writing, and to expose their ignorance and intense misogyny to observers of the argument. And a little bit in the hope that I'll make them cry. But don't for one second think that I have any hope that anti-feminist men will be changed by my words. No matter what I say to them, no matter how much evidence I could ever provide, no matter how many stories I could lay at their feet, no matter how well and how eloquently I explained that the problems women face are real, valid, life-threatening and worth their attention, they will not change. They will not consider our point of view. They will not make the effort to educate themselves. They will not show women the basic level of human compassion and decency.
They don't care to.