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I tell my co-workers that I have become used to a level of “casual sexual harassment” because a lot of times, that’s the best or only way to get things done. Let them stand too close. Let them accidentally brush up against your breasts with their arms. Flirt a little, and maybe you’ll stay on their radar beyond the three minutes you’re in the room with them.
For most of my life I figured fat broads don’t get raped, only pretty people get raped. When my attractive friends would complain about men approaching them on the subway or in a bar or bookstore, I tried to empathize, but had nothing to compare it too. In my experience, fat ladies don’t get approached, and when they do, they had better be grateful. I know now that these garbage thoughts aren’t true. I know I drank some toxic masculinity Kool-Aid and it is finally passing into the toilet where it belongs.
What is the point of it all?
A number of cis/het white men have voiced…concerns that all of this “Me Too stuff” is just a way to blame white men for everything and that not all white men are rapists. They’ve never done anything bad to a woman and besides; everyone knows women are catcalled, so why bother talking about it?
Here’s the issue: white men are used to being the hero. They are the heroes of movies, of books, of songs, of games. Everywhere they look, they see themselves reflected. Advertisements, television screens, and history all beam a white male face back to them. When women/non binary folx start talking about assault, white men automatically start seeing themselves because they are so used to being the center of every story they can’t imagine this one is any different. Only this time, they feel they are being made out to be the villain.
They don’t want to be the bad guy, but can’t stop themselves from imagining that every story, every single narrative is about them, the white guys. Instead of wrestling with pervasive sexism, rape culture, inequality or power, we are stuck comforting our “nice guy” friends who “just want to remind you that not all men.”
I was 18 and had my hands full serving drinks at my job. The two women with you encouraged you to reach up my skirt and grab my genitals. You achieved bare contact and knew I physically had no way to make you let go. You laughed. When I told people what happened, they asked me why I was wearing a thong with a skirt in the first place. Over a decade later, I can still feel your dirty bar hands attempting to penetrate me. You probably don’t remember that night but I always will. #MeToo
I took the post down last night because I thought my treatment hasn’t been so bad. Then I realized that it shouldn’t have happened at all, no matter how stupid, how simple. The entitlement is everywhere at every level.
I’m a small girl. I’m naked and laying face down on the scratchy carpet in my bedroom. Someone is touching my bottom, but I don’t know who, I only know I can’t tell anyone.
This memory helpfully surfaced after a pleasant romp with my boyfriend at the time. He was understandably confused when I burst into tears.
To the college girls who left me outside because you thought I was flirting with a guy that thought it was okay to “playfully grope/and slap me across my face” a complete stranger. Yes I was drunk, no I was not wrestling him I was angry. When I was left outside alone and he had me pinned to a wall. I was thinking is this really about to happen? Hes not even that tall/big but he was overpowering me. He commented on my “sexy thongs”. After what felt like forever I got him off of me and I was the lucky one. Only one girl my friend believed me. The other girls commented he would never do that, hes hot you wanted it, etc. Bitch please. My bf at the time before taking off to that house to wait around to see if he dared come back made a remark that hurt almost equally when he told me “you probably shouldnt have worn that skirt”. Serious? I was a lucky one.
I’m a 40-year old woman. A nice man at work stares at my chest and makes comments about my rear end. If I make the mistake of bending over in my cubicle when he’s around, his eyes widen and he says things that make me feel weird. It takes me a long time to say anything, because I am fat. I am not beautiful. I learned a long time ago, that only beautiful women are harassed, the rest of us are supposed to take it as a compliment. I finally say something. He stops most of his comments, but does not stop staring. I consider this a win. I am so grateful when he is fired for something unrelated.
I grew up in a small, rural town with a K-12 school. My graduating class of 32 contained almost the same exact people as it did when I was in 1st grade. This part is relevant to the rest of the story, I swear. At 5, I started kindergarten, but rather than go a half-day every day, we alternated full days. On my off days I, along with a handful of other children, spent the day under the care of one mom in her house. I remember very little of this time. Hazy images of dancing around the living room to Mary Poppins’ songs and a snippet of me in a basement bathroom/laundry area are about all I have.
Fast forward to high school. My mom worked in the principal’s office, and my friends and I usually spent a few minutes each lunch break in her office. One day, she was particularly serious. She told me that one of my classmates “Ida” confided in her that “Ida’s” boyfriend shared a story about me. The boyfriend told “Ida” that he and a handful of other kids made me take my clothing off in front of them during one of these off-kindergarten days. My mother demanded to know why I hadn’t told her.
I had read books with characters who felt “blindsided” by something, but it wasn’t until that moment, that I really understood what that meant. I was simultaneously attempting to juggle three different things 1) my very upset mom, 2) a widening of the basement memory, and 3) an unbelievable sense of humiliation. In that moment, all I could say was “I don’t know, I don’t really remember it” before stumbling out to my next class. At this point, I have no memory of anything else she might have said to me. I was mortified.
See, in that moment of reveal, I remembered being 5 and naked in that basement. I remembered being hustled into the bathroom because the mom was coming downstairs and no one wanted to be found out.
Here’s where I throw in the acknowledgement that little kids take their clothes off in front of each other with startling regularity. They are curious or daring or challenging the “keep your body covered” rules set down by adults. I get it. At 40, I am not ashamed a group of 5 year olds convinced me to take my clothing off. I’m not exactly proud, but I am not horrified. It happened.
What makes this one of my “me too” stories, is that “Ida’s” boyfriend thought this was a story he should share with his girlfriend. In fact, shortly after this maternal confrontation, one of the teenagers who was in that basement as a 5-year old shared it with a hallway full of people, “Hey, remember when we convinced you to take your clothes off?” followed by peals of laughter.
How can I explain how it felt to have a memory I suppressed put on blast in the halls of my school? My K-12 school in my town of 800 people. My town of 800 people who love to talk and gossip.
Sharing my shame was a way of those people to exert power over me. They used my body as a prop, as a punch line, and welcomed everyone to take a front-row seat. Did everyone take a seat? No, I don’t think so. To her credit, I think “Ida” was taken aback by what the boyfriend told her. My friends were still my friends. Most of them may not even remember the day it was broadcasted around school.
I hope those men remember though. They have daughters now. I hope they remember, and every time they warn their daughters about boys who will try and get them to do things they don’t want to do, that those men feel a twinge. I sincerely hope that was the worst thing they ever did.
I posted me too and it was a bit difficult. I have dealt with molestation and rape each more than once throughout my life at the hands of more than one male. So, when I went to post me too, I just heard the judgements in my head that have been aimed at me and others in all types of situations who have dared to speak up. The presumptions are just as endless as the types of sexual harassment and abuse we face on a daily basis. Sexual mistreatment by males and society’s instance on excusing this behavior or blaming it on the victim is literally EVERYWHERE. I’ve dealt with it at work, standing at bus stops, walking down the street, from medical professionals- even during an exam following an assault, from people in all kinds of positions of power, from people I know and from strangers. I’m 100% certain that anyone living with this cannot list off all the situations nor all the people at whose hands they’ve experienced it. It is pervasive, permeates every aspect of life and it is something we experience daily. It’s also something that we almost never talk about and most don’t press charges for even physical abuse because sadly, we know this could ruin our lives, end up in the loss of friends and family, the loss of our jobs, etc. Unfortunately, coming forward about abuse or harassment could also open us up to MORE of the same treatment and dangers. I posted because all we have is numbers in the fight to stop this. I also posted because men who have harassed me and worse are still on my friends list. To me, these people are lower than dirt. I don’t give them enough regard to boot them off my profile and interestingly (though, not surprisingly), there they sit taking up space, probably deluding themselves that they’re actually pretty cool dudes. Bullshit.
My response to Women, Sex, and the Fear of Offending: A Post-Cosby Conversation from like 2 years ago: My Thoughts on the “Fear of Offending”
I am not able to count the number of times I have had to endure an “over-the-line” comment or situation. Why would an outspoken feminist and woman well-known for intolerance to bullshit EVER weather the indignity of these encounters? I am brave but not fearless; I am also very fond of my own life and safety. If I reject a man, will he act like a gentleman and move on? Will he call me a fat, ugly bitch (which I only harms my ego) and move on? Or will he react aggressively; follow me or physically assault me?
This fear of the unpredictability of a man’s reaction to rejection may seem irrational and paranoid to reasonable men who accept that a woman might not be attracted to them with dignity. However, this is what women experience every day; we are actuaries of the seemingly mundane, constantly assessing risk when dealing with men.
Many times my risk assessment tells me it is safer to placate and be polite than to ignore or voice opposition to “over-the-line” behavior. My discomfort and disgust is easier to endure than even the threat of confrontation or assault.
I feel more secure these past two years wearing my wedding ring. Because it is clear that some men will never respect that a woman is not interested in them but WILL respect that a woman is “not available to them” because she is with another (heteronormatively speaking) man. This is fucking awful, it’s a horrible truth… but it is the truth. This subtle oppression and environment of fear is what I mean when I use the term “rape culture.”
24/7 Hotline: 800.656.HOPE (4673)
Link to live chat.