Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Looking At Me Now...
“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” – Alyssa Milano
Looking at me, no one would know.
No one would know – just by looking at me – that my “me toos” started in sixth grade. Seeing me smile today, no one would know that beginning when I was 11, when I had to ride the bus to and from school, one of the boys on the bus used to grope me. I would cringe away, would tell him to stop, but he wouldn’t. Not until he wanted to stop. His guy friends saw what was happening and did not speak up on my behalf. They allowed it to happen.
Looking at me now, no one would know that in my freshman year of high school, a long-term substitute teacher in algebra made inappropriate advances toward me. I was a quiet, shy kid, and I have no doubt he saw me as an easy target. After he delivered his “lesson”, he would stop by my desk, ostensibly to ask what questions I had, rub my shoulders, sometimes rub my back, and stand close enough to my seated body to press the standing length of his body against mine. This meant that his groin was at head height, and he made sure it was right there. I cringed away. My body language was clearly unwelcoming. He ignored my body language and kept one arm clamped around my shoulders. Other students saw it. We were not hidden from view. No one spoke up for me. But of course, he was the teacher; what could we say?
Looking at me now, as a successful educator, you would never know that in my late teens/early 20s, I was a waitress. One day, an overly inebriated customer seated at the bar was gesturing with his adult beverage and spilled it on my shirt as I was passing. The spill happened to be at chest level. I headed toward the back to borrow a shirt from the manager’s office. On my way, a customer stopped me. He looked at my shirt, looked at me, and said, “Hey, darlin’, looks like you got a problem. You lactating?” Wink, wink, nudge, nudge to all his guy friends at the table.
If that wasn’t disgusting enough, before I could give a simple explanation, he then continued with, “I could help you out with that if you’d like,” accompanied by a chuckle and a suggestive wink at me. I told him that was inappropriate. He told me “it was a joke” and I needed to “lighten up.”
It is not possible for that to be justified in any way. If you don’t understand why, message me, and I will explain how many levels of wrong that is.
Looking at me now, no one would know that in my mid-30s, I became a statistic. I wasn’t wearing a suggestively short skirt and tube top (and would it matter if I were?). I was wearing jeans, a short-sleeved pullover, and Converse. Hearing me laugh today, you wouldn’t understand the violence of that night. The brutality. The pain. You wouldn’t have suspected the bruises I had on my ribcage and lower back for the next couple of weeks, the abrasions on my knees, the lump on the back of my head. The two small bare patches of scalp where he ripped out my hair. I said no. I’m sure he heard; I was screaming. But just like all the others I’ve written about, he didn’t listen.
This is the problem: the not listening, the not respecting boundaries.
Women make up 51% of the population, so how is it that we are the less heard? How is it that our opinions, our viewpoints, our leadership counts for less?
Why is our autonomy less respected? Our boundaries are every bit as important as a man’s. Men, I do not have to hug you just because you want a hug. I do not have to smile for you just because you think I should smile. I do not have to wear makeup just because you think I would look better with a false face.
It’s interesting that (generally speaking) men only seem to want to hug when there is a woman involved. They are less keen when it comes to hugging another man. And they are less inclined to wear makeup themselves, as well. Until they are willing to practice what they preach, they need to keep their double standards, and their hands, to themselves.
Guys, if you aren’t willing for that experience to happen to you – not the filmy, porny version you have in your heads, but the real-life edition you are acting out – then you need to reverse your actions. You need to be the change, effective immediately. Men, teach respect. Show respect. Earn respect. It is a simple chain. Stand up to your friends when they tell sexist jokes, when they make wife jokes, mom jokes, rape jokes. Do not normalize rape culture. Don’t make it easier for these lines to be crossed.
There are too many #metoos out there, male and female. Respect. Listen. Observe. When you see something wrong, stand up for the person being victimized. It may be scary. You may be afraid of being bullied, too. But when you stand up for someone, then there will be two of you. That’s a team. The more of you there are, the stronger you will be.
Looking at me now, you would never know that I used to be quiet, that I used to worry about rocking the boat, that I was afraid to speak up. That scared, harassed girl, that violated woman turned into an outspoken advocate so every person out there in need can look at me now, and know they have an ally in me.
I am just one of many #metoos in the world. That does not make me unique, but if we all join together, it does give us power: it gives us the power to make a change, to affect the discrimination and objectification of men and women that occurs in so many places. We have a golden opportunity to take a horrific negative and turn it into something positive. We have a chance to find beauty in the horror when we all work together. But it will take us all. There is no room for division here.
Speak up for a stranger.
Speak up for a friend.
Speak up for your female coworker.
Speak up for your male coworker.
Speak up for your boss.
Speak up for your husband.
Speak up for your wife.
Speak up for your date.
Speak up for your partner.
Speak up for your mom.
Speak up for your dad.
Speak up for your sister.
Speak up for your brother.
Speak up for your son.
Speak up for your daughter.
Speak up for the transgender.
Speak up for your niece.
Speak up for your nephew.
Speak up for your cousin.
Speak up for police officers, and teachers, and retail workers, restaurant workers, and military, and everyone else you can think of, even if they don’t look like they need help, because one day, you may need someone to speak up for you. One day, you may need to be defended, aided, helped. One day someone may be coming after you and a little extra backup could make all the difference in the world. Speak up, speak out, and join the community. If #metoo became a closed club, and no one else ever joined, I would be okay with that.