Monday, October 16, 2017

Why Feminsm? Me Too

For those of you who hang out on Facebook and twitter, you have probably seen the results of the "Me too" movement.

 If you haven't, here is a brief description: women (and others) are posting a "Me too" or #MeToo if they have personally been a victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault. Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, its a good time to do it. The number of the "me too" statements is a bit alarming. Which is the point. The hope is that by letting people know how many of us have been victims, we can raise awareness and maybe people will try to change things.

I hesitated, but eventually decided to participate.

And soooo many of my friends shared, too. Some simply wrote "me too" or copied the message that most people shared. And a couple of my friends shared pieces of their past or whole stories. Which inspired me to write this. The worst thing about this is that I know that some of my friends did not participate, but I am aware that they share the same experiences.

If most women are like me, this is not a one-time experience. I have had my body commented on several times while I was working. Two of the worst were from regular coffee shop customers who specifically felt the need to comment on my butt. I have never felt so vulnerable and analyzed before. I'm at work, I am not displaying my body, and I am certainly not inviting comments. All of those times were very deer-in-the-headlights moments for me. What do you do? What do you say? In all of those instances, these men were taking advantage of the fact that I am in my place of employment. I'm not really supposed to do or say anything aggressive. I don't want to smile because I don't want to encourage them. There are lots of people nearby and I don't want to cause a scene and draw attention. And I'm embarrassed. And I can't speak because now I know that while I have been working, completely oblivious, these men have been staring at my ass. Suddenly, my work place doesn't feel so safe and I feel that I can't do anything.

If those comments had been made in my hearing to another of my coworkers, I would have put my foot down then and there. I am great at standing up for other people, but I am terrible at standing up for myself. But usually these kinds of men are good at isolating you enough to make their comments unheard by others, but not isolating you enough that you feel you can stand up to them.

A couple times I have been lucky enough to have someone else nearby (always another man) who called the person out and stood up for me. Those are the moments that give me hope that things can change.

My worst experience happened over the course of a year or so. I was 9. Let me say that again I was 9 fucking years old. I had a friend who I was very close to and I spent a ton of time at her house. Her older brother (who was 15-16 at the time) continuously molested me, mostly by grabbing my butt (I'm starting to sense a theme here...).

I was young and I was confused and I did not understand what was going on. But I also felt ashamed and embarrassed and I never told anyone (and then I actually repressed the memories to be dug up in my senior year of high school. Fun times). All I knew was that I didn't like it. I tried telling him "No," and "Don't." And I literally used to press my back against the wall sometimes if I encountered him in the hallway. And he would laugh at me. And sometimes he would ignore me, so I never knew what to expect.

This had a trickle down affect in my life and I never liked guys/men to touch me (though I didn't know why for a long time). I once caused a scene in a chemistry class when a male classmate came up behind me and grabbed my shoulder and said something (that I couldn't comprehend in my panic) and one time I freaked out and yelled at my dad. Poor Daddy never said anything or asked about it and it certainly wasn't anything he had done wrong.

The worst thing about this? My story is a far cry from the worst ones out there. So many women (and homosexuals, transgenders, gender fluid people, et cetera) face much worse than I have. I came out (mostly) whole on the other side. I still panic when strange men enter my space, especially if I feel trapped. It has made romantic relationships more difficult. And I get sad for 9-year-old-me, dealing with things that were so far over her head. But overall, I am OK with the way I am. There are women and people out there who can't recover from their experiences. They will be forever haunted. And that is why things need to change. And why we need to show solidarity and have men decide that they will stand with us and help provide safe spaces with us.

I decided to share because I think its time to stop hiding. The worst of my stories happened a long time ago and I can disconnect from it. But hiding this won't help and won't solve anything.

Thank you to all of my amazing, brave friends who have shared their stories. I know its a hard thing to do and I think you are wonderful for sharing and helping to raise awareness. It's time for us to stop being embarrassed and haunted.

And to all of my friends who have had these experiences, even the ones who are not ready to share, you are so strong.

This is a safe space if anyone would like to share your story. Or if you just want to share a "Me too." We are stronger together.

For more information, there are websites and other blogs you can check out. Here is a site that I have looked at in the past: No More and another I found in the course of reading peoples' stories and writing this: End Sexual Violence. If anyone has other good resources, please, please share them.

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