2 posts in one night, Fae? Weird.
Well, I wanted to talk about something, and then I had a bad couple of days…. but we’ll get to that in another post.
I want to talk about the Metoo campaign.
When it first started trending, I was so proud of the women responding. Some of those women on my Twitter and Facebook feed have rarely told their stories to people. Some of those I was surprised would actually publicly admit that they too were sexually harassed and/or assaulted. And I wanted to stand with them, but I’m one of the “lucky” ones.
I remember sitting in Women’s Self-Defense in college, cross-legged, in the small gym, listening about the statistics on sexual assault on women in the United States. Then I heard 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in her life time. I was in class with some friends. And I already knew who the 1 was. And it wasn’t me.
As I grew and learned and listened and consoled, I counted. One woman was raped by an ex boyfriend, and when others heard the commotion, they ignored it and called her a liar afterwards. One woman was told that he took her out and she owed him; she complied out of guilt and fear. Another woman was drunk; he got her drunk; he plied her with drinks all night and got her drunk. One girl was fooling around with a boy, and then he forced her to have sex, pinning her down, and then he told her it was her fault because she made him hard. I know women as young girls who were fondled sexually on the knee of their relatives. Another woman waited until the guy she wanted was drunk and in bed before jumping in; I gave her hell for it.
And I was never the 1 in 4.
With every story from a friend, with every new article I read, I wondered how was I so lucky.
Why was I so lucky?
Was it because I always wore shorts or jeans? Was it because I always walked tough? Was it the rumor in high school and college that said I had no moral code to keep me from damaging a male’s favorite body part? Was it because I was straight edge? Was it because I grew up with boys? Was it because I was never last at the party?
But it was luck.
I walked home alone in the dark. I walked miles to my apartment alone after 10 pm. I was alone in dorm rooms and houses with boys. I’ve ignored my warning instincts. My warning instincts have failed to warn me.
But I was lucky. I’ve been playing Russian roulette, and every time that bullet wasn’t mine.
So I didn’t type Me too into my feeds.
Until I thought about all the discussions I had with boys and men about sexual harassment.
No, it’s not because the guy was unattractive or too old or too young or too drunk or didn’t dress right or didn’t look like he had money or a job or a nice car. No, it’s not a compliment. It will never be a compliment. It was never attended to be a compliment. Yes, if a very handsome, well-dressed, just-the-right-age guy said that to me in that way, it would still be sexual harassment.
At the age of 11, some guy, about late 20s, early 30s, followed me around K-Mart, trailing me, stalking me, waited until my parents were a few yards away from me before leaning over me to whisper in my ear how tasty I looked.
That feeling I had at that moment is what I compare all “compliments” to. I felt small, weak, and helpless. I felt dirty, defiled, and disgusted. I felt naked, naughty, and guilty. I felt shame. I. felt. shame.
For what? Even at 11, I did not know why I felt violated and why I felt it was my fault.
This moment would happen over and over.
I didn’t wear dresses in high school and college because every time I did, some guy would sexually harass me. I can’t even count how many times guys would yell or whistle from their cars. In college, I had to walk by a construction site every day, and when one of my guy friends learned I was trying to avoid the walk (which I couldn’t; that’s the only way to get home) and why, he walked me home every day after that.
When I was young, working at an operator, I wore short shorts to work, and an employee would always sit near me and look at my legs, just stare at them. One day he waited until I was on a long phone call and asked if he could touch my legs. I mouthed what? with a slight head movement. He took it as a yes and caressed my leg. I nearly gagged. As I write this, my stomach lurched. He disappeared so I couldn’t confront him later. But I wore jeans after that. I changed my behavior so a guy wouldn’t touch me.
And I can hear guys now, well you didn’t say no; he didn’t know better; at least he asked; you shouldn’t have been wearing short shorts either. Boys, could you please imagine some stranger sitting next to you in a public place who just caressed your bare skin without your explicit consent? Creepy, right?
And I thought my days were over. I didn’t have to worry about jerks like those man-children. I was a mother. I always had a child on me. I was a teacher. I was always with children.
Then a few months ago I took the boys out for ice cream at a fast food spot. As we ate out food, an older man came over and asked if he could give me a compliment. I assumed it was about the boys. They were doing amazing. Then he leaned over and whispered, “You look deliciously gorgeous.” And that disgust/shame/dirty/violated feeling hit me. And I was too ashamed to do anything.
Then he left, and I grew angry. How dare he cat call me in front of my boys! I should have ripped out his tongue. But I was ashamed. For that man’s behavior. He made me feel shame for being a woman. When I related the incident to another guy, he answered, “He thought he was giving you a compliment; he meant no harm.” Bullsh*t. You know how I know? Because he whispered it. He whispered it instead of saying it in a regular voice and tone. He knew he was going to make me uncomfortable. He wanted me to feel uncomfortable that’s why he used the word “delicious,” why he whispered it.
Yes, I’m one of the lucky ones who has never been sexually assaulted. But I have been sexually harassed. I know the feelings of guilt, shame, disgust, filthiness because some man-child thinks he owns my body for those few moments. As I tried to explained to my male allies, we know these words aren’t for us. We know we are just a piece of meat to be ogled, an animal to stalk and hunt, an image to masturbate to. We know the difference between a guy giving us a compliment and a guy cat calling us.
I know this piece is just preaching to the choir. But I had to say it.
To all the men and women, boys and girls, who have been sexually assaulted and/or sexually harassed, I stand with you.