(Finance related post will be coming on Wednesday. If this is not your thing, feel free to move along!)
I didn’t participate in the “Me too” movement that was going around Twitter and Facebook. It’s not that I haven’t been sexually harassed or assaulted (because, of course me too.) I may not broadcast it in every conversation, but I haven’t kept it a secret.
I haven’t kept secret the time I was engaging in what began as consensual sex but unexpectedly turned violent. After he hit me so hard I temporarily lost my hearing, I didn’t say no. I did what many women before me have done: I tried to manage the situation. I smiled, I sweet talked, I cajoled, I did everything I could to force the encounter to end naturally (how fucked up is that sentence) because I was too scared of what he would do to me if I said no.
All I could think about what getting him to finish as quickly as possible so that he would pass out. He did finish, I did put him to sleep in my bed, but he didn’t pass out. He wasn’t finished with me. Eventually, he passed out. I couldn’t sleep, though, because I was in so much pain. I thought I was going to have to ask him to take me to the hospital because of what he did to to me.
I confronted him about what happened a few days later. His response? “What are you talking about?” Either he didn’t remember, or he was lying about not remembering. And honestly, I don’t know what is worse. At least if he’s lying it’s because he knows what he did was wrong. But to not know what you are capable of after a few drinks? That’s too fucking scary to think about.
I’m not shy about talking about when I was 11 or 12 walking with my best friend at our town festival.I felt someone pinch my butt, dangerously close to my vagina. I turned around and saw two huge men smirking at me and laughing. I wanted to say something BUT THEY WERE HUGE! At least 200 pounds. And there were two of them. I grabbed my best friend’s arm and quickly walked us elsewhere, even though we were already in a crowd of people. I just didn’t want those men behind me.
Or one afternoon I was walking to the post office. A block ahead of me I saw two men walking towards me, taking up the whole sidewalk. I immediately looked around to see if there was anyone else out, because I had a bad feeling. I was alone and I knew I needed to get to a more populated street. One man (boy-man, technically. He was 20 or 21) blocked my path, told me he knew me from the library and that he loved me and I was his baby. He was obviously high. I thanked him and told him to have a nice day while I darted around him, and he shouted at me that the next time he came to the library he would get my number.
He came to the library a few days later. At first, I didn’t recognize him, but I did get a bad feeling from him. I was straightening books in the children’s section when he walked behind me, trailed his fingers from one shoulder to the other and said something in a suggestive tone. I said “Do NOT touch me” and then added “please” because I was at work and felt like I needed to maintain good customer service.
I immediately went to the closest service desk to call security. The male security guard took my complaint seriously and asked if I wanted to contact the police but I didn’t know what that meant and he didn’t explain it to me. Luckily the next day the only female security guard pulled me aside. She told me it was up to me but that she strongly suggested I contact the police about an incident report to get what happened on record. I knew that I wasn’t the only woman he was being inappropriate with, and if it helped another woman somehow, I wanted his behavior on record. So she called the police and sat with me as I gave a statement. I will always be thankful she did that, even though nothing else happened with this guy again.
I state these instances not because I think they’re special. I don’t at all. In fact, I think they’re all too common. Everyone woman I know (and some girls!) has some story that falls somewhere on the “me too” spectrum. There is still a ton of shame behind being harassed, but we have been more and more vocal about this shit in the past couple decades.
Are we supposed to bare of potential sources of shame so that men will finally listen to us when we say we’ve been harassed/assaulted/raped? When we tell them stop asking us to smile because it is not our jobs to make them feel good about themselves. (Or more bizarrely, because they think it will cheer us up? Pro tip-if you want to do the opposite of cheering a woman up, then ask her to smile randomly on the street.)
Who “tells you to smile randomly on the street”? No one of course, you made that up.
— Indep. Workers Party (@IWPCHI) October 7, 2017
Why haven’t they been listening to us before now?! It should come as a surprise to NO ONE that women are harassed on the street, in the workplace or by people they’re close to. It may be a surprise to hear which specific men are doing the harassing, but not that women are harassed. Get real.
I want to be clear-I don’t think it’s all men.I won’t even say it’s most men. Men who harass one woman are going to harass others. And here’s the thing. The men that are listening to “me too” probably aren’t the problem. The men who need to hear won’t listen. But me baring my past isn’t going to get those men to listen. It isn’t going to get those men to quit being harassing dickfaces.
Do I think that sharing my experiences will change the mind of any of the men involved? I mean, I confronted one about it and that did not end with taking responsibility for his actions. It’s possible in the years since this has happened he has acknowledged how problematic his behavior was and has taken steps to change. I wouldn’t know. But the other men? Would it change anything in their lives to know how scared and powerless I felt? I suspect that they would like to hear that.
Take a look at how @IWPCHI responded when confronted with the fact that yeah, women are told by men to smile all the fucking time.
Can you believe? We’re still receiving 100s of Tweets from hideously oppressed US women angry cuz we never see men “ordering” women to smile
— Indep. Workers Party (@IWPCHI) October 17, 2017
“Me too” isn’t going to change this guy’s mind.
What saying “me too” might do is empower women (and anyone who has experienced sexual harassment/assault/rape.) I don’t want to diminish the empowerment or comfort women feel when posting “me too.” If “me too” has given them the courage to speak up and know they’re not alone then it’s done good. Let’s look for more ways to empower women and get everyone to speak against the people who have harassed them.
I don’t know what the panacea is. I don’t know what you could say to @IWPCHI (or the people behind the account since I don’t think it is a single person.) to make them believe that street harassment is real. Or to believe a woman when she said she was harassed even though they weren’t there to personally witness it. I don’t have an answer for what will make men listen-only rants.