Me too. Two words that I saw echoes all over social media the past few days. Two words that normally might be tossed aside, looked over, missed. Not yesterday. not today.
I guess I am considered one of the “lucky” ones. I have not been the victim of some heinous form of sexual assault. Great. I’m “lucky.” Let’s look at that word, one that I’ve heard so often in these situations, right alongside “at least.” I’ve heard statements like “At least I was only groped. It could have been worse.” “I’m lucky my friends didn’t leave me with that guy.” “Luckily that (rape) has never happened to me.” At least? Luckily? I’ve heard these and sentences like these time and time again. I’ve even said versions of these myself. You know what these show? These show an enormous flaw in our society that allows a comparison like this to even be a daily occurrence. They imply that somehow victims of “minor” sexual harassment and assault should just act like it’s no big deal because hey, it could have been worse.
Guess what? It is a big deal. It is time it was treated as such. This is not a new idea and yet somehow we’re still here, still trying to be heard. Seeing the multitude of #metoo posts yesterday and today was overwhelming in so many ways. Even when I know how widespread this issue is, the sheer magnitude still knocks me off my feet. I felt pain for every person who shared those words. I felt pride, because sometimes sharing two short words is not easy. I won’t lie. I hesitated…a very short time, but I hesitated. What will people think of me? Will I have to answer more questions. Ha. What is right is not always easy, but I am taking a stand. This culture that has allowed and continues to allow men to believe they can do whatever they want to a woman and it’s just a “boys will be boys” scenario has to be dissolved.
When I was in the sixth grade, a boy asked me what middle school was like, because I had a friend who was already in the 7th grade. She was in middle school, not me, and I had no idea what middle school was like and told him so. He became angry with me and his response (and I have never forgotten) was: “You’re such a stuck-up Barbie doll. Why don’t you go put on some plastic.” Boys will be boys, right? I told myself at the time it was no big deal, he was upset, who cares? Yet…those words have echoed in my head for years. I couldn’t deliver, so he turned nasty. At eleven years old.
I’ve been groped and my ass has been slapped. Whistles, catcalls, jeers…”just keep walking,” I tell myself every time. Don’t make it worse. I’ve said “no” and been ignored. I’ve gone out dancing and have pried hands off of me. A few got angry, called me names. How dare I not want a sweaty, unknown man all over me? I have been ridiculed for not wanting to walk by myself at night, for being cautious. Always by men. Never by other women. I didn’t see emotional and mental abuse for what it was while in a relationship (because at least I wasn’t physically abused, right?). Time and time again I was told that I am less than because I’m a woman. I have dodged men trying to grope me because I wore short dresses. They told me I shouldn’t wear short dresses and that it was my fault. Sometimes I believed them. It was not my fault. Being a woman should not be a “fault.”
Worst of all, is to hear the same stories repeated over and over again by most of the women I know. Some have worse stories than mine, and my heart aches. But…we are strong. We are resilient. We are powerful. To all of the women out there sharing your stories (and my simply posting two words, you are sharing) I stand with you. To all of the men out there who have been victims of sexual harassment and assault (because people, don’t kid yourselves and think that this is only happening to women) I stand with you too. We are not alone.
“This is not a moment it’s the movement.”
—Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton