Have you seen the words posted on social media this week? Maybe you posted them too. Maybe you didn’t feel comfortable, but you though to yourself, “Me too!”
The words indicate that you have been a victim of sexual harassment or assault. (In case you did not hear or were confused, here is an article that shares the origin.) I wanted to write more than Me Too.
I don’t want attention. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I’m not writing this as a weird badge of honor or to get pageviews on my blog.
I’m writing this because still—STILL—this is a pervasive problem. It seems like we should all know. But it’s still happening. Daily. Hourly. All over the world. And some people do not know or understand.
Victims don’t HAVE to share their stories for you to understand, but sometimes that is what it takes and I want to share my stories.
I actually wrote this post (what follows) two years ago. Then I couldn’t hit publish. I wasn’t ready. It sat here in a draft, this list of things that have happened to me.
Most of the things were fairly innocuous. They were what I expect (or came to expect) as being a woman. The price you pay. The reality of womanhood. No matter what you do.
But some are still really hard for me to say out loud or to write. I don’t really want to talk further about them. I’d love to never think of them again. But I NEED to say them. And I think it’s so very important for you to read these words and others like them.
Women: I feel like it’s important to know you are not alone. You are not.
Men: I feel like sometimes you may not realize that what you are doing is harassment or what other men around you are doing is harassment. I’m writing this for YOU. Not the guys who just don’t care. They still won’t care. But for the men who don’t understand, don’t think this is a problem, want to question women’s stories, feel like many times it’s just made up, don’t think they have ever taken part in this– THIS IS FOR YOU.
Please read it. Please let the words sink in.
Not because I am someone’s wife or daughter or mother or because you have a wife or daughter or mother.
Let the words sink in and be a shaking of your preconceived thoughts because WOMEN ARE HUMAN BEINGS.
MY LIST OF ME TOO
As a girl I was molested by an older boy in the neighborhood while other neighborhood boys watched.
In middle school boys who were my “friends” berated me by shouting things about my breasts daily in the cafeteria. They only stopped when I moved seats so that I faced them. Apparently they could only do it behind my back.
I have been called a slut. I have been called a tease. I have been called a dog. I have been called a bitch. Not because of anything I did, but just because. Or because I said no.
I have been sexually assaulted on a date. Later, I told friends that the boy was “aggressive.” I did not have even the words to say what he did and was ashamed that it happened. I felt like it was my fault for getting into a situation where I was alone with him.
I was told once that I needed to put a t-shirt on over my modest one-piece bathing suit because it was “causing men to stumble.”
Upon meeting a guy’s father on our first date, the dad told me that I had nice-ass legs. I was 17.
I have had to say no. And no. And no. And no. And no. And no. With my words and my body again and again and sometimes physically fight my way out of someone’s embrace.
I had to hide in a classroom for an entire school dance because boys were trying to take pictures down the front of my dress.
Once while jogging at night, a carful of teenage boys drove by and shouted out the windows of the car at me. Then, they u-turned and sped back towards me. I spent the next 15 minutes trying to run through gated areas of the neighborhood back to my house, hearing the sound of their music as their car circled and they tried to find me.
As a teacher, I was harassed by a student in a teacher-student conference. Even in a public space and when I told him that I was married and his instructor, he did not care and did not stop.
I have been hit on while skinny. While overweight. WHILE SUPER PREGNANT. While wearing a bathing suit. A winter jacket. And everything in between.
I had a boyfriend who flew into rages and would scream inches from my face if I didn’t call him at the right time.
In eighth grade a boyfriend called me with his friends while they were all on speakerphone. They asked specific and detailed questions about what I would and would not let him do to me.
I have been on a stage and heard someone yell, “Take it off!”
While working out in the gym at college, two guys stood uncomfortably close to me while I was drinking water at the fountain. When I stood up, one of them stepped even closer and leered at me. I will never, ever forget that look. It was desire, but the desire to harm or even to kill me. So palpable that the hair stood up on my arms and neck. I stepped away from him and as soon as I could get to the staircase without having to walk by him, I fled the gym and ran all the way back to my dorm.
After having a baby, people made jokes about whether or not I got the “husband stitch.”
After having a baby, men made comments about the size of my breasts and asked me intensely personal questions about breastfeeding.
I have been whistled and shouted at from moving cars, on the street, even once inside the gates of the Vatican.
Once a man told me that the sport I played would be better if we wore tear-away clothing as uniforms. He said this in front of his 9-year-old daughter, who participated in a similar sport. He laughed as he said it, as though this were akin to him making a lighthearted joke.
I had my drink drugged at a bar. Thankfully I started throwing up before I became completely incapacitated. (It was close.)
In middle school a boy I liked kept trying to get me to come to the apartment where he lived with his mother. I found out later that he locked at least two girls in that apartment at different times and wouldn’t let them leave until they had sex with him.
I HAVE BEEN SO LUCKY.
I emerged mostly unscathed. I was mostly subjected to the “normal” range of things that a woman might expect in the US. In many parts of the world it is far, far worse.
I doubt that the list is terribly unfamiliar to my women readers.
It may surprise men reading.
This list may surprise my friends, because these are mostly stories I do not tell.
Why would I?
I have not racked up therapy bills. I am well-adjusted. I do not have nightmares or trauma from these events. These are simply parts of my story.
They make me uncomfortable, angry, disgusted, and sometimes ashamed. EVEN THOUGH I SHOULD NOT BE ASHAMED BY THE ACTIONS SOMEONE ELSE TOOK AGAINST ME. So then I’m more angry because I shouldn’t feel ashamed.
But still: there is the shame.
The reality that I am (and other women are) unsurprised by these things reveals part of the problem:
Whether we realize it or not, women come to expect violence and harassment. For the most part, we all understand that it’s simply part of our story.
I am lucky that nothing worse happened to me.
I am also lucky that I can write these words without being burned or beaten in the street. I won’t be arrested. I have it relatively good. It’s safe for me to speak up. I might get trolled. (There’s a delete button for that.)
So I am speaking up. And it is a small thing.
Victims shouldn’t HAVE to all share our stories. You should just believe us. Believe the few and brave who do speak up.
Because there are many who may read this and think:
Yeah…but what did you do about it?
Yeah…but what did you do to deserve it?
Yeah…but what were you wearing?
Yeah…but why didn’t you speak up before now?
Yeah…but that was harmless.
BELIEVE US. And know that these things are not harmless.
We don’t all need to categorize why we share “me too,” but I felt called to do so. Again, I’m not trying to garner sympathy or support or pageviews. Personally, I feel that I cannot NOT speak up right now at such a time as this. For whatever small good it might do.
I hope these stories help women to feel solidarity. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I believe you. Me too.
I hope these stories help men who don’t understand to get some small sense of the reality of being a woman.
(Yes, assault and abuse happen to men as well! Sharing about women doesn’t need to exclude or minimize the terrible things that happen to men as well.)
This is not a problem with “some people.” It is systemic. It is cultural. IT IS WORLDWIDE.
SO WHAT DO WE DO?
If you are a victim and want to speak up, do. YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE TO. But if you feel called to, do.
If you are grieved when you read this or see all of the “me too” posts online, consider how you may take small steps to stop these problems.
If you see any of these behaviors, do not minimize them.
Do not say, “boys will be boys.”
Do not say, “It’s just guy talk.”
Do not say, “It’s harmless.”
Do not say, “These stories are often not true.”
Do not say, “Yeah, but…”
If you catch yourself wondering what she did or could have done or what she was wearing, STOP IT.
Don’t just do this because you have daughters and mothers and sisters. If thinking of them helps you feel something, okay. I get it. Start there. But then move on to realize that you should want to be an agent of change because women are human beings.
If men would treat us as human beings, there would be far less women saying, “Me too.”
For now, though, we say it. I say it.