So bear with me here, as this is actually going to be a series of posts, two of which were posts and two of which were follow up comments that I made to my Original Post. You see, that is how things work sometimes. You start a discussion and then you realize more information. Maybe someone else adds their perspective and you see things from a new angle, maybe you have new information to consider, maybe the information settles in and you start remembering more stuff yourself – stuff that you either put away or you didn’t even know you knew. A bit of both of that happened for me. I started this conversation with myself, I included my friends and loved ones, I read some interesting articles, and then I let the whole thing sit. As I opened up myself to my own vulnerabilities, I remembered more times that I felt uncomfortable – times that sounded familiar to some of the situations described in news articles over and over again.
Now someone might say: “What is the good in that? Why would you WANT to make yourself remember uncomfortable stuff? You are fine. Nothing happened!” Well, something did happen. No, I wasn’t raped, and I wasn’t physically assaulted. I wouldn’t even call what happened legally an assault. I would call it manipulative. I would call it a power play, made from a position of perceived entitlement. I would call it stepping up to the line and seeing if there was a chance to take advantage (probably not how he would phrase it or even view it)… and then backing away because, in that moment, according to the result of some equation in his head, I wasn’t a quick and easy acquisition. Or maybe something else. I really don’t know. I don’t know what exactly stopped it from going further. The length of my hair? It was the same as when he extended the invitation. The fact that we were meeting my boss and others in a bit? My boss wasn’t expecting me. The hotel with increased security? There are always ways… and he had much more money than me. Even if someone couldn’t have been hushed up with cash, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have *thought* he could have.
So what made the difference? I don’t know. That’s the point. He could have overpowered me – he was much bigger – he had at least 100 pounds on me. Some might say “but he didn’t, he let you go.” And that’s the other point. HE let ME go. There was a power imbalance in that room – created through manipulation, through status/position, and through use of physical space. In that moment, it wasn’t me deciding whether or not I wished to be there, it was him deciding whether or not I was permitted to leave. I could use all of my “training” to put myself in the strongest possible situation, but in the end, it was him deciding whether or not I was permitted to leave… and how. That didn’t make me powerless, but it did make me sick to my stomach… and ultimately question myself for taking someone at their word.
So here you go… my 3 part Me Too series…
Part 1… Original Post Date: October 15, 2017
I’m seeing a lot of Me Toos in my feed. You know what’s funny? Not funny ha ha, but funny curious… when I saw the whole “Me Too” thing my first reaction was “hmm, no, not me.” And then I thought about it for a moment and I was like “Oh, I mean, I HAVE been propositioned for threesomes on multiple occasions (once in my front yard while donating items to a church) when guys find out I’m a lesbian. Oh yeah, and one of the fathers of someone with whom I grew up DID stare directly at my chest after church one day while I was standing next to my mom and said ‘My you’ve grown…’ and I said ‘UP… I’ve grown up.’ And then basically the same thing happened to me by someone who was a few years older than me when we attended the same wedding… and he was married. And then there was that guy when I was 12 who was older (19) who hit on me and I didn’t fully realize what was happening (I just thought he was being weird) but my brother did and he protected me. Actually that happened a couple of times with a couple of different guys. And my brother protected me each time. And then there are the countless whistles and ‘smiles’ and ‘ooh I like what I see’ or the ‘why don’t you grow your hair out – you’d look so pretty?’s.”
So yeah. I’ve gotten so used to it that it just seems like the way it is – because it is the way it is. It doesn’t make it right… and it doesn’t mean it can’t get better. I never felt like my job was at risk – although I have had those times where someone has clearly tried to diminish my opinion or stop me from talking because I am a woman.
So it took me a minute to realize “Me Too” — and that makes me a little sad… because that means that, on some level, after living in this, I’m a bit weary. I am both angry at the culture and a little resigned to it. I don’t want to walk around angry at everything all the time – I want to navigate this world in peace and calm – but I also want to make an impact and be a positive force for good.
So I figure a good step is looking into the Me Too of things. The Me Too of sexual harassment, of racism, of bias, of arrogance, of oppression, of all of the things that we like to NOT talk about, even to ourselves. Where have I been hurt and where have I hurt others? Where have I been pushed down and where have I pushed someone else down? Where have I been helped and where have I helped?
This Me Too campaign is about raising awareness of the prevalence and impact of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The added benefit, beyond these specific issues, is that, in the process, we are increasing our vulnerability (in a good way) and our empathy, and we are strengthening our community. Let’s keep that going.
Part 2… Original Post Date: October 17, 2017
Thank you Tarana Burke. I honestly hadn’t heard of the movement before… but I guess that’s part of the problem isn’t it? Now that we know, let’s give proper credit. But more importantly, how about we work to stop sidelining voices and groups within our movements? I get it: the struggle is already difficult, and getting rid of inclusiveness is a great way to look “reasonable” at the political bargaining table. It is also a great way to keep entire segments of the population relegated to second class citizens, even within advocacy movements. Intersectionality. We are women, we have various sexual orientations, we have various gender identities, we have differing abilities, we are from various cultures, we have various ethnicities, we are, we are, we are.
We are We.
I falter on this sometimes. I have privileges I don’t realize. Sometimes I think I know and then I realize that there is more. There is always more. I know more than I used to, but hopefully less than I will. It’s like that cheesy love song lyric “I love you more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow.” It’s that – because an essential part of love is being present for the other person’s experience and being willing to say “I don’t know, please share with me.”
So yeah, there it is. I know more now than I did before, but I promise you that I know less than I will in the future. And thank you Tarana Burke for creating this space, for tending to it, and then for honoring it with such beauty and love and grace that when it spread to a larger community you rejoiced in its expansion, recognizing the healing power it has. That is true love of community – to share it freely and without jealousy or pride. THAT is walking the path of empathy and empowerment and all of the life and soul affirming things. Thank you.
Part 3… 2 Comments, Post Dates: October 16, 2017 and October 28, 2017
October 16, 2017: Oh yeah – a post by you (sic) one my friends reminded me how I no longer go to various food establishments because I actually talk to people and make eye contact with them while they are taking my order and on several occasions people have taken that as an invitation to go further. On one occasion a guy came out from behind the counter to hand me my steak and cheese… while putting his cheek next to my cheek and half whispering “this is for you.” I now buy my steak and cheeses elsewhere.
October 28, 2017: As I was talking with colleagues yesterday, I remembered a time on a business trip when a member invited me to a party he was hosting in his room for staff and members attending the trip. I arrived at the room and realized that I was the only one invited to the “party.” He then offered me alcohol and I took a juice as he told me that we would be moving to another party – in the CEO’s room… in a bit. It was awkward and uncomfortable, and I was young. I showed up at the CEO’s room (who I knew was hosting a legitimate party) feeling as if I looked like this man’s whore. The CEO was confused as to why I was there, and I tried to convey to him non-verbally that I was not doing anything inappropriate. But I just stood there awkwardly, feeling uncomfortable.
The next day I explained the situation to the CEO, desperate to tell him that I didn’t sleep with the man or even come close to anything like that – that I had been led there under fall (sic; should be: “false”) pretenses and that I would NOT be doing that again. The CEO’s response was that this man was a member and I did exactly what I was supposed to do, which made me feel even worse. I don’t think he saw anything wrong with what happened. I told my boss, a man with 7 children, about what happened. He was appropriately outraged and protective. He made sure that I was safe for the rest of the trip and that I didn’t have to be alone with the member again. But the CEO – I lost respect for him with that response. I again gained a respect for my boss though – I knew he was a good man before, he just showed me once again how good of man he was in that moment. I’m grateful for that.