I’m going to start this post by saying what this is not about: it isn’t about me being a victim; it isn’t about looking for sympathy; it isn’t about selling anything; it isn’t about ‘one-upping’ another persons story; it isn’t about blaming anyone. What am I adding this caveat before my post? Because I’ve seen all of this in the #metoo movement.
In case you’ve been off of social media for the past several days, you have likely noticed that “me too” has popped up in news feeds, twitter feeds and who knows where else from women of all walks of life. It is indicating that someone has experienced some sort of sexual harassment, abuse or assault. It’s not about stories of these things, so there could be anything from rape of a child to name-calling. None of these are ok, but I’m not sure that putting all experiences into one neat ‘me too’ box really addresses these quite varied issues. I understand that the idea is to get the scope of the problem – just how many women have experienced some form of unwanted sexual offense. My thought? Ummm…try all of them? All women have experienced something; being called a name like slut or cat-called, being kissed by the guy who thought you wanted it, being harassed at a party by someone who wanted to ‘date’ you because he thought as a single mom you would be desperate (ok, that one was personal). We’ve experienced leering looks or looks of disgust or comments made to make us feel small or less than because some guy is insecure and thinks that’s the only way he can keep you (case in point, my ex who told me my butt looked big in certain clothes when I was 21 and frankly, had an ass to kill for!). I think a lot of women have also experienced other abuses.
When I was about 15 I awoke from a drunken stupor to find not one but three guys with their hands all over me. Down my pants, on my breasts. I was passed out in a field near my house. I was with friends, or so I thought. These were three guys I hung out with all the time. Teen-aged guys who maybe should have been my protectors as opposed to predatory. I’ve never told anyone that; not my sister who also hung out with these guys, not my mom, not anyone. Why? Because I passed out in a field and I was 16 and I didn’t want to lose my “friends”. I pretended to start waking up so that they stopped. So they didn’t need to get caught. Apparently I was their protector in my silence.
I was likely pre-programmed for that sort of reaction to this because I had been sexually abused as a child. By the time I was 10 years old I had experienced my uncle sexually abusing me (and many other girls in my family), my father sliding into bed with me when I was very small and getting on top of me before my mother came in and caught him in the act, and my step-brother slowly and carefully grooming me for more and more. It started small “let me put this up in your vagina” he said referring to a piece of hay. Later it was “put your mouth here” referring to his penis. It felt wrong, but I wanted acceptance. I wanted love. I didn’t know how else to get it. I was always told to keep quiet about it and I did. Never said a peep.
I’ve found my voice over the years. And these experiences are just that now. Just experiences. Things that happened in a society that is fraught with underlying issues of misogyny, oppression, racism, sexism, and so much more. As much as it is easy to play the victim it’s through our strength that we prevail. Is it up to men to change things? Sort of. But would you change things easily if you were the one in power?
Maybe we need to recognize that all of these issues have the same backdrop: power over. What happens if we all stand together- people of colour, people who are differently-abled, people who identify as LGBTQ , trans, binary, women and more. What happens if we all start looking to the root and how systemically these things are staying in place and work together to rid our society of power over? If we could recognize how similar our issues are maybe we could finally start to make improvements. Or maybe this is a pipe dream.