When my newsfeed started to get flooded with #metoo stories earlier this week, I wasn’t surprised. Like many of the women and men who shared their stories, I added my own #metoo as well. I didn’t add details to my social posts, because those stories are my own past. What did shock me was the handful of friends who posted they had never experienced harassment or sexual abuse, or their past experiences didn’t define them, so they didn’t qualify or care to post. Others didn’t post because they didn’t want to relive their experience. I get it, and everyone sees it differently. However, I still find it hard to believe that other women haven’t experienced sexual harassment in their lives – or maybe they don’t see their experiences that way.
So after this movement what do we expect to happen? Do we expect the world to change? For these experiences to stop and women and men to be treated equally and with respect. In an ideal world – yes, but that’s not where we live. We live in a world in where women, minorities and the LGTBQ community is seen as second class citizens, where consent not always required in some people’s eyes, where the man holding the highest position of power in our country boasts about assaulting women.
I took a day away from the screen yesterday, only popping on social media once in a while. It’s needed, and can be refreshing. But today was back to work, back to reality. And while at work, an older gentleman walks in. I relayed to him, as I have hundreds of other people the past couple of weeks that we’re out of a seasonal item – as is everyone else in the tri-county area. He laughed and said “Can I take you home instead?”… Since I love this job, I faked a smile and moved the conversation along. I directed him to the other seasonal items we do have in stock, and he replied only talking to my breasts.
This. This is unfortunately not the first time. This is another #Metoo situation. This is what women deal with and have been brushed off as “normal behavior” for men, as locker room talk, as “boys will be boys”.
And this is a small example, and one where I couldn’t answer how I would like to because I had to weigh the option to bite my tongue and not lose my job, or just deal with it.
This isn’t like the time that a guy grabbed my breasts at a college party because he saw I had a drink in my hand, so that must mean it’s alright.
This isn’t like the time when a manager gave me a ride to work and expected me to sleep with him. And got angry when I told him No. He has mutual friends with me on social media, and has repeatedly requested connecting with me on several social media accounts and sent me messages – still 18 years later.
This isn’t like when a girl who was went out with me and mutual friends continually tried to pull me down on her lap and tried to make out with me – despite me telling her No, because hey – we were at a gay bar – so it had to be ok.
This isn’t like my first trip to LA, when I was walking with friends down Hollywood Blvd, and a guy licked his lips and said “Damn Girl! I’d F*** you all day and all night”
No… this isn’t even close to the worst #metoo moment in my life. But it is another in a long list that needs to stop now.
This is why I always wear my radio at work on my collar as a visual cue that I can call one of the guys in the back to come out at any time.
This is why I always have my keys out before I leave so I wont be vulnerable digging in my purse that could put me in a bad situation.
This is why I never get drunk. Yes, I have drinks with friends, but I never lose control of a situation. I remember a story from a friend in high school who was assaulted by multiple people after having a few too many.
This is why I take mental notes on people that give me a weird feeling, or could put me in a bad situation.
This is why I refuse to even work in my own yard without a phone in my pocket – despite the fact we live in a safe neighborhood.
This is why when I was younger I lied about my age – not that I was ashamed or wanted to be older – but to get out of a creepy situation because I suddenly “illegal”
This is why I still lie and tell people that I’m married, and have moved my ring to the appropriate finger.
So what do we do? What happens now? We know there is a problem and it needs to be addressed. I’m thankful for the friends, family and a supportive boyfriend. Ones that are willing to listen, to stand up and tell people to knock this off. For friends who are reflecting back and seeing where problems may have been.
Will it change right away? No, unfortunately all of our #metoo lists will continue to grow. But we can start to make the change. Talking about our experiences (or not if you’re not ready to) is a good start, bringing awareness to the issues. But we need to remember that all humans have boundaries, and no means no. This is a simple lesson that kids learn as early as one, and one we should enforce. Consent and boundaries need to be maintained and being from an “older generation” is no longer a valid excuse.
We need to believe victims, and stand by them. Stop asking what someone was wearing, or how much they drank. Believe them and let the person who did the crime pay for what they did.
We have a long way to go, but together we can use our #metoo stories to stop others from having their own.