Monday, October 16, 2017

#MeToo

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My whole life my mother would make me repeat after her, "All men are pigs". If I tried to make excuses like, "But, what about Daddy?" She would abruptly cut me off, "ALL. Men. Are. Pigs". It honestly scared the crap out of me, but I think it was her way of preparing me. Her mantra made me fearful of men, but also made it so that when I heard things like:

"You don't look twelve, you seem so much more mature."

Or

"Old enough to bleed, old enough to breed."

it didn't surprise me. I already had this thin layer of armor thanks to my mother's words, but also an understanding that this was just the way things were and they couldn't be changed. All men are pigs, accept it, move on.

As I got older, the focus shifted to teaching me how to be thoroughly unrapeable.

Don't wear revealing clothes.
Don't walk alone at night.
Don't drink too much.
Don't talk to strangers.

The responsibility fell on me to ensure that men didn't have the opportunity to assault me. In spite of all these lessons, I can still say "Me too."

The verbal assaults weren't a shock (Thanks Mom!), but the guy who groped me at a concert and the man who started masturbating in front of me in public, those were.

I've had a man at work try to talk to me about my underwear, I've been denied a job because I am female and might "get pregnant one day and have to miss work", I had wedding vendors who would only speak to my husband because he is a man.

And the worst that was done to me, was not some stranger in a dark alley, it was a person I should have been able to trust. Because, "You can't be raped if it's your boyfriend, right?" NEWS FLASH: Yes, you can. I didn't understand until much later that I had even been assaulted.

I was drunk and with someone who should have protected me and instead he did something I did not consent to and would not have consented to. It was confusing and hurtful, I didn't understand what had happened to me. To make it worse, I stayed with him after that, because...well, all men are pigs. What did I expect?

I just want to go back in time to punch myself in the face and then give me a great big hug. What happened was not okay, but I did not have a clear picture of what consent and assault even looked like. It took years for me to learn that what happened was wrong.

It's frustrating because we can be better, we can all be better. It shouldn't take men and women putting their harassment and assaults on display for the public to acknowledge that this is an issue, but here we are.

How do we teach men and women to be just be good people? How do I teach my daughter about safety and consent without putting the full burden on her shoulders and none on the rest of the world?

The conversation has started and awareness is raised, how do we build off of this momentum? It's exhausting, but feels more urgent and necessary than ever before.

So, I add my #MeToo not to jump on the bandwagon, but to aide that conversation. And also to speak for those who feel like they can't. You are all brave, you are here, you are loved, and it was not your fault. Me too, me too, me too.

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