Thoughts dredged up by #MeToo

#MeToo

The #MeToo campaign–which encourages women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to speak out to show how widespread the problem is–has made me stop and think. I’m not going to detail any horrific incidents in this post, but if you find the #MeToo conversation triggering you might still want to skip it.

When Twitter broke out in #MeToos, my first instinct was to feel incredibly lucky that I’ve never been sexually harassed or assaulted and sad and angry for all the people who have been.

We shouldn’t have to live in a world where women are lucky if they’ve never been sexually assaulted. That should be all women.

Then I read more #MeToo stories, and I started to remember my own. Nothing dreadful or psychologically scarring, but unpleasant little incidents, things that are not okay.

My #MeToo stories

The homeless guy who came into the foyer of my work and touched my crotch in what I believe was an entirely misguided attempt to give me pleasure so I would give him some change.

Um, dude, it so doesn’t work like that.

The bunch of Hispanic men in hoodies and ripped jeans hanging out in a carpark who called out lewd remarks as I cycled past.

Definitely not a compliment. Terrifying.

I was an adult, but I was new in America and had never heard of catcalling, and I seriously thought they might chase and attack me.

Even if I’d known what catcalling was, I might have thought the same.

The two boys at school who grabbed their friend’s hands to force him to touch my crotch and chest.

I hit both of them and threatened to get them expelled, and they decided it was safer to leave me alone.

The guy in the club who asked me if I liked pain, then whipped my butt with what I think was a length of electrical cord.

One of the many reasons I never went to clubs much.

The creepy old guy I sat next to and politely engaged in conversation at a conference dinner, who took my civilised conversation as an invitation to grope my thigh under the table for the next hour and follow me and my (mostly male) friends to four bars as we repeatedly left without inviting him, who somehow maintained the deluded idea that the only way the evening could end was with me in his bed.

Eww!

There are others.

The weird psychological stuff that goes with such incidents

I never told anyone about the homeless guy, the schoolkids, the guy in the club, or the men in the carpark.

I did think about reporting the homeless guy, and in fact I walked past a police officer on my way home straight after the incident and considered telling him. I didn’t.

There were lots of reasons. I’d had a long day at work and just wanted to go home; I didn’t think the police officer would care or do anything about it; and I’m shy, most of my experiences with the police have been negative, and he looked kind of busy, so I didn’t feel inclined to approach him.

Sure, I could have gone to a police station later. But really? The police are so under-resourced they can’t even solve murders. They’re so not going to anything about this kind of incident. And it was embarrassing.

I told my friends about Creepy Conference Guy at the time. They were there and saw how predatory he was being anyway.

What I have the hardest time getting my head around is my reaction to him, and that’s where #MeToo opened my eyes.

Physically, I’m a fairly confident person. I’m not that big, but I’ve trained in martial arts for more than twelve years and I know I can put up enough of a fight to deter all but the most determined attacker.

On the other hand, I’m rather shy so I’d prefer not to draw attention to myself, and I’m a total people-pleaser. Dangerous.

The day after the incident with Creepy Conference Guy, I was talking with my work friends about it, joking about what a total creep he was and how he seemed to have no concept of the fact I was utterly uninterested in him even after I got up and walked away from him multiple times.

Their responses made me uncomfortable for no reason I could put my finger on.

Friend 1: Did you tell him to stop touching you?

Me: I don’t know. I don’t think so.

Why didn’t I?

Friend 1: Why not?

Me: I knew I’d had quite a bit to drink–like, three or four glasses of wine–and that my judgment was impaired, and I didn’t want to make a scene by punching him in the face or anything. I figured if I totally ignored him he’d the get point and go away.

He didn’t.

Friend 2: You should report him.

Me, uncomfortable: Meh. To who?

I didn’t want to talk about it, and I didn’t want to bring it to the attention of more people. #MeToo showed me how utterly normal that response is.

Then there was my lack of reaction.

You hear stories about women who are raped and don’t fight back. Some don’t even say no. That doesn’t mean they want it.

I never used to understand this. Of course I’d fight back, I told myself. After mulling over my own experience, I think I understand a little more. A freeze response kicks in–it did with me–and I would guess it could be a lot stronger if you fear for your life.

Then there’s the social aspect. I was at a professional function, sitting through speeches. It’s hard to break out of “normal, polite mode” and kick up a fuss. What if you upset or offend him? What if it’s just a misunderstanding?

It’s easy to say what a victim “should” have done, but it’s never as simple as it sounds.

Then in the aftermath it was embarassing. I was the person who’d had this gross man pawing at her leg all night.

It was easy to reach a point of blaming myself. I should have told him firmly “no” right at the start. I shouldn’t have drunk so much. (But boring conference dinner!) I shouldn’t have been so friendly in my professional chit-chat. (Oh, the danger of a smile.) I shouldn’t have sat down next to a stranger in an attempt to network.

But that’s ridiculous, and #MeToo has made me realise exactly how ridiculous it is.

Professional, friendly conversation is not an invitation to grope a woman. If she gets up and leaves without a word or backwards glance, especially if she does it more than once, chances are she doesn’t want you to follow.

Are some men really this clueless? I guess they are. I can only hope that after the #MeToo campaign fewer men will fall into this category.

Am I part of the problem?

The longer the #MeToo conversation went on and the more I read about people’s experiences, the more I started to wonder if I’m part of the problem.

I tell myself I would never victim blame, but I’ve also never been one to walk alone at night, go home with strangers, frequent clubs (twice doesn’t count), or do many other things that I’d consider risky behaviours.

Yes, women should be able to walk alone at night without concern, but I’m not so naive that I think we live in that world. I think women who do certain things are increasing their risk of ending up in a bad situation. Is that anti-feminist?

I’ve laughed at sexist jokes. I’ve been flattered by a professor making what were probably inappropriate comments. I’ve thought sexual harassment in the workplace was over and “rape culture” was an exaggeration.

After watching the progression of the #MeToo campaign, I don’t any more.

I hope this movement doesn’t just fizzle out, that it has far-reaching effects on society.

I might not be able to ensure it changes the world, but I can make sure it changes me. From now on I will be more vigilant watching for everyday sexism and will challenge the people who perpetuate it.

Including myself.

Has the #MeToo movement affected how you think about society’s attitude towards women?

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Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

18 thoughts on “Thoughts dredged up by #MeToo”

  1. It really does make me sick. There is a Ben Harper song “Excuse Me Mister” where he says, “You’re giving ‘mister’ a bad name, mister like you.” While I can’t pretend to be an angel, I have found it pretty easy in my life not to harass or assault women. There is an unfortunately large number of men that have been derailed from the path of what’s right. Sorry for your bad experiences and all other women in the world (a vast number) who have been subjected to BS like this

    1. A very apt song. I agree, it’s appalling how widespread this is. I know I’m going to pay more attention in future and be sure to call people out when they behave in ways that perpetuate the problem. I hope you will too.

  2. That was such a brave post and I offer cat hugs (Charlie and Pepper hug better than me).

    I felt the same. My first reaction was that this was a great campaign… for other women. Then I saw a #MeToo tweet that wasn’t rape or even sexual assault, but “just” sexual harassment. And mine came flooding back. Before that moment I had known the statistics, but I had never realised that I’m one of them. The first occasion was when I was just 11, and my #MeToo tweet was the first time in 17 years I’ve told anyone. I still feel ashamed, even though I was a child, in a crowded place, covered up clothing-wise, and not doing anything to put myself at risk.

    The fact is that we are all at risk, every day, by being female. That’s what victim blamers need to realise. The vast, vast majority of sex crimes are committed by people that the victim knows: if the victim is a child, it’s likely to be a member of her family. If the victim is an adult, it’s likely to be a “friend,” date, partner, or husband. There are two things she’s done to put herself at risk: 1) have a vagina and 2) trust a man. We cannot keep ourselves safe by dressing a certain way and getting a taxi home from a club. Men have to keep us safe by not being rapists and assault…ers.

    Thank you for opening discussion in another space. <3

    1. Yay! I love cat hugs.

      It’s peculiar how universal the feelings of guilt and shame are when a woman is the recipient of men’s worse nature. It’s not our fault!

  3. I love this blog – such a considered response and I can relate to it so much. Like you, I’ve ‘only’ experienced sexual harassment, but until the #MeToo campaign I never gave it much thought. Looking back at it now, the fact that it’s such an everyday thing, something that every woman puts up with, is ridiculous. We should be furious, but instead we just think, well, it wasn’t anything serious, and walk away. It’s frightening when you actually stop to think about it.

  4. Thank you for this post. I think it’s too easy for those of us who don’t experience these acts to put on blinders and think that because we don’t see something happen, it must not happen at all. That’s what’s great about the #MeToo campaign; it’s important to other women to know they’re not alone, and it’s important to men to see just how many women around us are affected by this.

    I think a lot of women don’t talk about these things for two main reasons: First, it’s become a part of normal life, and they’ve just accepted it. And this is terrible and scary to think about. To be treated like this so often and for so long that it just becomes the norm is just out of the realm of understanding to most of us.

    You hit on the second reason when you wrote, “I was the person who’d had this gross man pawing at her leg all night.” Victims of sexual assault tend to fear how they will be seen if they admit it was committed against them. I’ve seen this with a lot of close friends who only recently began opening up about their experiences. I think a lot of this is the result of a culture that blames women for what they were wearing, or where they were, or who they were (or were not) with, and regardless of the circumstances, chooses to call the victim a “slut” and try their damnedest to prove they’re lying for attention or something.

    I too hope this movement doesn’t fizzle out and die. But I have doubts it will keep up for a long time. At the very least, for now, it has a good head of steam on it, and it’s adding to a very necessary conversation. It’s that conversation that really needs to keep up, and future hashtags will crop up in the future to stoke the flames and keep it alive.

    1. I’ve been watching the #MeToo feed in twitter, and it’s amazing how many people are speaking about their experiences with sexual harassment or assault for the first time ever. Even if nothing more comes from all this, I hope at least it will have reduced the stigma of talking about such experiences, and that change in itself can pave the way for more widespread change.

  5. This was a very brave thing to write. 🙂

    One of the benefits of the campaign going so big so fast is that women are able to see, and hear, and read, about stories that validate their experiences.

    You will never go back to where you were before. That is a good thing. You will see it, all around you, and you will be horrified, and angered, and heartbroken, and enraged, and you will take action, sometimes big, sometimes small, and the change will move forward.

    1. Thank you.

      Yes, I’ve got a lot of validation from the campaign myself. I’m not the only one this happens to. I didn’t cause it myself, and it’s much more widespread than I had assumed.

      You’re right, it has changed me, and I hope it has changed a lot of other people as well.

  6. Thank you for posting this. It takes courage to crack the shell of denial and shame that surrounds every adult woman I know. Your response of gradual recognition is so much like my own, that in the true spirit of Me Too’-ism I am about to write my own post on the topic. And the very thought of doing so makes my stomach roil. Like you, it’s worth it if it keeps the momentum going. Cheers, my friend.

  7. Thank you for sharing this. It greatly saddens me to hear about the terrible things these men did to you. It is despicable. I think the good thing about this campaign is that it brings to light how prevalent sexual harassment/assault are and that it’s never okay. Women have been telling their stories all along, but it most cases they’ve just been swept under the rug. And many others haven’t shared their stories because of completely understandable reasons. They weren’t believed, they were told it’s not a big deal, they were blamed, they were interrogated, they felt ashamed, they’re worried about repercussions, etc. I sincerely hope that we don’t forget about it after a while and that it does bring change in many people. I hope that we can be more compassionate to everyone who has been harassed or assaulted and that we will better listen to them. And I hope that we will be more vigilant in challenging those who perpetrate these heinous acts.

    1. Thank you for your support. It’s a terrible situation, but if enough of us are vigilant from a place of understanding perhaps we can induce a cultural change to the point where this isn’t the norm.

  8. I’ve been shocked by some of the me too stuff that has come out, not just the stuff that has happened but who it has happened too. Really makes you think. Although I had to ask a few times before I found out what me too actually was.

  9. Thank you so much for posting this❤️❤️ It took bravery to do so and I send you virtual hugs 😊 I too am a victim, and while I won’t go into detail here I’m considering making a brief post of it to help others if I can. It’s a horrible thing that it’s so prevelant. I agree some men are clueless, but the sad fact is probably that they know and just don’t care because they believe they will get away with it. All we can do is continue to bring awareness untill they realize that they can no longer hide. Thanks again for posting🙂

    1. Thanks for reading and for your support. 🙂

      I’ve seen some #MeToo tweets from men discounting the whole thing, saying women are just joining in tweeting #MeToo because it’s trending, and that the victims were prostituting themselves, and I momentarily despair for mankind. Then I block and move on and see all the positive and hopeful messages, and I believe we can change this.

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