I remember when our current president was elected. I had fallen asleep on the couch, unable to stay up past 10:00pm (I’m a sucker). I woke up and the results were final. I was exasperated. My roommate heard me and walked into the living room, and she saw it on the TV. I said to her, “Oh my God, my country’s racist.” My roommate, a female woman scientist from Barbados who reminds me that she has every strike against her with this administration (scientist + female + black + immigrant), says to me, “This country’s been racist.”
I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment–the moment that I woke up and really recognized my privilege. I had encountered racism and recognition of my privilege countless times, especially having grown up in Ferguson and seeing my hometown all over the news. But it was the first time that I realized that I might be in the minority on my opinions. It was the first time that I realized that the majority might still not agree with me on something that I felt so deeply in my heart.
I’m having deja vu right now: As we watch our heroes in the form of politicians, actors, athletes, reporters, musicians, and food show hosts (that one hurt me the most), pop up every day with accusations of sexual misconduct, I hear many men surprised.
And the thing is… women aren’t.
For me, this hit when the #metoo hashtag trended, the same day that I was sexually harassed by someone who insisted on having me “model for him.” I have been driving for Lyft in my spare time to make some extra money (I have goals), and he wouldn’t get out of my car. I felt threatened. I posted on Facebook, “#MeToo. As in, today.” A few hours later, I saw MY MOM post #metoo. I was shocked! Until I realized…of course “her too.” The problem is: we all have been sexually harassed.
My boyfriend and I have been having some great conversations about this, and I’ve shared some of my personal experiences with him. He’s been very gracious. I told him about the time that a guy slipped his way into my bra on the first date. I told him about how another man put his penis in my face during a basic smooch session, with expectations for me. I told him about how I’ve been held up in the aisle in a grocery store, blocked off from leaving by a man looking me up and down and licking his lips. I told him about the times men have threatened my safety when I’ve turned them down. I told him how a man at my church called me “ripe for the picking” and “ready” for a man.
And it surprises him. Probably because I have a genuinely good one. And probably because the media suggests that any woman who finds herself in those situations is “asking for it.” And I’m about as good as good girls come. But the crazy thing is, my response is “I’m sure you’ve done it too.” Because that’s our expectation and reality when it comes to men: they’re all treating us this way.
It made me laugh when I saw a friend post this:
Here’s the thing, fellas: You are correct.
And: you should be the one staying away.
Because here’s my prediction: Women aren’t going to be silent about this crap any more. And you should be freaking out: because for so long we have been tolerating this. But not anymore.
You see, when we elected someone to the oval office with multiple sexual assault accusations, I think women everywhere broke. And yet, again–it wasn’t surprising.
My hope is that we can begin to have some real conversations about how we got here, and how we can move forward. I do think that both men and women need to be involved in this–as I believe we can both make steps to be kinder and value one another more.
But until then: scream #MeToo. Scream it from the rooftops. Tell your story. Make men listen and women brave enough to scream it too. Telling our stories is all we have.