This is a strange time to be a woman. There have been plenty of times where it was awful and downright terrifying to be a woman in our nation’s history, but I don’t feel that right now is one of those times. Women are speaking out, sharing stories of their abuse and addressing perpetrators by name. Women are marching in the streets holding signs proclaiming our rights to be the only ones to control our own bodies and denouncing lawmakers who feel otherwise. But women are still targets, we are still called “too fat to rape” on twitter and are still not immediately believed to be telling the truth when we find within us the deepest courage to say the words, “he assaulted me”.
So it’s a strange time to be a woman. One moment I feel totally empowered by my local and virtual sisters across the globe, sporting my feminist t-shirts and wearing my anti-trump lipstick, and then the other moment I’m reminded of how little power I am truly able to have as my right to contraception is called into question and women who speak out against sexual predators are being told they “asked for it”. However, it’s not as if, as a woman, I am unfamiliar with two dramatically opposing messages hitting me at the same time. In fact, it’s what I was indirectly raised to perceive as normal.
Unlike so many of the brave and badass people who are speaking out about their experiences with sexual assault, I have the good fortune to have never been sexually abused. Because of that, it can sometimes feel like my story isn’t as important as my peers’; since I haven’t been assaulted I cannot presume to know what it really feels like to be a victim of sexual trauma. But I refer to an episode of one of my favorite podcasts, “Terrible, thanks for asking” with the incredible Nora McInerny entitled “Bummer Olympics”. In this episode, Nora discusses the commonly held belief that if your story isn’t as tragic as another’s, you have no reason to complain. She reassures the listener that your story is just as important, and though there certainly are levels of severity with trauma, you should never diminish your story because you believe it isn’t as awful as another’s. It’s difficult to accept, and I find myself struggling with this concept daily, but I think it is worth working on.
And so when I think of what is happening right now and the “me too” hashtag, instead of deciding that I have nothing to contribute, I thought I would share here what I do have to say. Because, I am a woman living in America and therefore I have been the target of sexual harassment, and despite the fact that it’s *mainly stopped there, I can be a part of this movement of outspoken women because I know what it is like to, in some way, feel my power taken away by a man.
Me too. I know what it feels like to be shouted at when I’m simply walking down the fucking street. To have some dude hang out his car window and shout something like “Hey! Smile!” or “Where you going?” or my favorite, the indecipherable woooo, which lets me know that he either 1) approves of me and my sick walking skills or 2) wants to let me know that he has an opinion of me that can only be delivered by wooo-ing.
Me too. I know what it feels like to be ogled by coworkers, to be looked up and down when I’m walking into a store, to feel a pair of eyes on me from behind, hold my keys in my hand while jogging, pretend to be on a phone call when walking to a restaurant by myself, and have strange men tell me how beautiful I am when ordering a sandwich. I also know what it’s like to argue with men about why these things are wrong, and awful, and how I feel like when I get any form of power it comes across to them like an adorable kitten with big claws.
So while I might not be able to say I too have experienced what some of these women speaking out against Harvey Weinstein have experienced, when asked to raise my hand if I know what it’s like to be sexually harassed, I will throw mine high in the air and speak out loud, “Me Too”.
To my sisters who have been assaulted, I hope you find healing and justice for what happened to you. Keep going, just try to keep going, like the badasses you are.
*I say “mostly” because of some trauma I am still processing that is non-sexual but manifests in my life in a similar way due to my body autonomy being taken away from me by a man.