In middle school, the boys played a game when they passed me in the hallway. They tried to undo my bra strap. I used to wear a ribbed top in seventh grade that had a zipper that the boys would pull down. In school. During the day.
My guidance counselor called my mom and told her that I was dressing inappropriately. And perhaps I was. But while I was chastised for wearing the style of the day (hot pants and snug tops), the message was ‘boys will be boys.’ I was ashamed.
I was raised in a time where if something happened to a woman the first questions were usually; “Why was she out alone?” “What was she wearing?” “Did she give the message it was okay?”
As a young adult, I had a boss I adored and who I confided in. One night after he drove me to my car, he suddenly leaned over and tried to make out with me. He was married. I was confused, ashamed and immediately wondered what I had done wrong.
He was not the only older man who made unwelcome advances on me.
I kept these experiences to myself until about ten years ago.
I learned to walk with the key between my fingers in case I was assaulted, to check underneath my car and look into the backseat before I got in. When I drove cross country, my male friends advised me not to wear makeup or tight tops and one even gave me Mace. Just in case. When I traveled, I ordered room service if I wanted a glass of wine to avoid unwelcome attention and tried not to book a room with a door that led directly outside.
Every bit of messaging I received informed me that a woman alone is a woman in danger. Why is that?
The moment I heard Donald Trump talk on a hot mic about grabbing pussy and how ‘he could do whatever he wanted,’ I felt physically ill. I naively thought, this would be the end of him, our country could not elect someone like this, right?
Listening to Christine Blasey Ford testify against Kavanaugh, my knees wobbled and I cried. How brave she was I thought. But, again, her words didn’t matter.
I can tell you all of the above stories about my personal moments of sexism and sexual assault but I cannot tell you the dates, locations beyond generalities or time of day. I can also tell you that these events were devastating but since I’ve been more open about them, I’ve generated healing for myself. This also means zero tolerance and a need to speak out, to encourage all women to stand up, hold hands and say, NO MORE.
I’ve just read Chanel Miller’s “Know my Name,” and found the rage growing in my belly again. This anger needs expression.
I have a granddaughter and two daughters. I am not okay with women bearing the continuous burden of shame, with a society that holds men to such a low standard of acceptable behavior.
As an adult woman, I’ve been blessed with male friends and a husband who are the polar opposite of Donald Trump. They, too, have been a part of my letting go of the shame. They do not try to make me swallow my rage.
My reason for sharing this with you is both personal and political.
I am not okay with any man, but especially a man in power objectifying a woman. This is not locker room talk. This is sexist and dangerous to every single female when we excuse this and counter it with, ‘oh well, at least he’s making the economy better.’ That slope is so slippery, you end up in a mountain of mud if you excuse his behavior for any reason.
If you have sons, would you hold up the current President as a role model? If you have sons, do you teach them to listen when a woman says no, to ask before touching her, and to see HER, not a potential sexual conquest? Do you teach your boys to understand sexual power and how they are responsible to do the right thing? Do you teach them to ‘be like the swedes?’
I will never comprehend how any woman can support a man who so denigrates other women. A man who has had over 20 women accuse him of sexual misconduct. Do the women who support him truly accept this behavior? Would they be okay if their daughter had a similar experience? Would they just brush it off by saying, “Well you must have done something?”
Women are not vessels for men.
I want to be able to tell my granddaughter what I did during this time in history. I want her to know I stood up. I had her back. I fought.
I suspect I will lose subscribers with this post. That is okay. This is not what I had intended to write this week, but it is what I needed to write.
I am a writer with a voice, and an opinion and a woman who at 61 has had enough of this. My daughters deserve better. Your daughters and granddaughters deserve better. Your SONS deserve better.
If you have had similar experiences I want you to know I am here. I see you.
The day I sent this post out via newsletter, Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away. When I heard the news I moaned, screamed NO and then sobbed. I felt all was lost, that the future for women was dim and I shuddered to think of the world my granddaughter would inherit. I fell into a funk and I’m not ashamed to say I drank almost three glasses of wine. But when I woke in the morning, while still sad, I was also ready to fight. I will do whatever I can to retain control over my body, over my agency, in this lifetime. I’ve had enough and I’m not going to take anymore. The reason this newsletter went out, despite trepidation, was because yet another woman came forward to accuse Donald Trump of sexual assault. The reason this newsletter went out is because of the horror I felt reading disparaging comments from other women about his accusers. No more.