In recent media we have seen a whirlwind of women and men standing up and saying “This has to end” in regards to sexual assault, abuse, and misconduct in Hollywood. In recent Facebook/Twitter/Instagram posts we have also watched as our friends, family, loved ones, randos also take the stance that humans deserve better. It’s scary out there and for folks to be vulnerable in the public eye is commendable. *claps* It’s commendable because sitting back and watching are those who believe it didn’t happen. They call these people liars, snakes, and people that just want their 15 seconds of fame. Sure, now that it’s in the media, there may be people that get their 15 seconds of fame but there is also a history of sexual abuse directed at women. For centuries women have been raped and abused as a tactic of war, a drive to gain power, and the idea that women are less human than their male counterparts. There is this notion that women were “asking for it” when they wore sweatpants to the grocery store, or when they are out and about looking fierce AF.
Leave ladies alone.
I mention the grocery store because this summer, while wearing a norts groutfit and looking for some bread at the store a fella decided that he needed to tell me that I “made his morning better by being so beautiful” as he looked at my exposed legs. Eyes up here, buddy. I did not feel more beautiful, I did not feel like a shining star, I felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety. Would he follow me through the store? Follow me to my car? Will I have to see him again in the store and expect another comment? Damn dude, I just wanted to pick up stuff for lunch and now I’m watching my back and avoiding eye contact with other men because I didn’t want another “compliment”.
It doesn’t stop at the grocery store.
Picture 14 year old me (figure 1). I’m at one of the many office supplies stores looking for photo paper with my dad. Notice that this memory is so salient that I remember what I was looking for. My dad separates to check another isle while I hunt down the weight of paper I need. Before I move to the next isle I noticed two men watching me and chatting. I move to the next isle in hot pursuit of paper. They move into the next isle with me. One of them approaches me and instead of saying “hi” or any other normal greeting, he says “damn.” Sir, why are you swearing at a teenager? I look at them with my paper. “Damn.” He says again. “You’re so beautiful. How old are you?” All I say is “14.” I was taller than most of my peers and covered in acne so I had to look at least 14. They both look at each other in shock, laugh, say “well keep up the good looks” and walk away. Those two men acted like that was a normal situation. Later I sobbed to my dad about how I hate the icky feeling I was experiencing.
It doesn’t stop at the office supplies store.
Picture Hannah as a 4th grader. I don’t have a picture but I’ve pretty much always looked the same. Full of life because elementary school is the best and I’ve only been called fat by my male classmates, once or twice. Do we see that female body shaming starts very young? That’s another post, for another day. Again, leave ladies alone. Don’t talk about my body unless I ask you. Anyways, 4th grade Hannah has just reported to her mom that her stepdad has been exposing himself, touching her, drugging her, and overall making her skin crawl and stomach turn. Guess what the first question was after I finished telling my mom everything… “Honey, do you need more attention?” Yes mom, I have just fabricated an hour long story about the past two years of abuse, situations I didn’t even have the language for at the time, because I wanted more attention. I spent two years as a man that loved my mother chose me to make feel worthless.
He would expose himself time and time again, making excuses like “oh my button came undone.” He would “play wrestle” me to the ground but then lay there on top of me long enough to become uncomfortable. Every time I saw him, my skin would crawl but in my late elementary days, I had no language to describe what was happening, no concept that what was happening was a thing that happened to other people, and no clue about how to make it stop.
I “ruined his life” by choosing to file charges and pursue a court case, but I don’t care. The feelings he made me feel, the experiences he made me experience, and the scrutiny I endured as a preteen will never go away. Those pit in my stomach, nauseous, uneasy feelings still linger and my stomach still explodes after situations like what happened in the grocery store. I have been distrustful in relationships. I looked at men with a lens of abuse and still catch myself passing judgement. I remain vigilant in public because 1. Men keep attacking women and 2. You never know who is lurking near by.
So yes, #MeToo.
Figure 1: 14 year old me. Side swept bangs were all the rage. I also wore white before Memorial Day.