Friday, October 13, 2017

Five on Friday: This One's for the Fellas

Hi Guys.

There's been a lot of talk this week of high-profile case of a powerful man sexually harassing and assaulting multiple women. Of course then there's all the expected spinoff conversation on everything the women had done wrong. Then there are the questions to the other men, asking why they never said or did anything about it. Hey Men: people don't believe us when we say we've been assaulted--we need your help.  Even if we're not your Moms or Sisters or Girlfriends or Friends . . . for fuck's sake, man, we're human, aren't we? Do the right thing.

Maybe you've never witnessed anything like this, so maybe you think it's just . . . I don't know, something that only happens in the news. Rarely. Far away. Wouldn't ever happen to one of your loved ones, anyway. I used to think that about rape, and I'm a woman! But after I was raped and then was very vocal about it, countless other women began confiding in me about their own experiences. I've given up counting how many survivors I know.

Sure, I survived that one pretty extreme circumstance (a stranger breaking into my apartment and raping me at knife point), but I grew up safe, secure, cared-for and loved. I consider myself lucky to not have been molested as a child, harassed in the workplace, a victim of domestic or dating violence. As a matter of fact, when I look back upon my life, I initially think that I haven't really had to deal with much in this regard . . . but then I remember that one time. And another. And another. And so many more.

Why don't these moments come to mind immediately for me? Why don't they stand out? Is it because they weren't physically violent? Or is it because these incidents are so common for girls and women, we actually come to accept them as a normal part of life?

I think it's that. And that? That is infuriating.  Here are five memories from my lifetime in which men tried to touch, harm or intimidate me. And if you don't understand why, for example, numbers two or three are problematic, I'm going to ask you to try to set your male privilege aside momentarily and imagine what the realistic threats against women are on a daily basis.

But then I want you to assume your male privilege again; and I want you to use it when you  see another man abusing his.

1. The time I was squeezing past a family friend who was seated at a table. He grabbed my ass. I was eleven, maybe twelve years old. (I slapped his face. He laughed at me.)

I was around this age.

2. The time my toddler and I were walking out of the hospital--nobody was hurt, I think I may have been just dropping something off. It was drizzling. A man in a suit walked out at the same time as me. He offered to drive me and my baby to my car. I said no thank you. He offered again. I said no thank you. He asked again. I asked him if he had a car seat (thinking that would shut him up). He said that he was the President of the hospital. I said I didn't care. He kept insisting.  I walked away. (I later looked on the Hospital's website. He really was the President. I sent him an email. I got no response.)

3. The time my friends and I were driving to the beach on a sunny summer Sunday. Two men in a work van kept ending up next to us in traffic. The one in the passenger seat opened up the centerfold in a pornographic magazine and held it up to the window every time we were next to their van. (I copied the business' phone number down and called the main line first thing Monday morning. The Owner was rather unhappy with this news.)

4. The time a stranger began following me in broad daylight. I zig-zagged across streets to confirm that I wasn't imagining things. (When I made a quick move into a building without him noticing, I watched him look around for me and then give up.)

5. The time I was visiting my friend when she was tending bar. It was the end of the night and nobody else was there so we got to chat while she waited for closing time. A man came in and sat next to me; struck up conversation with us both. He revealed in conversation that he was an off-duty cop. When I mentioned something about my husband, the banter took a quick and serious downturn. My ring was on the wrong finger. (True. And I don't need to explain that to anyone.) He was pissed. Also, he made sure I knew that if he were my husband, I'd have a huge rock on my finger (I'm quite fond of my Las Vegas hotel gift shop $12 silver band, thank you very much). He left, very angry. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried about going out to my car after that.

Remember: these moments didn't stand out for me when I tried to think of instances of men trying to exert their power over me--this just felt like a normal part of life for a woman. Ask one that you love if she can think of some moments like this from her own lifetime. You might be surprised. 

(My own symbol of survival)

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