I look at the Me Too movement with gratitude, as any woman should. In whatever ways, women, for perhaps as long as humankind has been in existence, have felt the blunt end of society. We’ve had to deal with more than sexual molestation or assault, but with being seen as less than in the eyes of our male counterparts. We’ve been silenced and had our light diminished in an attempt to control and subdue us.
I’m not unaware of this in the greater landscape of my kind, and even in my own personal worldview.
In early high school, I was riding home one day on the bus. I was the second-to-last person on the route. I turned around and saw that the male student behind me, the only one left on the bus, had pulled down his pants and revealed…everything. I was shocked, horrified, unable to speak. The bus driver stopped a few blocks away from my stop ( a common mistake); usually, I would correct them. But that day, I did not. I hurriedly got off and ran down the street, collapsing a block down and sitting on the pavement in shock. What was this boy’s intention by doing what he did?
A few days later, I got up the courage to tell a friend about my encounter, and she encouraged me to tell the principal. As the principal heard my shaky story, she called him a pervert and this boy was suspended.
A few years later, as a freshman in college, my best friend and I were walking to a nearby grocery store. I casually looked over at a car next to us and saw that a man was blatantly masturbating in it, in broad daylight on the city street. I gasped and told my friend. She said, “Gross.” We went on and never spoke of it again.
Other times come to mind. Mostly this generalized feeling that I was somehow bad because of my physical body. I have very large breasts and a very thin physique, often labeled the “Barbie doll body.” I was over-sexualized by men and slut-shamed by them, even though I was in no way promiscuous. I was a threat to other women and also slut-shamed by them. Even my male best friends made comments about my physical body and jokes about my rampant yet non-existent sexuality because of it. I stood in paralyzed silence at the audacity of their statements.
The years I attended Calvary Chapel were even worse. Here were men and women I thought were my family and who I thought had the unconditional love of God in them to accept me as I was. But, if I approached men, if I hugged them in friendship, they would quickly move away. Even there, I was seen as a threat, as a sexual flirt, without my doing anything to earn that reputation. I accepted it as my fate outwardly, but inwardly the damage was building. I began dieting until it spun out of control and I was left with self-hatred and body dysmorphia. The best thing about losing all that weight was that my breasts dropped from DD to an A cup and I had the body of a pre-adolescent girl. But still, I was a sexual threat…still, I was a Jezebel.
Through years of therapy and finding out I had celiac’s disease, I was able to find health in my body, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I was able to find love for myself as a woman, physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. I was able to forgive and find strength for myself as a woman as I continued to battle the unfair practices of this male-dominated society.
A few years back, I was offered a role in a local theatre production. I loved the play, the role, the director, the stage manager, the artistic director, and the other three cast members. But one male actor soon revealed himself to be very antagonistic and abusive. He would bring the rehearsals to a grinding halt and debate the notes the director would give him in order enhance his performance. He would yell at us if we didn’t do as he pleased. He would try to direct the performances of the other actors. He used his Hollywood experience as an excuse to be a bully and dominate us. Worse, he started separating me from the other cast members, especially the other actress. He pitted us against each other while he romanced her. For the record, I never tried to target or abuse her, but I believe he was spinning my words to negatively affect any alliance she and I might have.
I got through the production because I truly loved the story, the character, the director, and stage manager. But this actor continued to try and be a part of the local theatre and film world, and I would see him at auditions and other events. I was as cordial as I could be, even though my heart and stomach were clenched. For four years, I suffered inwardly with this knowledge without anyone to turn to, save my boyfriend. A well-meaning friend would mention some anecdote about the actor, and I would smile slightly and change the subject.
But this year, something miraculous happened that has strengthened my confidence as a woman. First, it was the whistle-blowing celebrities who came forward, both male and female, admitting to the sexual abuse by certain powerful Hollywood men and celebrities of influence. Second, a dear friend came to me with her own gripe about dealing with this actor, as well as reports of other women who’d had similar experiences. Both of these instances felt victorious and freeing, and I started to find relief from the abuse from four years ago. I felt vindicated.
With the coming into power of our current administration, I have discovered that women have not run into hiding out of fear of discrimination. That has been our reality for so long so that the threat of losing the rights we have achieved fuels us to fight even harder. We will not be silent and divided. We will proclaim ourselves together and stand despite fear of possible judgment or backlash.
So, despite the horrors of this presidency, it has thus far been a victorious experience for womankind.