It’s been radio silence lately because the only thing that has motivated me to write is the 10th rate frat movie/soap opera that is the United States of America. But really, we all have the same opinion, so I can’t offer anything to this discussion.
It wasn’t until the shit-show that is Harvey Weinstein came to the fore that felt the need to formulate more than thoughts, and write. You might think I’m a little late to this “party” but the fact of the matter is, the only good to come out of this scandal is that the biggest Club in the world has finally lifted it collective head and said, “We’re not gonna take it any more.”
I’ve had more conversations with women about our shared experience of assault, abuse and embarrassment in the past two weeks than you can imagine. Social media is flooded with #metoo, which, when I posted it, felt empowering, and yet each time I saw a friend posting it, somehow it made me feel worse. There are too many of us.
Here’s heads up – I’m going to use language that may make you uncomfortable. I’m sorry if that’s the case. But I ask you to question why it makes you uncomfortable. If it’s because these types of things shouldn’t be discussed, I would suggest that thinking is part of the problem.
The first time I was exposed to this type of conduct was when I was a child. I can’t bring myself to write about that experience, but suffice it to say, it wasn’t dealt with properly and to this day, the emphasis has been on the “poor” offender.
Uglyness of Men reared it’s head when I was in Grade 9, and a Grade 12 student took a shine to me. He made it his mission to stalk me in hallways. For some reason my friends only thought it was creepy because he wasn’t ‘cute’. Apparently stalking is more palatable when you are attractive. He elevated his game to calling my home and not talking when I answered the phone. It wasn’t until I flat out told him he was a freak show for his inappropriate conduct that he stopped his unsettling behaviour.
It continued when I was in Grade 12, when a male guidance counsellor suggested, with a rather inappropriate look on his face, that I was “selling (myself) short by not going to university. (I’m) far too pretty to go to college.” I left his office immediately after.
<PAUSE> Please know that I am well aware of my outward appearance. I don’t take myself for a raging beauty, nor do I think I’ve been hit with an “ugly stick”. I float somewhere around the middle – acceptable. Which is likely why I felt so uncomfortable that he commented on my appearance. I was never evaluated in such a way before. It’s also likely why I’m not comfortable with comments on my appearance in general. <PLAY>
Ironically, my issues where always with males who were older than me. Boys my age; I didn’t exist to them. Perhaps that was a blessing.
Now I’m dating someone a bit older than me, and we are going out for New Year’s Eve. His friend, a mutual acquaintance, corners me during Auld Lang Syne and kisses me after inappropriately asking if my date has kissed me yet during the course of our relationship. I try to defer the conversation in an attempt to seek out the guy I came with, and would like to be embracing. Just before he plants it on me, I see my date across the floor, looking for me. I’m treated to an alcohol flavored slobber. He thinks it’s funny.
Next, I’m a married woman around 23 years old, who is attending a Stag and Doe for a family member. I’m dressed for the summer evening wearing an A-line dress with a V neckline. Another relative slides up beside me and has a rather uncomfortable grip on my midsection. He then angles his head so it is directly beside mine and looks down.
“I can’t believe you just looked down my dress,” I exclaim loudly. This is enough for his head to snap back and the arm to retract. I continue, “I saw you do that! Who looks down his (family relation’s) dress?!” He now adopts a stance where it appears as thought I’m bat-shit crazy and he’s protecting himself from an unwarranted barrage from a hormonal female.
Three other people saw him do it, and heard me call him out, and said nothing, but shot daggers at him. While one individual thought the exchange was “embarrassing”, it was worth it given that the offender stayed as far away from me as the room would allow.
Now I work for an organization where part of my role is to mingle and develop relationships with patrons. There is a free bar and I have comfortable relationships with a number of the individual at this reception. One individual, who is obviously putting on a show for his friends, puts his arm around my waist as he introduces me to his group. While I’m not a fan of such physical contact at work, this is common practice by both male and female patrons and is largely interpreted by employees as gesture of friendship. This individual completes his praise of the evening, then pulls me in and gives me an open mouth kiss, which – in and of itself was disgusting, and was further traumatizing because of the food that was not completely masticated in his mouth. I pull away, make a gracious exit (because remember, I don’t want to embarrass HIM!) and advised my supervisor. He brushes it off and suggests I don’t go back to that party’s table for the rest of the evening.
As we drive home, my supervisor in the front passenger seat, and his supervisor driving the mini van. I attempt to block the evening’s events from my mind by reclining in the middle row of the van. Suddenly I’m drawn to the conversation in the front seat.
“Sarah had a problem tonight with (name has been removed to protect the guilty).” said Supervisor 1.
“What was it?” asked Supervisor 2, not at all concerned in his tone or word choice.
“(Name has been removed to protect the guilty) kissed her. On the mouth.” said S1.
S2 laughs. I am @#%*ING awake now!
“I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as she’s letting on,” he replies.
“Actually, it was worse because he had a mouth full of food,” I stated. The van jerks on the roadway as S2 didn’t think I was listen to him make a grade A chauvinistic asshole of himself. He then tried to downplay what he said, and generally smooth over the incident, saying sometimes people just drink too much and these things just “happen.”
“I didn’t think prostitution was part of the job description.” I finished. Apparently I was hormonal again, because the two of them stopped talking. Although two supervisors are aware of this incident, it is never brought up again, and the perpetrator is never spoken to.
Don’t worry – I left this position shortly thereafter, as I had applied for a promotion that was all but assured. Honestly, I had co-workers and patrons telling me I was going to get the promotion, how hard I’d worked for it, and how amazing I’d be in the new role. I did not, in fact, get the promotion. Apparently I had commitments at home that would prevent me from doing the job. He was referring to my kids. I should note that I had put in as many hours or more during my eight years with that organization as any other employee. When I left, they replaced me with two men. One, who is now in the role that I applied for, has children…..sorry, I forgot we were talking about straight sexual harassment, not gender prejudice in the workplace – that’s another post.
As recently as this year, my 46th on this planet, I’ve had inappropriate comments made to me. One of my favorites, “I know which window is for your bedroom”. Another, “I listen to you on the radio and loooove hearing your voice.” – please imagine a very creepy facial expression to that last one. Oh, and these are from the same person. I point out to him that these comments are rather uncalled for, and he’s going to get in trouble for saying them. He responds, “Oh you know what I mean.”
Yes, I’m afraid I do. That’s the point.
I don’t hold back now. I haven’t for a while – as this post attests. I own these incidents, not because – as the offenders would think – because it makes me look desirable and is flattering, but because this is how I learned how to draw my line in the sand. Now, after these many conversations, I’m going to be even more vocal about improper conduct. I am the mother of two sons. I have taught them that a woman will give it back to you if you try to mess with her. I have taught them that it is not a compliment to a woman or to a man to treat a woman like an object. Woman are not objects to be owned or mauled. We are not stupid. We’ve been putting up with bullshit for decades. If prostitution is the second oldest profession for women, then sexual predator is the oldest crime for men.
Saying nothing hasn’t helped. Silence is the key the offender uses to open the door to this crime, and it’s what he uses to lock it behind him when he’s done. She won’t say anything. She never has. If she does, she will be portrayed as emotional, hormonal, crazy, a slut, disgruntled, manipulating. There’s less of a chance she will say anything because history has proven that society won’t believe her, or worse, re-victimize her over and over again.
No more. If you think you are going to “grab ’em by the pussy” be prepared to get kicked in the balls.
2 thoughts on “The Best Kept Worst Secret”
Thanks, Sarah. I think every woman on earth has a story on this topic. It is up to women to change the cultural climate to stop this abuse.And to empower each other to stop this unacceptable treatment. In my case it was my boyfriend who empowered me to stand up to my boss!! Hope all is well. Hugs, Judy
Thank you, Judy. Sadly it’s far too common. I know this particular incident has triggered a lot of women. Hopefully we can be more vocal and stop predators in their tracks. Thanks for reading!