Over the weekend I noticed a number of Me too posts on Facebook. At first I didn't know what it was all about until other people wrote more under the Me too. I felt compelled to add my own status to this testimonial.
Nearly every woman with whom I am friends with on Facebook posted the same. I was stunned. My sister and my daughter both posted it and I realized we had never talked about it.
I decided it was time to talk about it. I even did some research about this movement, how it began on Twitter and then moved to Facebook. You can read more about it here.
Unknown men have pinched my butt and grabbed my genital area in swimming pools and in college bars. The owner of a cafe pinched my nipple in Spain. A fellow teacher made a demeaning comment to me at a social event and when I called him on it he followed up by throwing chairs at me the next day in the teacher cafeteria.
Men have whistled at me, cat called and made sexual gestures. A French speaking tutor made lewd remarks and made me fearful. The worst memory of all was when my cooperating teacher put the moves on me.
What prompted me to want to write about it was seeing a woman respond to one of my friend's "Me too" posts. She cited women's clothing as being part of the problem. She felt however that rape was more of "punishment" than the "crime" deserved.
I was wearing pants, shoes, socks and a modest shirt each time a man harassed or assaulted me. What a women is wearing is not any part of the issue, acting like it is begins the normalization of this assault behavior. Blaming women's clothing is the first step in leading to an increase in harassment, comments and eventually assault.
Sadly, blaming women and myself was part of my mindset for a long time. My parents were very big on asking me, "And what did you do?" They drummed into me to not let myself get in a situation where anything unseemly could occur.
When I was student teaching that mindset was part of me and the way I thought. As the semester was coming to an end, my roommate, and fellow student teacher, was invited to dinner at her cooperating teacher's home. The generous woman also extended the invitation to me, knowing that college kids yearn for a home cooked meal.
My cooperating teacher mentioned that he couldn't cook me a meal but he would take me out for a drink. I thought, oh, that must be what male cooperating teachers do, and I accepted. I pondered what I would order and decided upon a Seven seven.
My cooperating teacher drove us to our location, as my roommate drove me to school every day. It was a real bar, not a campus rowdy place. There were clean tables, low lights and waitresses.
For some reason my gut reacted and I switched my drink to just Seven Up. My cooperating teacher downed several whiskeys and I chatted nervously, referring to my boyfriend frequently. I was nervous but not sure why.
Finally, he remarked how his wife did not understand him. He looked straight into my eyes and placed his hand on my knee, talking about how he would probably give me an A. I felt like throwing up.
I nervously stirred in my chair and crossed my legs, knocking his hand off with my other leg. I looked at my watch and said, OH, I have a date with my boyfriend and I am late.
I stood up and he drove me to my guy's house on campus. When I got there I cried. I did not tell anyone.
I did not tell my boyfriend or my parents. I did not tell my Supervisory teacher. I was convinced I would flunk student teaching and I felt it was all my fault.
I blamed myself for agreeing to go get a drink with him. I blamed myself for not sitting out of his reach. I did not know what to do.
So I did what many dumb college kids do, I got drunk. This was one of the very few times in my life when I did. I downed 7 of those Seven Sevens, called my roommate and she drove me back to our apartment.
I spent the rest of the weekend on the floor in our bathroom. I alternated between being sick as a dog and worrying about what would happen. On Monday, I went back for the last week of student teaching.
We didn't talk about it. The semester ended and I got an A. I breathed a sigh of relief and tried to put the whole thing out of my mind.
But, I had to react when I saw that woman blame girls' clothing. It's not about clothes; it's about power and dominance. It's all about the man, not the woman.
As I have aged and gotten more confident, I have not let comments go unchallenged. I have not let gropes or touches been unanswered. I call people out and I support other women.
I experienced this once and didn't stand up for myself or subsequent student teachers. I was fortunate, I did not have any bosses or principals who were ever abusive for the rest of my career. I also never "went out for drinks" with anyone for the rest of my life.
I changed my behavior when it was that man who should have changed his. I changed my mindset and opinions and it is time for society to do the same. I also changed the way I talk about it.
I purposely used active voice for the man or men when describing my experiences. My butt wasn't pinched; a man grabbed and pinched it. I want to change the language and affect the culture.
Won't you join me?
We do this so no other women will write "Me too."
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This off topic Wednesday post has a bit more levity.