Thursday, October 19, 2017

Me, too, or death by a thousand paper cuts.

I've been a tiny bit reticent to jump into the "me, too" fray for one seriously messed-up reason: what happened to me wasn't *that* bad. Like, it could have been so much worse.

When you feel like being harassed instead of physically assaulted means you maybe don't have a right to be upset? That's all kinds of systemic sexism, like layers of being told "it's not that big of a deal" have grown into our skin, becoming part of us.

Eww.

So let's talk about the "it's not big enough of a deal to report" stuff. Like the boss who came up behind 20-year-old me and started rubbing my shoulders. "You're so tense," he said. (Note: Yes, I was tense because my 50-year-old boss just started massaging me.) "You should come over to the house and sit in the hot tub. It will work those knots right out."

I think I responded with a half-hearted "Ehh-huh" - just enough to make him walk away. I was 20. I didn't know what to do. I was just a baby.

But as an adult? This is how it went down.

My Guy: "I had a great day. I figured out the fix to a big problem. I feel good. How was your day?"

Me: "On the drive into work, this guy was waving and smiling at me, right on the freeway. I finally figured out that he was adjusting his mirrors to look at my chest. Then, I got to work and had a conversation with my male coworker, who insisted that I set up a meeting for him. I refused, since the meeting had nothing to do with me. But he wouldn't let it go. So I ended up yelling, 'I AM NOT YOUR SECRETARY' into the phone before hanging up and slamming my head against my desk. Then, I figured out how to fix a big problem. Nobody paid attention to my fix until a male coworker half promoted it / half claimed it as his own idea. My boss later thanked me for my work but called me "kiddo." Then, on the way out of the parking garage, I got behind Creepy Rajeev, who was driving 2 miles per hour because he had his window down and was driving alongside and talking to every woman walking to her car. He followed four different women. It took me 20 minutes to get out of the garage. I AM SO FUCKING TIRED."

Just think of how much more women could accomplish if we weren't dealing with this bullshit every day. Because all those tiny moments of gritting teeth, of pep talks in the mirror in the ladies' room? They take a lot of mental and emotional energy. And now? NOW WE ARE TIRED.

And done. We're done.

4 comments:

BentNotBroken said...

Amen!

I was in a meeting today. Among the agenda items, were presentations by the three people running for the department chair, two men, and one woman. The woman was asked how she would manage to have time to manage her work and life responsibilities if elected. Neither of the male candidates was asked the same. This same colleague who asked the very sexist question later spent 15 minutes complaining about the new sexual harassment training that was announced this week.

And that was just today. In the last month, I've left the gym because of a creepy dude, had a car mechanic try to do some unnecessary repairs because he didn't think I knew anything about cars, and overheard a group of teenage refer to me as a MILF.

I'm hesitant to jump on the "me too" bandwagon too. Not because I don't have stories, but because I have those stories in a tiny little box stored in a far away place in my memory, and I don't like to bring it out. Which, I suppose, is all the more reason to talk.

Nance said...

Absolutely. It's called Emotional Load, and it's ENORMOUS. And RELENTLESS.

AND E V E R Y W H E R E.

Unfortunately, all of us can nod our heads and commiserate in dozens of cases. I can personally relate to three of the anecdotes in BentNotBroken's comment; all of those happened to me. And, at my first real teaching job interview, the principal said, "It would be nice to finally have a good-looking broad in the English department". I didn't get the job because they needed a football coach, so they hired a guy instead (who had to get continuing ed. to get proper certification for the English position).

At least once a month I'm told by men in the grocery store to "smile", as if I'm there as their personal female decoration. I look right at them and say loudly, "Why are you talking to me?"

Thankfully, I have raised two sons who know these behaviours are unacceptable and know about my experiences. I am resting much Hope upon them.

Andrea said...

That first paragraph!!!!!!

I just dont even know what else to say- how exhausting indeed!

Becky said...

As a teenager, I was more than well endowed. To the point where I was told over and over, that as a big boobed, blonde, it was just assumed I was 'easy'. So the harassment was constant and came in every direction concerning rumors of how easy I was supposedly. (Teenage me was terrified by boys and that didn't help the situation.) Fast forward 30 years and my daughter has inherited her mother's gene for bust size. The world has not grown kinder to large chested girls. I'm already looking into getting her a breast reduction next summer so that she can walk down the street without having to hear comments about her 'rack' or be accused of sleeping with someone's boyfriend simply because she's got big boobs and blonde hair. (And so she doesn't have to special order $75 bras for the rest of her life.)

It is relentless and I'm exhausted.