When the ‘Me Too’ campaign went viral, some people spoke up just to say that the anger of the women coming forth made them uncomfortable. They felt bullied, and that they’d done nothing wrong. Women were dismissed (by some) with counterarguments, justification, comparisons, etc. None of that makes what we are saying less true, but it’s clear that certain people don’t want to hear or accept what’s being said.
I support the “Me too” campaign because people are talking and listening. I want to weigh in, not because I want anyone to feel bad for me or what’s happened to me, but because I want to advocate for awareness. If speaking up helps anyone at all, then it’s worth it. Shame not only keeps us from talking ; it keeps us from listening. It keeps the culprits or would-be culprits from acknowledging their mistakes. Nothing changes.
It’s sad but true; we are conditioned to feel ashamed. Some people even fear to go to the doctor for problems having to do with private body parts. I’ve seen that over and over. People are ashamed of their bodies and how they work. People can even die because of shame.
Not only do they hide behind their shame; they take on the shame of others. Like their family members, their gender, their ethnic group or race, their religion. Here is my motto, if I didn’t do it, I don’t have to get defensive over the people who did. I just have to listen to the heartache and the grief. I have to want to understand, and I have to do what I can do to help fix it.
Indeed, shame has kept us from believing and supporting each other. I’ve heard, “Well it never happened to me, so why would it happen to you?” People start comparing and justifying.
They don’t get that it has more to do with being vulnerable in the moment than being attractive, or that vulnerability alone is attractive.
It’s particularly disheartening when women join in the chorus of saying that someone may have been asking for it. Rape means there was no legitimate consent, so nobody asks for it. There are no circumstances where anyone deserves rape, and that includes prison. I don’t care who you are.
As for the counterarguments:
“Men are also sexually harassed and abused.”
“Women can be predatory, too, and often their harassment or abuse is not questioned.”
Yes, it is unacceptable and appalling that anyone would dismiss male rape and abuse or expect men to suck it up or enjoy it. That’s just bullshit.
I agree, too, there is no limit to the amount of damage some people, male or female, are willing to do to your psyche, to your reputation, to your body, and to your soul.
The thing is, if someone of either gender were to come to me and tell me they were harassed or abused, I would listen. I would give that person the benefit of the doubt. I would feel empathy and offer validation, support, or comfort. I wouldn’t sit in silence, attempt to dispute their claims or get defensive because, hell, I am a woman, too, and I don’t do that. Nor do you need to justify to me that you felt threatened or abused. I will not dismiss you. I won’t stand for your being mocked. And I’d like to think many others feel the same way I do.
I’m thinking back now, and it’s hard to remember every single incident of sexual assault and harassment in my life. There were many.
I escaped two rape attempts by fighting and getting away. Another time, I fought and lost. I was groped on the street twice. One of those times, the guy told me if I didn’t like it, I shouldn’t wear a tank top. Not that it matters, but it was over ninety degrees. He followed me for blocks taunting me, and no one did a thing. For the rest of the summer, on workdays, no matter how freaking hot it was, I wore a jacket when I went out to lunch. I was followed several times in the streets of Manhattan by men talking to me about sex. I was fired twice for rejecting my boss’ advances. There were elevator incidents with higher-ups, train incidents with sleazeballs. Male doctors have often felt entitled to say or do things that were highly inappropriate. And I must include emotional rape. Predatory narcissists excel at it. They devote a lot of time and effort to perfecting their game. It can leave you feeling traumatized and violated, but a lot of people don’t understand emotional rape, and the narcissist, ever the charmer, can come out smelling like a rose.
These things didn’t happen to me because I was a perfect ten, as someone suggested that most victims are. I’m not—never was and never will be. I wasn’t dressed provocatively beyond looking pretty good in my clothes. Evidently, it doesn’t take much to provoke—especially when you are young. It seems you can do that without even trying.
So, for those who feel uncomfortable when this issue comes up, know that many of us feel uncomfortable walking on the beach, going out alone at night, wearing shorts, wearing tank tops. And we are used to being uncomfortable. We’ve been uncomfortable about all of this through most of our lives. We’ve felt bullied, and we’d done nothing wrong. To this day, I am uncomfortable having to pass any group of men whether on the street or in the office, especially if it is a confined space.
A thing I hear often is that men worry about being falsely accused. They say the “catcalling” complaints confuse them because many women like compliments from strangers and to have men flirting with them. They assume women like feeling sexy, and that the response from men makes women feel good about themselves.
First, let’s not confuse the issues. Catcalling, like rape, is about power and control, not desire, and it may also be about anger or hate and deeper issues. With catcalling, there is often an assumption about what a woman wants. Both groups prefer to target the vulnerable, like someone who is alone or someone very young, etc. One man put it to me this way, “How are we supposed to tell the difference between women who like it and women who don’t?” He said he thought that the way a woman dressed was the signal.
Catcalling is usually more than one guy, often a group of guys hollering at you, among other things. Their “compliments” are extravagant, although the goal, for the most part, is not to get to know you. You can shield your eyes, walk faster, refuse to respond, and they won’t stop. Your discomfort either amuses them, or they are clueless about how you feel and don’t care. It’s particularly confusing for young women. They may want to be pretty but not be the center of attention, and they are scared of what these men may say or do.
People are often of the mindset that a busty woman or a woman who happens to be sexy is a good target and probably looking for it. Being well-endowed does not justify harassment, and while it is normal to want to feel sexy and attractive, it doesn’t mean sexy and attractive women are open for business to all.
A lot of time, too, overt sexuality stems from having been previously victimized. That includes feelings of unworthiness and a need for attention, admiration, and validation.
I get that some women may enjoy the attention simply because it feels good, just like some women enjoy rough play and manhandling. Whatever two consenting adults enjoy is their business, and that’s why it’s good to get to know people and what they like. We can’t assume.
Flirting, to me, is a mutual thing. People smile, say hello, and they take their cues from each other. There’s no assumption, no disrespect. It doesn’t dehumanize anyone. I think people who flirt with one another genuinely like each other, and they care about one another’s reactions. Making someone blush is different from making someone cringe or fear for her life. For that reason, flirtation can be flattering. No one is saying a woman should never feel complimented by a stranger finding her attractive.
Most of us don’t want to make false accusations about harassment or abuse. It is hard enough coming to terms with these things when they do happen, and we share your concern about false reporting. Many of us are mothers. We have sons. We don’t want to destroy innocent people. We know a little something about that. And we want people to believe true victims who come forth.
Anyone who would falsely accuse someone simply isn’t normal and, unfortunately, you have to learn how to spot the toxic people, like we’ve had to and watch for the red flags. In addition, ego and obsession will cloud your perception and impair your judgment, so it’s important to work on that, like we must. I feel you.
The answer, as I see it, is empathy and mutual respect. We must put ourselves in the other person’s place and observe and respect boundaries. It’s not a contest if we’re all on the same side.
© Copyright October 17, 2016 by Kyrian Lyndon at kyrianlyndon.com. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted without permission.