I’m finding the #MeToo movement quite fascinating. This stemmed from some sleazy Hollywood scum who believed money and power could grant him the right to do some horrifying things to women. Not exactly surprising and not a new story.
Then #MeToo started to appear all over Facebook. I’m never one to jump on a bandwagon as evidenced by my total shock that the women’s march became a thing, but I was impressed that there were women I knew who would share something like that about themselves in such a public forum. But then, as we all do, I started thinking about myself.
Have I ever been sexually assaulted or harassed? Right or wrong this is how my thought process went:
“Not that I can think of. Definitely not assaulted. I’m not even sure I could beg someone to assault or harass me with the sheer stream of profanity that comes out of my mouth. That one guy said to me that I was so off-putting he couldn’t believe anyone would actually have sex with me. A couple of my exes said I was so emasculating that they couldn’t be in a relationship with me.” All clear here.
I dug back a bit farther. Oh. Wait.
I was 13 and walking down a beach in Florida by myself. I heard a noise and there was a man standing behind me, shaking his junk at me. A legit flasher. I ran. He didn’t chase me. And that was that. I got back to where we were staying and went about my day.
It bothered me a lot over the ensuing months so I ended up telling my mom. If you know my mom, you know that this could have gone either way, but she doesn’t take crap from anyone. What was her reaction to this revelation?
She started hysterically laughing.
It may sound insensitive but, she taught me a couple things there with that laugh. First, don’t let something like this occupy one ounce of your head space. Second, your reaction to being in a situation like that is key. The best defense is always a good offense. Of course I’m talking about non-violent assaults here.
It stuck with me. All these years it stuck with me. I worked for a builder about 15 years ago where the treatment of women by some of the management was pretty crappy. I walked in on a conversation where a couple of the managers were complaining about having to pay one of the women an equal commission on a sale in which she shared an equal part with a man.
Lame Manager: “Why is she pushing this, she gets paid enough! She wants to compare what she’s getting to everyone else? Why don’t we just take our dicks out on the table and see whose is biggest?”
Me: “Do it. I want all of you to take your pants off and show me, I’ll get the measuring tape.” I delivered this with an expert deadpan, devoid of one ounce of emotion.
They spun around to see me at the door. The looks on their faces were amazing. Like they got caught with their pants down already. There was slow shuffling around and then some scrambling toward the door.
Me: “Where are you all going? We have a contest in session! Come back.”
Those conversations were never had near me again.
I can’t understand how not one person in Hollywood leaked this sooner, before dozens of women were affected. But I know this. I’m going to teach my girls that harassment is about power, not sex and if you can diffuse the power, you have a pretty decent chance of coming out of it not feeling like the victim. But you also have to choose the battles. If they pass the cliche construction site and get a whistle, then a smile and wave is fine and there’s no reason to feel victimized. If they pass the cliche construction site and one of the guys says, “Nice tits,” I think we have all been around long enough to know what I’ll have my girls programmed to say.
“You should see my penis!”