Tuesday, October 17, 2017

My take on "Me, too"...

Yesterday morning, I woke up to a bunch of people on my Facebook feed posting the following status update.


This is a viral campaign promoted by Alyssa Milano to highlight how many women have been subjected to sexual harassment or assault.

I thought about jumping on the bandwagon, but stopped myself.  For one thing, I'm not really a fan of these kinds of campaigns, the ones that use hearts or hashtags or whatever to make a point.  I have no doubt that almost all women have suffered from sexual harassment to some degree.  I don't need to read the words "me too" to know that, and I don't need to perpetuate it with my own "me too".  Actually, the constant barrage of "me toos" brought back some unpleasant memories I had tried to bury.

In fact, last night as I was about to drift off to sleep, I was reminded of a particularly awful incident that happened when I was working as a bartender and waitress in a South Carolina country club.  For some inexplicable reason, the linen closet was in the men's locker room.  One night, I had to go in there to get some table cloths.  There I was, dressed in plain black pants and a tuxedo shirt, selecting my linens.  All of a sudden, there was a large man behind me.  He had me backed into a corner and wore a lusty look on his face as he tried to embrace me.  I remember being horrified and getting out of the closet before he was able to kiss or paw at me, although I knew that was what he wanted and possibly more.  I also remember yelling "No!" at him.

The man's name was JJ.  He was a frequent visitor at the club.  He'd often drink too much on the golf course or at dinner and hit on all of the women.  It didn't matter who they were, either.  

The head of the dining room was a lovely, demure woman in her 60s.  She told me she had been raised fundamentalist Christian in Alabama.  She wore dresses, had long hair, and spent all of her time in church.  She grew up, cut her hair, and married an Army guy who took her to Germany for six years.  Then they got divorced, she remarried, and she launched a career in hospitality.  Despite the fact that she was in her 60s, happily married, and modestly dressed, JJ would hit on her.  

There was a pretty blonde teenaged girl who waited tables on buffet nights.  JJ hit on her, too.  In fact, it was his antics toward her that finally got him a stern talking to by the club's management.  I think they threatened to kick him out if he didn't quit hitting on the minors.  I'm not sure if the talk did any good.

JJ only hit on me that one time.  After that one incident in the linen closet, I gave him a wide berth and I never allowed him to be close to me in a place where I couldn't easily escape.  He also knew that I wasn't the type to just take it.  I wonder how many other women before me simply tolerated his advances and suffered in silence.

From then on, working at the club was less enjoyable because I never knew when I would run into JJ.  I would have to pretend it was business as usual as he'd order a breakfast sandwich or a six pack of beer to take on the golf course.  But I remembered what he did and it made going into the linen closet unnecessarily scary.    

Then there was the time I ran into Peter, a guy I knew from ACOA (adult children of alcoholics) meetings.  Once again, I failed to listen to my gut instinct, which had immediately told me the guy was bad news.  I hadn't liked him, but then decided he might be "alright".  So I started to trust him somewhat.  Then one night, he permanently lost my trust.  I've written about him before in this blog, so I won't go into detail about the specific incident involving him.  You can click the link for the story.  Actually, as bad as it was dealing with JJ the lech, the incident with Peter was much worse and far more dangerous.  In that instance, I was very lucky not to be raped.  And it was all because I decided to be trusting with a man who initially put off creepy vibes.

That brings me to my next point.  I'm not sure if the "me too" campaign is partially in response to Mayim Bialik's recent op-ed in the New York Times, or if it's just coincidental.  It appears that both Bialik's and Milano's responses were entirely regarding the news about Harvey Weinstein and how he's been treating women in show business.  To be honest, I haven't really been following the Weinstein story.  I have only heard of it on social media.  I did happen to read Mayim Bialik's opinion, though, and it resonated with me.  I honestly didn't have any negative reactions to it.

This morning, as I was waking up, I read another article about how many people felt Bialik's essay promoted rape culture and slut shaming.  Just as an aside, while I know some clothes are clearly revealing, I have to wonder who gets to decide what kinds of clothes are considered "immodest".  But that's for another rant, I guess.  Critics felt Bialik's comments about how she chooses to "dress modestly" and does not "act flirtatiously" implied that women who do dress immodestly or flirt with men are asking to be harassed.  They seemed to take particular offense to the comments I've posted below.  



These comments seem to be a bone of contention among some readers.

Maybe it's because I am Mayim Bialik's age.  Maybe it's because I conduct myself similarly.  I dress for comfort, mostly, and I don't tend to flirt with men.  I don't behave that way because I'm trying to avoid rape, by the way.  It's just who I am.  Maybe that's why I wasn't offended by the above comments.  I also happen to agree that although women should be able to dress the way they want to and walk wherever they want to at any time of the day or night, sometimes it's just not the wise thing to do.  Count me among those who don't think that every statement on dressing modestly is necessarily promoting "rape culture" or victim shaming.  

I'm not saying a woman who wears revealing clothes after midnight in a dark alley is "asking to be assaulted or abused".  What I am saying is that dressing that way will probably attract attention from people who are up to no good.  It's kind of akin to a person swimming in alligator infested waters.  In that sense, I agree with Bialik's comment that "we can't be naive about the culture we live in."  It would be nice if the alligators would leave us alone and let us swim in peace.  Will it happen?  Probably not.  

I think I related to Bialik's essay because I've never felt conventionally beautiful.  I know I'm not unattractive, but I also know there are a lot of women far more beautiful than I am.  I have often felt ugly compared to them.  Bialik's comments about what it's been like to be as smart and talented as she is and working in show business (where women are objectified) really hit home for me.  She's one of the actresses out there who has managed to be successful despite not being a super skinny blonde woman with fake boobs and a tiny nose.   I would certainly never call Mayim Bialik ugly.  To me, she just looks like someone I might actually know and can relate to as a fellow middle aged woman.  I respect her for that, and the fact that she got an education in a very tough field.  I may not agree with everything she says and does, but I definitely think she's got substance.  That's a pretty rare thing in Hollywood.

Anyway... I wrote this post on the off chance anyone was wondering why I didn't put "me too" on my Facebook status.  Moreover, while I definitely have empathy for all my sisters out there who have been harassed by men, I also recognize that there are men who have been harassed and assaulted, too.  I don't feel comfortable jumping on bandwagons that pit men against women or vice versa.  Sexual assault and harassment is always wrong, regardless of the victim's sex.  

And... while I believe everyone who posted "me too" on their Facebook page, after awhile, to me it seems like a useless fad.  While I think there's a lot of value in discussing topics like sexual assault and harassment, it also feels a little like that breast cancer campaign that comes up now and again, the one where women are asked to simply post a heart or the color of their bra as their Facebook status to promote breast cancer awareness.  I'm not sure those kinds of campaigns really do that much good in the long run because they eventually either become annoying and cliched or they simply lose steam.  Is anyone still wearing a pink vagina hat?  I haven't seen any where I am right now.  Ditto for #Je suis Charlie; no one I know is still posting or saying that.

On the other hand, I do find myself writing about "me too" today, so maybe that's a good thing for the few people who will read this and get something out of it.  If you did read, thank you for indulging me.  I hope you didn't have a reason to post "me too" on your Facebook page.  


4 comments:

  1. I'm so in the middle in regard to all of this. While I condemn a rape culture or any assault, women would be wise to look out for their own well-being.

    Regarding #me too stuff, it's not my style. I would come to anyone's defense in an assault situation, and I would testify as to anything I witnessed, but i'm not sure who is really being helped by the hashtag promotions. It all almost becomes cliche eventually, and it would seem that such is not how we would want it to be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like we're on the same page.

      Delete
  2. I have to wonder what might happen if #metoo was a movement of men admitting they have sexually harassed others, acknowledging their part in rape culture, seeking forgiveness and real change...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It would be very interesting if that ever happened, but I doubt it ever will. From my experience, a lot of men think this kind of campaign is "stupid". I fully agree that sexual harassment is a real thing and I think it's great that people are talking about it. But I have seen quite a few men who feel that women who complain are "snowflakes".

      As I was writing this, I was reminded of my posts from about a month ago about that "rapey" guy in our local community who thinks he has the right to demand sex after he pays for dinner. A whole lot of guys think that way and feel it's just fine.

      I am so grateful I found Bill. He's one of the good ones.

      Delete

Comments on older posts will be moderated.