Last night, I came home to a Facebook feed filled with “Me Too” posts. Women who have been sexually harassed or abused are using this simple phrase in an effort to draw attention to the sheer number of females who have been subjected to unwanted sexual advances and abuse. My first reaction was “not me,” but as I thought about it, I realized that really wasn’t true.
When I was in elementary school, there was a man who used to ride around the neighborhood on his bike, his testicles hanging out the side of his tennis shorts. He would approach the four little girls who lived on my block, asking us for directions. At the time, we didn’t understand what we were looking at. Now I know.
An older neighbor used to drink too much. He’d come outside after dinner and strike up conversations with us same little neighborhood girls. He would offer to play hide-and-seek with us, and one night he ended up on top of one of my friends. I had to kick him to get him off of her. We thought it was innocent fun because WE were innocent. Now I know.
I was towing a friend home on my bicycle from the mall one day in middle school, and as we passed a business, closed for the weekend, we heard a whistle and looked over. A man was standing beside his open car door, naked from the waist down. As we screamed, I pedaled as fast as I could to get away from him. I wasn’t as innocent then. Now I knew.
After a date in my late teens, the boy decided it was his due to grope both of my breasts from behind while walking me to the door. I was so stunned by his actions, I didn’t say a word, but I never went out with him again. Now I knew.
As a 22-year-old woman, I was getting a ride back to my car after happy hour from a young man who worked in my building. I had known him for some time, and I appreciated his offer of a ride. When we reached the parking lot, I thanked him and moved to get out of the car. He locked the doors and said, “How about a kiss before you go?” I politely declined (trained to be polite, you know), and as he moved toward me anyway (because a ride equals payment), I said, “If you don’t unlock the door right now, I’m going to scream bloody murder.” He did. I left. Now I knew.
Between and among all of these incidents, I have been heckled on the street, looked up and down, inappropriately touched in crowds, and generally made to feel uncomfortable more times than I can count. It is part and parcel of being a female, and so much so, that when I saw “Me Too,” I didn’t think it actually included me. But it does.
Now I know.