I saw the hashtag and the Facebook post encouraging the copy-paste for women who’d experienced sexual harassment.
I had to think first. Really think. Had I been sexually harassed?
I don’t have any Harvey Weinstein moments. I am nearly always treated with respect and rarely as an object.
The overwhelming majority of interactions I’ve had with men in my life have been positive or had nothing to do with my gender when they weren’t.
I’ve witnessed plenty of sexual harassment, especially when I was younger. But my own experiences? Did they count? Did they rise to that level?
There was my fifth-grade teacher who always wanted hugs from the girls. We obliged, even though it felt weird, especially because he singled one girl out.
There was my seventh-grade teacher who called the pretty girls “baby” and told them to get him some coffee. I wished I was pretty enough for him to do that so I could say, “I’m not your baby, and you can get your own coffee.” But he never asked me.
And then my eighth-grade teacher who wouldn’t let a girl go to the bathroom even though she said she had a personal problem, which is adolescent girlspeak for “I’m on my period” and it’s an emergency. His response? “Yeah, I guess you do.” It didn’t happen to me, but I was a little scared it could.
Is being made fun of when your period leaks all over the place when you’re 12 sexual harassment? Because that did happen to me, and it’s definitely something guys don’t have to deal with, so they’re the ones making the jokes.
My freshman year of high school I was told you couldn’t get an A in Biology unless you wore a short skirt. I was determined to prove that wrong, and I did. But that didn’t stop the teacher from putting his finger in my ear one day when I had a tendril of hair hanging down. I looked at him and said, “Excuse me,” and he never touched me again.
In high school I was again excluded from certain comments directed to the really pretty girls, this time from my female P.E. teacher. She would say, “I strongly suggest you don't get hit in the face with a ball because it will greatly diminish your chances of getting married.” While I didn’t want to be told that, the message I got was that my face wasn’t pretty enough to attract a husband anyway so I wasn’t really worth the effort. Which led to a lot of ambiguous feelings even though I knew she was being horrible. She became principal sometime after I graduated.
In college, I was lamenting one day with a male friend that guys weren’t interested in me and I didn’t know why. This was his take: “You’re intimidating. Guys want someone they can manipulate and control, and you’re not it.”
I was walking on a well-traveled bike path with headphones and a guy thought he would help me understand the risks of walking alone in the middle of the morning by speeding up behind me on his bike and yelling “Can you hear your attacker?” as he went by. My friends wanted me to carry pepper spray after that. I refused, but I did buy a body alarm to appease them.
My college choir professor, in encouraging the women to lift their chests, said, “If you got it, flaunt it.” We laughed awkwardly.
When I was a reporter, I had a guy I was interviewing ask if the hot photographer was coming, and if any pretty girls worked at the newspaper. The interview became increasingly uncomfortable, and I got a bit scared as the college cafeteria where we were talking emptied out. A few weeks later he was arrested for stalking his ex-wife.
A male co-worker and friend told me I’d be really amazing (or something to that effect) if I lost weight.
There was the man I worked with who bragged that he refused to sign off on the sexual harassment policy even though he’d been turned in for sexual harassment because of the things he said at work. In my exit interview, I told HR. I don’t know if they took action.
None of those instances made me copy and paste, But the next one did. I hadn’t thought about it in years.
I went to a small Christian college, just two city blocks. I lived in a campus-owned house across the street from the education buildings and dorm.
I was about to go across the street for dinner when I got a phone call. Our numbers weren’t listed anywhere but at a desk in the dorm building.
It was a guy. He said he could see me. At first, I thought it was one of my friends. I played a bit. “Oh, really?” Something like that. But it became clear fast that this wasn’t a friend, and it wasn’t a voice I recognized. I don’t remember exactly what he said. I do remember I was scared, and I didn’t scare easily. I called campus security and asked for an escort to go across the street, something I had never done before. And I was surprised at their response.
This was a small school. These were guys who knew me. It was my third year and I’d never called them for anything, unlike other girls who wanted a walk to the parking lot just because it was dark.
They didn’t think it was a big deal. Not the call. Not my fear. I think they came when I insisted, but not until then. Even my female friends didn’t think it was a big deal.
I never found out who called me that night. I did find out that no one cared, and that saying something was useless.
So, yeah, #MeToo.