I’ve been watching the #MeToo thing pick up momentum. I’ve been both saddened by the number of women who have typed #MeToo, and yet I’m also encouraged by the fact that we are finally speaking up and being heard.
I thank God I was never sexually abused or raped. I had a firm but loving father, who encouraged me to reach my potential. I went out with young men who didn’t make unwanted demands on my person or, if they did, graciously accepted my negative response. And, I married a champ. (Kudos to the Old Boy.) So, I was one of the lucky ones.
However, let me share a few of my not-so-happy experiences.
I remember riding my bike home from school, followed by a car full of young men calling out rude and suggestive things to me. I was frightened. What scared me the most was that they followed me all the way to my home, so they now knew where I lived. I’m sure they only drove on because my father came outside to welcome me home. (What if he hadn’t been there?) For a long time afterwards, I was filled with anxiety every time I left home. In fact, I still have anxiety attacks.
I remember one summer, wearing my new two-piece bathing suit (yes, I had my glory days!) walking along a jetty at the beach with a friend, and a complete stranger walked past me and ran his hand down my back: from shoulder blades to buttocks. I kept asking my friend, “What did I do? Why did he think he could do that?” I thought it was my fault and I wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again. I chose one-piece bathing suits after that and I didn’t spend as much time at the beach.
I remember one Sunday afternoon, on the banks of the River Torrens, watching some friends mucking around in a paddle boat. A couple of young men came up, stood next to me and started to “chat me up”. I told them I was with friends and I wasn’t interested. That didn’t deter them. My heart began to pound and I prayed for rescue. They suggested I might like to go with them and have some “fun”. I asked them to go away and refused to look at them. I started to shake. That didn’t deter them. They moved in closer. Just then a couple of other friends came up, so the men moved off. I still get nervous when I’m out on my own.
There have been occasions when my work was undervalued and unappreciated because I was a woman. I’ve worked hard on a project, only to have a man step in at the last minute and take all the credit. I’ve been paid less than men who were doing the same job and not always as well as I was doing it. And, from my earliest memories up to the present day, there have been many men who have made me nervous by standing too close, touching too much and other subtle things that have made me feel vulnerable and unsafe.
I’m thankful for the many males in my life who were and are respectful, kind, affirming and fun to be with. Not every man is a mongrel. We should celebrate those fellas more.
But, it’s also time for men to stop indulging “locker-room” talk, cat-calling and the aggressive “flirting” done by their mates. It’s time for them to say, “That’s not cool, guys. That’s not on.” It’s time to grow up.
Well done, ladies, for bringing this stuff out into the light of day.