Wednesday, May 28, 2014

#YesAllWomen

I find myself thinking about all of the times I have tried to make myself forget.

I think about that time at a friend’s quinceñera when an older boy moving through the crowd squeezed by me, his hand brushing my crotch. No, not brushing. His hand didn’t slip; he pushed his palm against the peach taffeta of my dress and between my legs. I was two weeks shy of turning thirteen.

One of my father’s friends told me I was beautiful after he forced his tongue into my mouth as we stood in the entryway of his home. He was in pajama pants and an undershirt. I was in jeans and an oversized men’s shirt. It was my first day of high school.

“She’s fuckable.” That’s what a boy said about me when he heard I had a crush on him. I was sixteen.

I think of how when I spoke of my assault at 14—because I know now that it was an assault—I was silenced by some of the women and girls in my life. “No one wants to hear about that…”

A colleague, someone I considered a mentor, tells me over dinner about how he met his wife. When I say I hope for that kind of longevity in my own life, he tells me that my problem is that I am too independent. Then he tells me that there is something about me he cannot shake and that he is all caught up in it. I spend the next hours, weeks, and months, feeling anxious whenever I encounter him, wondering what I did to provoke him, rather than wondering why he thought it was OK to say that to me in that moment. Or ever.  

As I get ready to leave the house every day, I check the mirror. I think I look nice, but I also know that somewhere along my walk across town a man will make a comment that I am supposed to take as a compliment. It is not vanity; it is fear.

I think of the time a man asked me my ethnicity as I passed him on the street. And when I apologized (!) and said I could not speak to him because I was late for an appointment, he followed me down the crowded city street, berating me for half a block.

I ignore a catcall on my way home from work and am followed, my “admirer’s” words escalating. I have to seal myself off, steel myself, and hope that the light does not turn red before I can get to the intersection.

I think about all the times I walked home alone after a night out with friends and made it safely to my apartment. I think about how my girlfriends and I text each other to say we are on our way to the meeting place or that we have made it home from the meeting place safely.

I think about how I make a point of meeting dates at a restaurant or bar where I know the staff.

I think about the night I sat at the opposite end of a bar from another single woman during happy hour, both of us waiting for friends who were running late. I think about how the man who sat between us is the reason she and I became friends that night.

I think about how the women I am closest to all have stories like these.  I think about how we recognized that silence in each other for months or years before we were brave enough to share our experiences. I think about how those friendships have been deepened.

I think about the guilt and the shame that comes with the silence and how this movement has brought all of that noise back to my surface; how it has allowed me to reevaluate and remind myself that none of it was my fault.

I think about how thinking about all of these things tonight makes me frightened of trying to date again because although all men are not “like that,” all women have experiences like these.

I think about believing that I can still be fearless with my heart while protecting my body, my being.


9 comments:

Elizabeth Hilts said...

Amen.

Maria Rehrig said...

ALL. Women.

Tina DeMarco said...

"It is not your fault," is something we need to hear and especially, accept into our core being more often.

Thank you for sharing, for your bravery, for your honesty. This was wonderful.

Tina

Amma Marfo said...

That one about independence making long-term companionship challenging...I'm having a very real struggle with that as I ponder applying for doctoral programs. I'm so glad you said that, because I hadn't yet put into words what was making me so antsy about it. This is wonderful. Thank you for writing it.

Abbey Cleland said...

Bravo, Daisy. You're tackling big, important content here in a truly eloquent, resonating way. Always love your writing -- in form and theme. You're so marvelous that way.

I sense that my network of female friends is representative of this issue, too. We ALL have our personal accounts -- some genuinely terrifying and violent (the stuff of nightmares), and others annoying, hurtful, unfair, and puzzling (the stuff of nightmares, too, just less cinematic). Why don't we talk about it? At length? In detail? With indignation and valor? I don't know. But I'm going to see to it that we start.

Thanks for this.

xo, your sister in writing,
Abbey

ajoconnell said...


Thank you for writing this post. That one about the guy saying your problem is that you're "too independent": I hate that. I hate how that guy was making independence seem like a bad thing, when it's absolutely not a bad thing.

Ryan said...

Beautiful honesty, Daisy.

I recall Louis CK (i think) on the Dr. Katz show, "If women ever knew how men really think about them, they'd never stop slapping us."

I don't blame myself for the manner in which I often evaluate women - I think it's innate. But I try my best to not allow these initial perceptions to bias my experience when I get to know women.

Charlotte said...

Daisy, Brava! Have you seen this project?

http://stoptellingwomentosmile.com/

Thank you for sharing your story.

Reuben Hayslett said...

Beautifully crafted! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. Like a lot of people, I'm still kind of bothered by that guy who told you you were too independent (!). What's really chilling is his fixation on you afterward. I felt afraid for you just reading it. Yes, let's expose misogynistic violence. Yes, let's expose street harassment. Yes, let's expose assault and domestic violence. But let's also expose that weirdness that defies a click-bait name, that fixation just because you don't reflect some man's idea of how a woman should be or behave. It's silently very violent.