I struggled with whether to write this, mostly because I felt embarrassed. I had to ask both my husband and my Mother if they would be mortified if I wrote this on a public forum, I nervously scanned their faces for a look of approval. When they paused for a long moment with a painful expression of concern I felt my cheeks flush crimson red. I passed on posting to my personal page, and at first I was too nervous to post on Huff Post. Ironically, this is why.
I’m well educated and was raised with a strong moral and ethical value system, I religiously attended Sunday school growing up. I run my own business, most would describe me as outspoken and strong willed; yet I too said nothing when men “inappropriately” put their hands where they didn’t belong. It didn’t happen one night when I drank too much, or when wearing a short skirt and boots out in a bar; it happened with a high school teacher, a physician, and, when I was 12 years old, with a family friend.
For me, there is a clear delineation between instances when I was single, out having a good time, and instances where this happened randomly and without my consent. With the former, for as long as time exists, the lines of who is complicit will always be blurred. In the case of the latter, like a lot of women, I was shocked and so embarrassed that I didn’t want to discuss the incident with anyone. In the interest of full disclosure, I can’t say these incidences left me traumatized, these men, for the most part, were “copping a feel.” I do, however, remember each incident succinctly; I remember where I was, what I was wearing, and how I felt. If these instances are so deeply embedded in my memory, it makes me wonder if they affected me more than I am willing to acknowledge.
What leaves me perplexed is this; if men have the temerity to put their hands wherever they want without our consent, why don’t we, as women, have the temerity to tell them to stop? For a reason I can’t fully explain, we don’t speak up, instead we become paralyzed and mute. I imagine that as long as we are consistently excoriated for speaking out, we will continue to keep silent. When we do speak up, our claims are repudiated, our integrity is questioned; even worse, some women propagate a false narrative about what “type of woman” makes these types claims in the first place.
I am writing this mostly because I am discomfited and troubled that I was “one of those women” that said nothing when it happened. I was paralyzed, I was mute. Post-election I have shared this story, and the response has been consistently the same; “that happened to me too, with my coach, with my Father’s best friend, with my boss.” My hope in writing this is that perhaps one woman reading this will be brave enough to let a man know that unwarranted groping isn’t flattering and it doesn’t feel good. My greater hope is that if enough women speak out, maybe, just maybe, some of these men will think twice before they ever do it again. After all, women’s rights are human rights, and humans rights are women’s rights. Once, and for All.
A quick post note: This was posted to Pantsuit Nation weeks ago, I was humbled by the thousands of responses and comments. The common narrative was “we need to start having conversations with our daughters.” What struck me like a thunderbolt was that not one person said “when we will start having conversations with our sons?”
And so, in our family, it begins…..