What does Me, too mean to you?
Guest Blogger, Erin Browning, on a topic that is front and center in recent days. #metoo
Me, too now takes on a whole new meaning.
It meant a moment of bravery for me. It meant putting my vulnerability out for the entire world. Details, no. Shameful secrets, yes. But the shame dissipates when it’s brought into the light. Harassment is commonplace. Women experience it. Men experience it. This isn’t a one sided issue, but to bridge the gap we have to acknowledge and listen. We are finally at a point of hearing the feminine. Most of the men aren’t quite ready to come forward. Some, but few. It is complex for the masculine, guilt, shame for their actions. Fear of what might be said. Fear of speaking out when they too have suffered at the actions of women, but in time it will come full circle. Right now, we (females) have done a lot of work to break through shame. Right now we face a moment of leading the way.
Where do I begin?
With the obvious or the not so obvious?
With the moments that were dismissively yet apprehensively giggled about?
With the ones spoken but ousted by others?
With the episodes that I didn’t even recognize until this very dialogue brought forth emotional memories?
Where do I begin?
When I was the new girl in town, 5th grade, and the brother of a friend demonstrating “boys being boys” behavior in all its glory, stole my panties during a sleepover and took them to school. I was mortified as the boys in the class sniffed the panties in the bathroom, whispered about the lack of sexiness, and began calling me blue thunder because the blue cotton little girl panties weren’t up to par for a 10 year old.
When my high school movie theater job required trips to fill the ice bin and inappropriate grabs from my manager as I bent over to scoop ice from the cooler in the dark and dingy room were as frequent as clocking out at the end of shift. I questioned my skirts and cute shoes, and wondered if I should begin dressing differently. I spoke only to my boyfriend who confirmed that skirts were too much and I was overreacting.
When my college math instructor repeatedly and forcefully offered “private tutoring”, which made no sense for me holding an A in the course with minimal effort. Once again, the boyfriend confirmed that I should consider ramifications for myself and the teacher if I reported it. I didn’t want to tell people about this because it really was nothing, he didn’t touch me and surely my grade wouldn’t suffer as long as I made the scores. Inaccurate grades began to surface which forced more interaction with this teacher as I had to go and awkwardly confront the mistaken incorrect marks if I wanted to maintain the A.
When I worked retail and a man in his mid 50s wanted me to try on all of the clothes he purchased for his wife so he could see what they might look like on a person before buying. It became a monthly occurrence which the managers dismissed as providing good customer service. In my gut I knew it didn’t feel right, but I went with it. I believed I should be grateful that I was cute enough, special enough, for him to want me to try the clothes on.
On the night I lost my virginity, minimal memory because of the booze, he literally poured the liquor over my lips and into my naive throat until I could barely speak and vomited beside the musty smelling bed before and after the sex took place. A bourbon breathed man age 21 to my 15, at the time, in a broken girl space, it felt like flattery but in hindsight occurs to me is not quite appropriate. There was nothing good about this moment in my life. I felt nothing but shame.
From my standpoint #metoo signifies an admission of experiencing the inappropriateness that is standard, somewhat accepted, brushed aside, and looked over. It also brought forth a knowing in me that I could stand in my WHOLE story even in the face of the public. Something many people cannot say because we’ve cultured the consciousness and compassion right out of our society.
I clearly see the progression.
During my divorce I experienced a step beyond harassment. Abuse. A gun in the face. Fingers shoved down my throat in a fallic manner as he cursed and yelled. The arm of this man shoving me into a couch holding me by my throat, holding my legs above my head and pounding my vagina with his fist. I felt the shame as he spit in my face. The shame from simply being a woman. Was this all because of him and this encounter or was this conditioning?
For months I recounted this particular moment in my life like a police report. My emotion stayed out of it. I was nudged by a man in my life to report the situation. I did, but still told very few. The few I chose to tell I did so out of shame. I wanted them to know that I was leaving for very valid reasons. I came up against people who believed I was exaggerating. People who showed disbelief, dismissal, and no compassion. I was shocked that many were women.
About a year after divorce I finally admitted to my family that the relationship had become abusive. I spoke the truth to more than just a few locals who saw it unfolding and the woman who held my hand on that sunny morning at the women’s abuse shelter. Shame intertwined through the entire experience.
Two years after the divorce I experienced a painful moment that held me away from mourning my father-in -law. I cried and then I remembered. The pain of what always was an undercurrent of the relationship came to the surface.
I called old friends to confirm, was I crazy?
No. He drug you by the hair of your head across the street. she said. You always had those little bruises on your arms from him grabbing you.
I stood in my story and voiced it to many. I stopped keeping the secret. The only way out is through and I refused to be prisoner to this shame any longer.
Yesterday I posted #metoo. I hesitated. I wondered who would looked at it and think it wasn’t real, an overreaction. I posted anyway. Then I wrote this because it’s important to share. There was a progression from the micro to the macro and my history illustrated a perfect example of how it all got out of hand.
None of these moments define me, but they certainly shaped me.
They weakened or strengthened my boundaries.
While sticking in the story doesn’t serve anyone it is necessary to acknowledge the actions, their actions, my subsequent reactions.
While ruminating doesn’t help healing neither does bypassing.
Neither does the “suck it up and get over it” mentality.
We all know THE ONLY WAY OUT IS THROUGH.
To get through go within, and after going within it is crucial to get it out so the story doesn’t eat away at me.
I continue to wonder and think about ways that we can keep the integrity of the #metoo movement. I want to keep the conversation going so healing can happen.
How can we be more mindful and conscious in this not so pretty place we are sitting in right now?
Meaningful listening. YES.
Connecting with others. YES
Allowing their emotions in their pain. YES
Acknowledging the flaws, the demons, the light, the human and the divine in each and every one of us. YES
Knowing that the world is harsh and our people are important. YES
I don’t need sympathy, I do need to be heard.
All of the #metoos need their story to be heard so it doesn’t consume them but allows them to grow.
Please keep sharing and keep listening.