Me Too — 6 Comments

  1. I remember a story, probably from a radio program many years ago, about an adolescent girl who waited at a public bus stop to get to her school. An older man would stand very close behind her and whisper crude, sexually explicit things in her ear. Her parents taught her what I thought was a great response. She would shout VERY loudly — You want to touch me where? You want to do what to me? The other people at the bus top looked at her and then the man behind her who quickly left and never returned. The other people at the bus stop became the girl’s protectors and she was never approached again. Would I have the presence of mind to take than kind of action? Perhaps I should practice my voice, just in case.

    • Great idea. Like learning martial arts and self defense, you have to practice so that when the moment you need to protect yourself comes, you can use your skills instinctively. I like the term “practicing one’s voice.” It can apply to other things too, like writing.

  2. Why do so many men see women as objects, property, handmaids? Why do so many of us women remain silent when grabbed, groped, or worse? I have been harassed by men (total strangers) a few times, each time I said nothing, shocked and embarrassed by what had just happened. I never shared these stories until recently, they happened 40+ years ago. Only now, did I have the voice to speak of them. It was on a walk with a friend, and it was a cathartic feeling to do so. Maybe even healing.

  3. When Jennie Orvino raised the question for herself & other violated females she knows: “Why didn’t we say anything at the time?,” I was abruptly brought back, tho a male, to a similar question I asked of myself following what I considered a comparable — tho not identical in being a physical molestation — situation. It did, however, involve an intrusive (& repulsive) man, himself in somewhat of a position of power. I can say on my part that I did arrive, tho belatedly, at an answer that might apply to others — male or female — or at least illuminate the discussion. More on that later, since I feel I should comment on related issues she raised. First, I should say her blog post only adds to the recent sudden slew of publicity about sexual harassment, molestation, stalking & on down to actual rape, & warrants attention by appearing on FB. In light of the Weinstein, Roy Moore, Al Franken, “Carlos Danger” Wiener & myriad other revelations, such activity has become a common topic of discussion, for me mostly in some Internet & e-mail conversations. So when a female friend in Illinois — herself, not surprisingly, with some history to relate in this area — raised her concerns, I quickly & honestly reported that I was taken aback by the number of incidents suddenly being reported & the extent to which they had apparently been going on over a vast stretch of time. Now, I was certainly aware of the existence of rape, groping, hostile work environments for women & all the rest of it — but by the same token, I wrote, looking back on 60 years or so of adolescent awareness & then nominal maturity & relationships with women in social, workplace, academic & personal encounters, I was struck by how few of them had ever expressed much reaction to negative experiences such as those now in the news. Most of these women, including in a marriage & several with whom I lived, were not the type to hold back on details of their lives, & indeed from the late ’60s & early ’70s onward, most considered themselves feminists & were active in promulgating that outlook. Yet one might project that in my time at the university or on the job, etc., that women were being variously attacked right & left, or at least boorishly accosted by men quick to brag to their buddies about their moves, but no — I first messaged to my Illinois friend that I could only dredge up from all my experience two related occurrences. One woman I had shared my life with for several years had been subjected to an attempted rape by a supposed friend — thwarted, if you must know, by some obstructing pantyhose & her resistance — while another with whom I had lived said she was momentarily upset when she was a girl at home & her father had briefly but pointedly fondled her growing breasts. (She made the conscious decision not to repress the memory but ignore it, so as not to develop some sort of complex, & instead go on as before, continuing a warm family life. All in all, for so many years & into the present no great cause for eruptions of alarm, I said, tho in honesty & upon further reflection, as they say, I did come up with more examples. For the curious & because, after all, it is relevant, a women with a house in Riverwest let me stay free in her attic as an impoverished hippie because it made her feel safer after being dragged into a car outside a nearby jazz bar by some black men & raped; another involved an on-and-off again girlfriend who after moving temporarily to Chicago was raped by a friendly black guy we both knew from our local bar, who apparently followed her there. (Is race relevant here? Probably not, & its mention may feed some prejudices, but I ask if anyone telling this story would refrain from mentioning it, if only for seeing it as I do, as a writer who looks for picturesque details to adorn the prose. But it also plays to the feeling, mostly unacknowledged, that whites expect their black friends to set a higher bar in behavior in return for being accepted. Itself a form of racism.) And I remembered some sightings of a flasher by my then-wife in a local laundromat, & a gripe by a friend in a bar that a certain guy was in the habit of grabbing her ass, & another friend who made a business call to an ad agency where the good old boys raucously insisted she view porno video tapes with them. I realized I could go on in that vein if I plumbed my memory — but still, in the scheme of things they seemed trivial & I don’t think any more rapes would surface. Obviously, one rape or assault is one rape or assault too many, & whether the total of other aggressions amounts to a lot is in the eye of the stakeholder, who in any case is welcome to point to available statistics to make the case. Additionally, important to me & probably to most readers, is the fact that all these transactions involve males acting against females, tho as a reporter for the alternative paper Bugle-American I covered the larger topic of sex, censorship & sexism, where — being then in my early 30s — I mentioned being genitally groped by two young woman in a supermarket. Their idea, complete with lewd comments, tho I had egged them on & found it not really objectionable (Google me, if you want elaboration). But tho this sort of thing happens, including female teachers & such molesting or seducing males, I think it remains more rare & subject to an indulgent double standard for the involved, supposedly lucky boys, while the rampant criticism these days rightly remains directed at guilty men (or equally repugnant boys). So it is with my history (as I lead to Orvino’s question above) that what abuse I encountered, however tolerable in amount or degree, was perpetrated by males. Thus, I remember as a kid in a movie theater being asked by an older boy if I wanted to “touch my weenie,” & trying to sleep in a bus station as a middle-aged loiterer stood where I could see him & unzipped his pants to make his display. No big deal, but I can relate to Orvino because many years later I had a landlord that fit the pattern. My rent, paid first to his father, then the widow, & eventually to Ambrose (as I’ll call him) started out very reasonably, & I never intended to chisel on it. But as the years went by & property taxes went up & Ambrose took over & kept raising it I grew less able to pay & often fell behind. Sometimes when late I would be waiting for a paycheck & offer to bring it to his house on the South Side as soon as possible instead of mailing it. Finally, after about 15 years of tenancy, with money order in hand, I rang the bell only to confront the tubby, blubbery body of middle-aged Ambrose, stark naked & navigating the rooms — & up & down the bedroom stairs — in all his black-haired glory, all the more obscene for his manhood being so tiny yet obviously meant to be viewable. I was speechless, except for rotely conducting business, & left quickly but with the overarching question posed by Orvino looming: Why didn’t I say anything? At least let him know I found it offensive & disrespectful to a guest. On the other hand, I didn’t want to be considered a prude, & didn’t readily have a tactful way of telling him to put on some clothes without seeming to give him an order in his own house. And, it should go without saying, that I was unimpressed & in any case was not interested in whatever further activity he might have in mind. It was only after much thought later that while I was shocked into silence — thus learning, like many women, that a real feeling of being powerless could take over — I decided I could have politely said, while seeming neutral about his comportment, that I wasn’t in a big hurry & that he could take the time to get dressed without affecting my schedule. I wasn’t afraid of him physically, but he did have some financial power over me, to the point of a disrupting eviction (I was still behind in the rent), so it would be best to not upset him while retaining my cool. None of this would apply were he to be actually offensive or make contact, in which case — & apparently unlike most women — I would react forcefully & probably with an obscenity, such as “Get your fuckin’ hands off of me,” without thinking of any consequences, as should any accosted woman — tho if more restrained language comes to mind, fine. So the problem appears to be the original startle, rendering one momentarily mute, compounded by lack of a previously thought out all-purpose response, such as, “Please don’t do that,” along with an icy or neutral stare, depending om the degree of friendship, while removing the offending hand (or leg) if still in place. And certainly make any appropriate reports to authorities. But as to the frequency of such encounters — especially in light of all the publicity — I have to mention that, no matter how unwelcome they were, Orvino & her friends have to look back to their early 20s & move forward from several to 5 years each for what seem to be rather isolated cases. Hurtful & discomfiting, I’m sure — & too many, of course — but is it suddenly an epidemic? In any case, one would be prepared by determining to act even & whenever shocked into silence, while formulating some kinds of possible verbal reactions ahead of time & simply going about determined to display feminist (or masculine) integrity & resolve to summon one’s indignation next time. Easy for me to say, I know, but I want to illustrate this discourse with another disquieting scene from my (distant) past that touches upon several relevant themes. One being that, in most comparable circumstances I can envision today, it would be unthinkable (except, it seems, for Donald Trump) while at the same time — illustrating societal changes — it wasn’t then considered much out of the ordinary. It speaks to Orvino’s observation that “And every man has done something stupid, insensitive, sexist, boorish, cruel, or has committed an act he regrets and feels remorse about.” How true. To this day I am chagrined & appalled about a day in junior high school when a bunch of us — boys & girls — stopped in as usual over the lunch period at the local grocery store where we bought snacks & such (Boston Creme Pie for me). To this day I cannot explain what possessed me when, facing & briefly chatting with Arlette, a girl I knew — had even briefly dated in the very informal, ever-shifting patterns of socializing just-developing adolescents experimented with — I stuck out my stiff hand to poke her dress right between her legs, in front of the onlookers. She yelped involuntarily, as well she should have, though unlike our President (by his own account), I didn’t actually grab anything. On the other hand, it was very vigorous, not sensual, & as I think back, at least intended to make her jump. And of course she recoiled. But the upshot — after some laughter by the group — was . . . nothing. We had been friendly to the point of some furtive sex play in a movie theater where most of us went, & I think that gave me a sense of entitlement while taking away her right to complain — but she must have felt humiliated by what was, after all, a public sexual assault. But no one considered then that a crime had been committed, even Arlette, & tho — unlike singer Morrissey in his recent comments on sexual harassment — I don’t think it was “just a pathetic attempt at courtship,” it did entail sexual attraction that I hadn’t yet been acculturated enough to deal with (& just plain boorishness). While fearing no retribution, which is one lesson I take away. I think — tho I don’t know — that in today’s sexualized climate even schoolboys & girls would be aware this action is beyond the pale, but in any case — while in that era it wouldn’t have seemed necessary or age-appropriate — an explicit code of conduct should be spelled out in schools starting with this age group or earlier that, among other things, specifies no public groping — or jabbing — of the genitals or any sexual equipment. Beyond that, even Orvino recognizes what she could & should have done, & I have no other antidote to hesitation & fear, but I can join in recognizing those feelings are not surprising even as they prevailed at my age & for my gender. So I hope it’s not presumptuous to leave a (long) Comment as another member of the Me Too club, as well as express my still-burning shame.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful and far reaching comments, Mike. Good to hear from a man on MeToo. I plan to blog more on the subject in upcoming days.

      • I’m glad you worked your way thru what must have seemed like an interminable Comment, but you wrote Comments were welcomed, so I figured I’d give it a whirl. I look forward to your further thoughts on the topic, & others’ responses (if any). A concern for me is that the format doesn’t seem to allow for any editing once an item is posted, tho I searched for this function — something similar to Facebook, where I can exercise my perfectionism & go back to make corrections or even delete everything. I am my own editor & am usually very careful, but often after the heat of the moment has passed I like to make improvements in my prose. In the recent example, long as it is, I came up with a descriptive detail I wanted to add, & clarify that your appearance on my Facebook page where we are Friends was only in the form of a link to your Blog, & not the body of your entry. Not very important, maybe, but in any case I’d like to know how one can make changes to one’s posts, if at all. In the meantime I intend to Post further on my FB page about this interchange for any interest my own following — such as it is — may generate.

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