This week, I joined the chorus of voices saying “me too.” I wrote a Facebook post detailing some of the incidents I could remember. I was exhausted after I wrote it. I read it through again and thought, “How does one person experience all this and keep going? How have I experienced all this and kept going? How is it that (more than) half the world’s population could generate a list like this and keep going?”
The week wore on and more and more of us began sharing individual details in addition to the simple and powerful “me too” of almost every womyn and many men. And as I read each one, I was reminded of yet another incident that had gotten buried away over the years, out of reach of my consciousness.
After being so horrified at reading my own post, I thought about the power behind a list coming from a single individual, not just a collection of huge incidents in the collective lives of womyn, but a collection of incidents, large and small, in a single woman’s life.
So I started writing down each time someone’s post reminded me of one more thing I had endured at the hands of rape culture, one more time I had felt afraid or threatened or powerless or objectified without my consent. This is the result – and I’m sure I could keep adding from memory. I hope there’s enough societal change that I won’t have any future incidents to add.
Goes without saying, but saying it to be sure: TW
Me too – when I met a female friend and she introduced me to her male friend, who spent the next half hour talking to me while looking at my breasts, which incidentally were covered in a crew-neck loose-fitting shirt, so obviously what I was wearing did not matter.
Me too – when I was packed into a crowded train and felt a man’s erection pressing against my back and could do nothing until the train pulled into the next station and I escaped from the car and bent over gasping for breath and then berated myself for not screaming, for being so paralyzed that I let it happen. (No, I do not blame myself anymore for freezing and feeling powerless.)
Me too – when at least three male professors on separate occasions made me feel uncomfortable, ranging from mild discomfort to worry, but I don’t feel safe going into any more detail than that now.
Me too – when a man followed my roommate and me from a train platform onto the train and seemed to be snapping pictures of our lower bodies on his phone, and we got off a stop early but he followed us off the train and out of the station, so we walked faster but he walked faster, so we turned sharp corners to shake him off and then walked around for ten more minutes before heading into our apartment to make sure he wouldn’t see where we lived.
Me too – when a student in a high school program I taught for did many small things that made me feel objectified though not unsafe, and I spoke to the male program director whose first response was to query whether I was overreacting to a teenager’s enthusiasm in class.
Me too – when I went for a walk in a “safe” neighborhood at 2am to clear my head, and a man followed me for five blocks, matching my pace step for step, and instead of clearing my head I had to pay close attention to where he was in relation to me, and I was afraid to go back into my apartment and afraid to keep walking the nearly-empty streets, so I went to my corner bodega and waited in the brightly-lit shop for twenty minutes before cautiously stepping out again.
Me too – when I told a male friend about moments of discomfort, unease, and fear, and he insisted that since the only reason I was afraid was a sense that something was off and I could not name any specific actions of the man in question that were obviously threatening, I had no cause to be afraid or to be rattled or to recount it as a moment of harassment.
Me too – when a man sat next to me on the train late at night, and I felt a little threatened, so I got up and moved to another seat, but he followed me and sat down next to me, so I got up and stood near the door, but he came and stood directly in front of me and berated me for acting like he’s someone to be afraid of and yelled at me that he’s actually married with kids (as if that should mean he couldn’t possibly be a predator), and all the other passengers averted their eyes while I endured his verbal barrage until I was able to get off the train at the next stop despite knowing I would have to wait twenty minutes for another train so late at night.
Me too – when I was waiting on a nearly empty train platform late at night and I was pacing and a drunk man started following me around and I made a beeline for the other end of the platform where two men were standing, two men who glanced over, assessed the situation, and went back to their conversation.
Me too – when the plumber put his hand on my leg, said “I like your body,” offered to have some “fun,” and continued pressuring me in my own apartment after I had already said no three times.
Me too – when a chasid in a van pulled up next to me as I waited for the bus and motioned for me to get in the car, and then appeared to touch himself (though I could not actually see his hand) while he watched me and I ignored him.
Me too – when two of my brothers touched me inappropriately, once when my sweater rode up and a strip of skin on my lower back was exposed, and once when I had leaned over and he had easier access to my skirt-covered-butt. (I have forgiven them for these youthful follies, after they matured into decent people and one apologized to me of his own accord, but I still blame the culture that enabled this treatment of a woman’s body.)
Me too – when my oldest brother used my nine-year-old body to experiment with his pubescent hormones (or whatever his motivations were).
Me too – when the same brother thought it was funny throughout my adolescence to tickle and poke my sides and to laugh, as I got angry and told him I didn’t enjoy it or find it funny.
Me too – when memories of the childhood abuse became overwhelming and I suffered bouts of debilitating anxiety as an adult, and I was told by my parents and two of my siblings that I should keep quiet about it for the sake of the family’s reputation and for the sake of my younger siblings’ chances at a “good marriage,” when I was expected to show up to family functions and pretend my abuser was a loving brother, when I was forced to smile and hide the screaming mess I was inside.
Me too – when I tried to gain closure by talking to my brother and instead got blamed by his wife for my ongoing trauma.
Me too – when “me too” happened so many times that I remember some incidents only vaguely and some not at all, because who has the emotional energy and space to keep track of all of these.
Me too – for the big ones, for the hundreds of small ones, for every single one that grinds us down day after day – me too.