Never Let Them Make You Feel Small
It started in middle school. Science class was held in a portable outside and it became a game for one boy to grab my *ss as we walked there each day. The next year, another great game was created when a different boy would pull me into the band closet and try to kiss me while his friends held the door. Every year, it was my great pleasure to be greeted by the PE teacher as I emerged from the locker room after dressing out, “would you like fries to go with that shake?” he would ask as he watched my friends and me head down to the school field.
Fast forward to today. I am an accomplished and confident woman — a mother of three. In two separate instances men I don’t know have approached me, kissed me, and walked on. Each time muttering something about how they just couldn’t resist. At a conference recently, a keynote speaker approached me while I was standing in a group. He says he has been watching me all day and was fascinated by the way I walked. “You’re like a walking sex popsicle.” I promise you, this happened. The last one is so crazy it’s laughable. But I think it proves a point.
Rape culture is very much alive and active in our society and the ideology starts at a very young age.
As someone who has been grabbed by the p*ssy and kissed without warning by men she didn’t invite into her personal space, I can tell you very clearly, the reason we ‘let’ you isn’t because you’re famous, or even special in any way. The reason we ‘let’ you is because we’re in a state of shock trying to process, WTF just happened?
And, I can tell you how it feels. It’s shocking, it’s alarming, it’s humiliating. I, for one, am so tired of excusing and minimizing this type of bad behavior. If idolizing this is what has become normalized conversation in our locker rooms, then I give up.
I didn’t want to write this post — as I sit here, it is creeping toward midnight — a good two hours past my normal bedtime and just 6 hours away from my self-imposed deadline for the next blog post. I have been stalling all day — for several days actually. We’ve even been through a hurricane and two days of practically doing nothing — but still this post did not get written.
Thinking about these events causes me pain and embarrassment. It’s especially bothersome and scary because they aren’t even a part of one traumatic (and newsworthy) event, but are systemic and have been experienced throughout almost every stage of my life. There is nothing really unique or special about me, these things are happening to girls and women everywhere but no one is really talking about it.
I can assure you none of the instances cited above were made in any attempt to celebrate my beauty. No, they were about power and control created to reduce me to a sum of my parts, they were intended to use my sexuality and femininity to shame me and make me feel small. Some people only feel powerful if they can reduce the power of others, taking what they want from them while discarding their humanity. Some have no idea that what they’re doing is actually wrong. Some don’t care. Sexual assault is the only crime in which the perpetrator walks away feeling justified while the victim walks away feeling guilt and shame.
In light of recent events, I think this is an important conversation. None of it has to do with politics, so if you’re going there, just stop. Bringing the focus around to who will lead us in the next four years is yet another way of deflecting this very real issue.
The problem of rape culture needs to be opened up, poured out, carefully examined and processed. But who among us will be brave enough to do it? Is it me? Is it you? More importantly, who can do this in love without leaving half of us forced to run screaming to the hills?
One of my heroes, Brene’ Brown is a major influencer of cultural shift in our time. Her work has been an inspiration and catalyst for change in my life. Brene’ opened up this discussion on Facebook a few days ago. If you haven’t seen it you can do so, here. I encourage you to review her post and the comments that follow and really examine the events in your life that have caused you to feel small — this isn’t an easy task because we minimize so much. But I encourage you to really think about it — what you uncover will create healing and change in your life and in the lives of those you love. It might even help change the world…
Here’s to making it great.
Originally published at www.sarastansberry.com.