We’ve all seen them come across our feeds. The “me too” posts that grab our attention and our hearts, but are quickly forgotten amid the busyness of our lives.
After a few days of seeing these posts I started to think about my own experiences with inappropriate comments, behavior, or worse. At first I said to myself “I must be either extremely lucky or extremely sheltered because I have never experienced anything like this.”
The more I though about it however, little memories came back to me. The time in Costa Rica when I wore a tank top because we were zip-lining through the jungle and the jungle is hot. That amount of skin was just a bit too temping for the waiter at breakfast and as he set down my coffee, his hand brushed my breast. I thought to myself “Highly unlikely, but maybe it was an accident.” When my food arrived I leaned waaaaay out of the way, but his hand still managed to brush me again.
At the time I said nothing.
Why? Because I was enjoying the magic of eating breakfast in Costa Rica. Because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Because I told myself it wasn’t a big deal (and I fully acknowledge that compared with stories others have shared, mine is ridiculously small.)
But now, my 10-year-older self is angry that a man felt he has a right to touch a woman with no invitation other than some exposed shoulder. I want to travel back in time and calmly say “Oye, ******* (Hey! That word has the same number of letters in English and Spanish!) There’s no need to touch my breast when setting down a plate of food.”
The other memory that came back to me was even more eye-opening. In sixth grade, a boy would not stop flicking my breast with his finger (Why am I just now noticing a pattern here?) After a few days of it, I told my mom. My mom stopped what she was doing and said “I am calling his father RIGHT NOW.”
As only teenagers can, I burst into tears and begged her not to call. “How embarrassing! Please don’t call. I’ll tell him to stop again.” Once again, don’t draw attention, not a big deal.
My mother made the call and the unwanted attention stopped immediately.
This experience shaped the woman I became. My mother’s actions told me that she would fight for me even when I was unwilling to fight for myself. She showed me that no matter how insignificant, no amount of unwanted touch or attention is ever ok. Her actions showed me that it is acceptable to say “Your behavior is inappropriate and needs to stop immediately.”
I am proud to say that I have used those exact words in my adult life.
And let’s be completely clear here. Am I saying that this one lesson saved me from the pain countless other women have experienced at the hands of abusers? Absolutely not. I can only wish it were as easy for so many women as telling a perpetrator to stop. What I am suggesting is that any change we hope to see begins with us as parents.
I say “me too” and I hope that it’s a promise. I promise to pass my mother’s lesson along to my own girls.
I hope that you will promise too: To teach your boys to respect all people, to teach your girls to fight for themselves and others.
I say “me too.” Not because I have experienced what so many women have, but because I don’t want to live in a world where women have to experience it at all. My promise to my children is that I will fight, with actions and with words, to make a world in which WE ALL understand respect.
I hope you will do the same.