I was on vacation in early October and having continental breakfast in a Virginia motel when I saw the news coverage of Harvey Weinstein stepping down as head of his self-titled film production company due to years of sexual harassment allegations. At first, my “morning brain” didn’t quite comprehend this story properly – and I thought they were talking about gay actor Harvey Fierstein, who appeared in a 1990 episode of The Simpsons called “Simpson and Delilah.” The basic plot revolves around Homer pulling a fast one on his insurance company and getting them to cover a hair-loss treatment, which results in him growing his hair back and getting promoted to an executive position at work. One of the perks of his new position was having a personal assistant, whom in this case was voiced by Harvey Fierstein:
Homer (right) and his assistant, Karl, voiced by Harvey Fierstein
Eventually my brain worked properly, probably because the caffeine from the coffee kicked in, and I figured out who they were REALLY talking about on the news broadcast. “All right,” I thought, “This is pretty bad.” But I also wasn’t too surprised about a Hollywood mogul being outed for being a sleazebag. And the dominoes continue to fall – John Lasseter, creative director at Disney/Pixar, is taking a six-month leave of absence for sexual harassment allegations. Actor Kevin Spacey is under fire for allegedly molesting Richard Dreyfuss’ son, Harry. This kind of thing has probably been going on since long before Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were going at each others’ throats back in their heydays, right? I’m sure movie moguls Samuel Goldwyn, Louis Mayer and George Metro all did their share of inappropriate – even criminal – things while playing the movie mogul power game in order to keep their harem of female actresses (and male actors) under their power. George Metro is NOT a real person, BTW! This is NOT to say that just because this kind of thing has been going on a long time makes it right, by any means! What do we all do to move on now? Can things like this be stopped before they start – or mitigated once they escalate? Is it enough that sexual predators are being persecuted in the media – if not judged in courtrooms? What do we do now?
So I began to think about my own experiences and think about whether or not I’ve ever been the subject of inappropriate advances, behavior, language, touching, etc. And I thought yes, “Me Too.” Multiple male high school teachers made inappropriate comments about my appearance. I had a guy on a co-ed soccer team pat my ass after I made a good defensive play (I let that one slide, it was a “heat of the game” kind of thing and actually complimentary). A drunken male co-worker felt me up while we were in a car together. A couple of guys I knew in college made multiple lewd comments toward me. Most recently, a drunken guy in a bar latched onto me and boasted “My sausage is the best” when describing his breakfast-making skills. He wound up being booted out by management, though I did not make any complaints about him (I generally try not to piss off drunken folks too much).
Then this whole “Me Too” campaign went viral in social media. Many of my female Facebook friends starting doing “Me Too” posts. Apparently actress Alyssa Milano helped start it all with a Twitter post. “Me Too” started flooding my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Then I started to think about this whole thing a bit more…and actually got a little annoyed.
Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great if women or others who have been harassed or victimized want to talk/tweet/post about their experiences as victims. Me? I’m not a person who wants to celebrate being victimized. It’s just not very empowering to broadcast to the world that at some point in your life, you were victimized, manipulated and/or treated/touched inappropriately by another person. And yes, I see the irony of posting a blog about it! Embrace the irony, I say… I prefer to think of myself as a fighter – and I’ve been a fighter ever since I was 8 and a 13-year-old neighbor boy tried coercing me into having sex. Fortunately, I was able to evade the encounter simply by saying “No” and heading home. I know some girls/women might not be so lucky. I could have been raped – or worse – that day, but I was not – and was able to walk home and tell my mom what happened.
If nothing else, that whole experience probably taught me that it was wise to always, always keep my guard up – especially around boys – and men. It’s almost impossible to grow up as a female without knowing that it’s pretty much a man’s world. And in order to co-exist with men and boys, you had to learn certain survival skills – and in some cases, almost read their minds. And women need to learn the ways that women ultimately have a lot of power, too it’s not called the “battle of the sexes” for nothing, after all.
That experience didn’t teach me to fear or hate men or boys, which I think is good. I like men, and have had quite a lot of boy and male friends throughout my life. In many ways, I prefer male company to the company of other women. To this day, I don’t have more than a handful of female friends, and that’s not for a lack of trying! It’s just how it turned out. And friendships with males is NOT without its complications! Yes, some of them – even the committed/ attached ones – may develop romantic feelings for other females with whom they regularly interact. This has happened to me with some boys/men that I have known in my life. When they’re not being jealous, moody, overly possessive creatures? They’re usually more fun to be around! Usually! It really doesn’t help that I kind of gravitate toward the moody, surly types (Hell, I wound up marrying one) – and also grew up with a dad and brother who could also be rather moody and surly – but that’s another subject entirely. I guess all women have a “type,” right?
As I said earlier, I’ve always been a fighter. And that’s not necessarily by choice. I grew up with an older brother, and from what my mom says, we were pretty much at each other’s throats from the day I started talking. Not just arguing, but physical fighting, too. Also, growing up tall, or “Amazonian,” had its set of challenges. I was picked on quite a bit, mainly by other boys – though there was a dark time in my life (sixth grade) when a gang of girls decided to try making me their bitch – and they almost got away with it! To this day I still don’t know what put me on their bad side. After months and months of excessive bullying and threats, it all came to a head on the playground when the head of the “girl gang” pushed me from behind on the shoulder. We wound up fighting right there, slapping, punching, clawing, and hair-pulling (hey, we were girls, after all) until the lunch lady broke it up. Verdict? She didn’t kick my ass! The meanest, nastiest sixth-grade bitch didn’t get the best of me! Word spread quickly of this, and after that, other girls pretty much left me alone. Though there were some close calls!
Boys were another matter entirely! I wasn’t able to escape getting picked on, insulted and teased by boys throughout elementary, middle school and high school. And at every turn, I fought it, with various degrees of success. The first time I did this was in fourth grade, when a boy learned a painful lesson after teasing me one too many times. I kicked him in the crotch. And this was after I WARNED him that if he didn’t leave me alone, I would do this! I don’t want to pass along the message that problems always need to be solved with violence! But I firmly believe nobody HAS to be a victim! Sure, it might be inevitable that you’re going to be raped or mugged – sadly, these things happen. But at every point in my life, I’ve tried to be a fighter – even if it means physically standing up for myself. But with all fights, it comes down to picking your battles.
For the record, that boy never bothered me again.
When I was in fifth grade, there was a boy who decided he wanted to try victimizing me daily, since I was way too tall (and kind of a dork to boot). He was very nasty and insulting – I honestly can’t remember any examples of things he said, but I was kind of afraid of him. I tried avoiding him as much as I could, but this boy was kind of tough! I knew getting into a physical altercation with him just wasn’t going to cut it. I think he even got caught smoking or something – maybe he even had a switchblade. In sixth grade, he was put into a different class, or got held back, so I didn’t hear anything from him again. But in sixth grade, as you already read, I had a whole new set of problems!
And within a couple of years? The problem solved itself, in the most bizarre, tragic way imaginable. He was killed in a car crash, along with his brother and some of their friends. I’m still weirded out by this turn of events to this day. I certainly didn’t wish for something like this to happen! Sure, I didn’t like the kid, but I didn’t wish for him to be dead! And this wasn’t the first time something like this happened in my life…
Fast forward to ninth grade. I was harassed pretty much daily at my locker by a couple of boys, both of whom were “jocks.” I was even slipped a note inside my locker with the suggestion that my legs were too long – and maybe they should be chopped off. Obviously I was a little scared at that point! Both of these boys were pretty popular and well liked, I knew that if I tried reporting this or saying anything about this, people probably wouldn’t believe me. And I had no way of proving who wrote that note. With today’s forensic tools, that wouldn’t be a problem! Fingerprint analysis, graphology, and DNA samples all could be obtained from the note! I battled these guys the best I could, asked them to leave me alone, hurled insults right back at them, etc. Getting into a fight with them didn’t even occur to me, because when you’re in high school, that shit gets you kicked out of school! Though looking back, I might’ve been able to take at least one of them! TWO football players? Doubtful. But why would I want to break a nail (lol).
And a few years later, one of these boys wound up getting into a physically debilitating accident on his ATV. I don’t know all of the details, it was just a little blurb in the local newspaper. So for a second time in my life, a person who had been cruel to me wound up meeting with tragedy. He didn’t die, as far as I know. And no, I didn’t wish for this to happen!
My friends joked that this was evidence of me being a witch. My husband insists that I’m a “natural witch.”
Fast forward to my 10-year high school reunion, and I ran into the other boy, now a man – NOT the one who was in the accident! Let’s just say I had some serious words for him! I let him know I didn’t like the way I was treated back in ninth grade. Sure, I was backed with ample amounts of “liquid courage,” but I told him what was what – and made the poor guy my bitch for the entire night as we sat together at the bar pounding swill (which was part of the “open bar.”) My husband said the guy was terrified as I made him my drinking buddy for the night! Karma? What goes around comes around? This is the stuff that movie scripts beg for!
So this little problem was resolved without violence!
It’s just not enough to say “Me Too.” A better thing to say is, “What Now?”