I was sitting at a Chinese cafe on a rainy Fall Sunday, when two young men in their early twenties walked up to the counter to order coffee.
Raindrops cascaded down the arched roof, as I studied the book in front of me that read “Politics of the Womb: Politics, Reproduction, and the State in Kenya.”
I took a break to buy a pastry and stood behind them in line.
The blonde ordered a double espresso. The brunette an Americano.
I swayed back and forth awaiting my turn as they discussed their previous drunken night. There was a good game of beer pong, deer, and of course, girls.
“Man, I hit that so hard it almost felt like I was impaling her…” said the blonde one as the brunette burst into laughter and said “That’s fucking awesome.”
I came to a standstill as my eyes widened and my hands balled into fists. I felt the urge to reach up and ask him to repeat what he just said to my face, followed by a good slap for being disrespectful. All I could muster at that moment, my voice cracking, was “Shut up. You’re talking about a human being.”
The brunette looked down at me and said “…we’re not talking to you.” The Chinese woman behind the counter handed them their coffees and they left.
Forgetting my appetite for the warm almond pastry, I stormed back to my original table and packed up my book.
“Fucking assholes” I thought, as my eyes filled with tears and I walked out of the coffee shop and headed home.
The rage and disgust were feelings I knew all too well. Feelings that had followed me since I could remember. The idea that no matter what, where, how or with whom, as a woman, you always had to be careful.
It was what I felt the first time a boy pulled up my skirt and that of my friend’s in Elementary School to show the rest my panties and laugh; and that time I was at the Middle School dance enjoying the music with two of my friends, when a group of guys decided it was fine to come up behind us and grope our hips and dance with us without permission. OR even that one time I was walking my dog and some men decided to slow down their car to cat-call, whistle, and yell obscenities about how I looked in workout clothes, as I turned in the opposite direction to avoid them and ran home.
It is a feeling that every single woman has had to endure simply because we were born with two X chromosomes and a vagina between our legs.
The heavy-breath-inducing / panicky fear of feeling like prey.
These behaviors don’t just happen though, there’s a plethora of societal inspiration behind them…
Since I was a little girl, the idea that “boys will be boys” and “that’s the way men are” has been drilled into my skull like a chip for programming. It is as if there was a piece missing from the male anatomy that gave them free will over what they could or could not do to women, and women simply had to accept it as a “matter-of-fact.”
Why is that?
Why do women have to accept the disgusting advances of men as something that is just part of their nature?
Why do little girls have to believe that if a boy hits, ignores, or embarrasses them, it is a sign that said boy is attracted to them?
How repulsive is the world, that it judges women as “sluts” and “whores” when they are sexually open, yet it views men as higher beings when they are, even condoning it?
In a world where every 60 seconds a woman or girl experiences rape, and more than 60 percent of women don’t even know how to write their name because they don’t have a birth certificate or are considered “half” of a person*, the least men could do is become aware of this issue, show us some respect, and take steps to prevent it.
In this world, where only a lucky few million women have the right to CHOOSE–the least we deserve is respect.
This week, millions of women have taken to the internet to say “Me Too,” after allegations and testimonies of sexual harassment against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Millions of women are screaming out in hope that men will actually give a shit about them and do something about the disgusting behavior we have to endure on a regular basis.
Not because women need men’s approval or acknowledgement to be filled or feel important, but because we are tired of feeling like the Earth has been created only to please one gender.
The saddest part?
That perhaps the majority will scroll down the feed without noticing.
That millions of women will continue to be the butt of jokes and locker room talk for men who think that because she chose or didn’t choose to fuck you, she is less.
That thousands of other women will judge you and perhaps think “what did she do to attract that kind of behavior?”
How are we supposed to reach respect if we continue to be objectified and disrespected? Why are we so quick to tear each other down instead of build each other up?
And honestly, who cares what she was wearing? Drinking? Smoking? Doing?
Our bodies are our own and being incapable of making a clear decision, doesn’t give you the green light to do whatever you want.
It’s time to wake up. To do something about it. To not let it happen to you or to any other woman in the world.
As I spoke to one of my best male friends, Brian, we brainstormed on ways in which both women and men could combat harassment and abuse, all in an effort to lessen the “me too’s” and came up with a few solutions.
Where to start?
By stopping people cold. By not being frozen like I was, when I should’ve kicked that guy and his undeserving idiot friend in the shin.
By not electing a president who grabs women “by the pussy” and publicly shames them every chance he gets.
By respecting the women in your home, in your group of friends, in your family. By listening to our partners, their needs, desires, and remembering that their bodies are not solely for our enjoyment.
By pushing for equal pay. Equal job rights. By not messing with our reproductive rights or our choices!
By making sure every girl born in the world has a birth certificate and knows her name.
By lifting women up and telling them they’re intelligent, beautiful, deserving, powerful, unyielding, important, full.
But most of all, by waking up and not being a part of the problem. Don’t be that guy who harasses women in any way. Don’t be that woman that tears other women down by calling them names.
Today, I’m not brave enough to talk about the biggest reason why I’m in the category of “me too.”
However, I never want to have to hold the trembling hand of a crying friend who is brave enough to talk about it publicly or privately. To comfort another one over the phone as she sobs powerlessly and feels defeated after being raped in a foreign country. To accompany one to get tested for STDs, because her drink was laced and she woke up in a stranger’s bed.
Or to have a daughter, and have to say to her “be careful always with men.”
*Statistics taken from United Nations website.