Me, Too.

Me, Too.
Warning: this post refers to sexual assault, I want to make sure anyone who might be triggered by such content is aware.

Hi.

I feel a funny mixture of I should have written this ages ago and should I be writing this right now? But I choose to move forward.

What we learned from something like the #metoo movement is that most women (though of course it is not limited to just cis-women) have experienced some level of sexual harassment, assault, or worse. I am no different. I have had experiences bouncing around in my own head that range from a strange man putting his hands on me in public without my consent (pretending he didn’t mean to on a crowded subway or at a concert) to a date gone terribly awry.

I think about the lesson most women learn as they venture out into their social elements. If a man comes up to you and starts hitting on you, it’s best to say you have a boyfriend. Simply being uninterested in his advances isn’t enough. But they will respect the unseen man that may or may not actually exist.

I know this to be a relatively accurate reality. Some men, some drunk men, become aggressive when you don’t want to talk to them. Some drunk men force you to make up lies because you don’t want to dance with them and you don’t want their hands on your hips. Some drunk men get angry even when you tell them you’re a lesbian, not romantically interested in men at all, and there with your girlfriend. (I’ll take this moment to remind you that men usually respect “I have a boyfriend” as a response, but they do not respect “I have a girlfriend” which is a whole ‘nother level of what the fuck.)

I was lying and was, in fact, there with my brother’s girlfriend. But we were trying to get each other out of a bad spot. And even though we were giggling through the lie, we were clinging to one another out of our fear and discomfort from the angry man before us.

Go on and kiss, then.” He angrily sneered, standing too close to us.  Prove it.

From there, it gets a bit blurry. I know we forced our way through a crowd to our group and told our friend behind the bar to stop serving the guy and kick him out, which luckily happened. And I remember feeling defeated, trying to retell the story to some of our male friends, who just couldn’t understand how in danger we felt.

And so why do women hold on to their pain? Why do women hold on to their assault? For fear of punishment, belittlement, judgment, blame.

I remember being 26, retelling a date where I invited the man into my home, into my room, and he forced himself on me, aggressively undressing himself and trying to undress me, touching me and leading me to touch him in ways I wasn’t comfortable with. I didn’t know what to do except try my best to get through it as quickly as possible. The man then became angry that I wasn’t “into it,” and “it” was his naked body on top of my nearly fully-clothed body, as he tried to get himself off. I feigned that I was tired and he quickly (and, yep, angrily) got his clothes back on and left.

When I retold this story, after feeling quite embarrassed and dirty and… weird, I was surprised at the responses I got. It was a pre-cursor to some of these white male republicans, as someone told me “You were asking for it” and, “what did you expect? You invited him into your room.” Some of these responses came (I’m sorry, but unsurprisingly) from a frat guy and others (very surprisingly) from a female friend. I was made to feel at fault, I was made to feel like some sort of tease, like I should have had sex with him, and that maybe it might help my case if I apologize.

The worst part? A part of me kept thinking they were right. So I apologized to him in text, and luckily we never planned to meet up again.

But a few months later, I walked out of my usual subway and nearly walked right into him, and I’ve never felt a colder sweat than the one that covered my entire body in that moment. I didn’t walk, but ran all the way back to my apartment, locked myself in my room, sat on my bed and just… thought about it. Thought and thought and thought. And realized, those people who heard the story, who told me I was asking for it, they were wrong.

I can invite you into my bedroom and not expect you to forcefully try to engage in sexual acts, especially when it’s clear I don’t want it. If I say no, accept that as my answer, don’t try to convince me otherwise. If I’m not interested in you, you don’t have the right to get angry. I can wear a short skirt, I can get a little too drunk, that doesn’t mean you can put your hands on me or have sex with me.

I’ve read the transcripts of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in her testimony against Brett Kavanaugh (I don’t have TV) and it gutted me, it made me sick, it made me feel cold chills reminiscent of that day outside of the subway station on Bushwick Avenue. I believe her, I believe survivors, I understand the fear that comes with wanting to tell someone what has happened to you, because you don’t want to be blamed for it because your skirt was too short or you were sorta maybe kinda drunk, and you know what someone might say to that: you were asking for it.

I’m someone’s granddaughter, someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s cousin, someone’s best friend, someone’s dog sitter. And I’ve been wondering, why does that have to be introduced into the narrative for sexual assault to matter?

I hope one day the world can see it objectively: a person doing a terrible thing and the victim of that terrible thing.

And we believe the victim. And we care.

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On Bern-ing…

On Bern-ing…
Note: I’d like to preface this by saying that I’ve never written anything like this before and I am not doing it with any malicious intent, nor am I looking to bully anyone who feels differently than me. Please, if you choose to respond, keep my intentions in mind.

First, listen (loud).

I first took interest in the presidential election circus when I was 16 years old; too young to vote, too old to ignore the madness. I remember staying up late on a school night with “Kerry” written on my cheeks, cheering every time he had a victory over George W. Bush. I remember being hopeful for change, for something new, something that aligned with all of these fresh new ideas in my young mind. When he lost, I felt defeated. I hugged my friends as they hung their heads and I tried to be positive. Only four more years. That’s what everyone says, right?

Four years passed, I was old enough to vote. And you have no idea how excited I was to vote. I made the pilgrimage on that November Tuesday from the north Bronx to Long island because it was my goddamn right as an American. Even though the entire concept of the electoral college had confounded me for my entire educational experience, I wanted to exercise my minute, minuscule wage of power. So I rocked the vote like MTV told me to, and I wore the stickers, and I let myself get really, really excited about another presidential candidate. And he won. And that was so cool and I was so damn pumped. I remained pumped for four years. Then he ran for re-election and I voted for him again and I watched the poll results with a battalion of butterflies battling inside my ribcage. And he won again and we celebrated over cold beers at one of my favorite bars (hi Good Co, still miss you). We felt like maybe the world wasn’t as screwed up as we thought it was.

I thought, this is politics, huh?

It’s not so bad, if you’re winning.

A lot of people complain that Bernie Sanders supporters are obnoxious. As one of them, I might agree. But there’s a reason for it. More often than not, I begin to talk about him with the sense that whoever’s listening is writing me off as a tin foil hat-wearing conspiracy theorist, but I’m okay with it. I continuously lambaste the media for not giving Bernie nearly as much press coverage as the other candidates even when his rallies in New York City pull in more people than can fit into Madison Square Garden. And if there’s any coverage at all, it’s saying that Bernie’s got a snowball’s chance in hell to win the bid. There’s plenty of rea$on$ for that.

(Here is where I might link you to a bunch of credible YouTube videos that further prove the media bias where they brush him off as nothing but a little thorn in the side of the Clinton campaign, but I’m not going to do that. You’re welcome.)

I like him because he’s Bernie. Because he has wild white hair and a thick Brooklyn accent, even after years of living in Vermont. His family came to America to escape persecution, he grew up relatively poor, he was lucky enough to attend college, his eyes were open. That last part is the most important, for Bernie Sanders and for me, and for you, too. One of the first things I learned about Bernie was his involvement in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. For me, growing up, the Civil Rights movement was the single most important human rights movement in American history, in reaction to the significant, disgusting, unfathomable wrongs occurring within our country for an embarrassingly long amount of time. Do I want a president with the same ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr.? Yes. Yes, I do. Because we still need help.

I’m going to be brutally honest with you: I like Bernie because he excites me. My ears perk up at the mention of his name, the sight of his gap-toothed smile makes me, in turn, break out in a smile. When he talks, I just want to listen. (Sidenote: have you heard him say “quagmire“?) So much in this country, in this world is broken, but he makes me feel like it’s not irreparable, and that’s all I can ask for. There are countless running jokes about how you can’t trust politicians, how they change masks to suit their needs (not naming names or anything…), but Bernie’s had that same determined look on his face since he got into the game. Hell, since he was writing for his college newspaper. People ragged on John Kerry for being a flip-flopper, and even though I supported him, I saw their point. But when I look at Bernie, he’s standing on a solid foundation of ideals and beliefs that he’s been standing on since the 1970’s and I take comfort in that. I take comfort in how passionately he cares about us, as a nation, fixing what is broken, of righting what has been so, so, so wrong. We deserve better, you know?

I never understood campaign finances. It always made me angry to know that the candidates with the most money were the ones more likely to win. I think the anger and resentment comes from the fact that I grew up relatively poor (and I say this as a person basically living paycheck to paycheck to this day, thanks Sallie Mae!) with very little financial help to be the girl on top. Insofar as going to lacrosse camp to be a starter on the JV team, or taking SAT prep classes to get into a better college, or even just getting a math tutor because, lord, trigonometry, no. Money helps. Money talks. Money wins. The best lacrosse teams in high school were always from the schools with the wealthiest demographic. To me, it made perfect sense. They had the resources, they had the facilities, their programs had been around for decades and decades, of course they would kick our butts, we’d only just started five years prior. (I didn’t realize until I started writing this paragraph what a fitting analogy my high school lacrosse program would be for this post but, thanks Lady Mustangs! Sorry not sorry I quit after sophomore year! Viva la revolución!) My point being, the money shouldn’t matter so much. But it does.

Listen, there’s nothing that exhausts me more than old white dudes in positions of power. But when I look at my alternatives, I’ll stick with this old white dude because he’s the candidate with the most progressive ideas, the one who doesn’t deny climate change, the one who cares about the 99%, the one with the lowest bottom line on his tax return, the one who isn’t a demagogue, the one who doesn’t incite hate and hostility, the one who is not the Zodiac Killer (because Ted Cruz is not not the Zodiac Killer). When he says revolution, I want to be a part of it because I believe in it. Because I believe in the possibility of a world where everyone gets a fair shake. So hey, Gloria Steinem, kiss my butt! While guys are 100000% more attractive if they’re feeling the Bern, I’m not looking to *meet boys* by way of my presidential candidate (what even?). Yeah, feminism!

I’ll occasionally wear Bernie’s face on my t-shirt, my heart on my sleeve, wax optimistic and I won’t apologize for any of it. I’ll fight the good fight with the belief that all of our voices matter and we’ll be counted.

My eyes are open, we deserve better.

xLB