I have the feeling that I should issue the usual Content Advisories for obvious reasons. If you’re feeling vulnerable right now, or if you could become that way fairly easily, please proceed with caution.
By now, you’ve probably seen or heard of the “Me too”/”#MeToo” campaign that has resurfaced on Twitter. Even major news outlets are picking it up.
It’s about damn time.
It’s “only” 2017, after all. We’ve been to the moon and back. We’ve cloned sheep. We’re chatting in real time with people who live across vast geographical expanses that include gigantic bodies of water. We’re mastering the art of printing in three dimensions.
And yet, females (and some males) the world over have felt–or been–silenced on one of the oldest and most devastating acts of abuse ever: sexual violence and its counterpart, sexual harassment.
This does not compute. It doesn’t make logical sense. Which makes my Aspie/autistic brain very antsy. My brain has a mind of its own, and it’s as pedantic as I am. No shame in that.
Anyway, what started out as a Twitter campaign spilled over into the blogscape. I’m glad, because my Twitter activity begs tumbleweeds and my news-watching is even more ghosty; had these blog writers not said anything, I might never have found out.
I’m grateful to those bloggers for coming forward and sharing their stories. Double gratitude because it was likely a sacrifice on their part; in order to write about it, one has to relive the experience, to an extent. One has to drag up all the unpleasant memories and sequences of events and names and…it can get overwhelming.
I’m relieved for them that they’re finally getting their say.
It’s about damn time for that, too.
There’s no excuse for this shit.
It shouldn’t have taken a campaign by someone famous on a social media platform in order to take this step and be assured of a willing and open-eared audience. That should be the norm, not a news-worthy event. It shouldn’t be so rare to feel comfortable to speak up that it makes the news.
Encouraged by these lovely writers, I’m throwing my hat in the ring. At first, I hesitated writing this at all, because I have not been brutally assaulted and penetrated repeatedly like so many others. So, I felt a little embarrassed at first for thinking of saying anything at all. My story doesn’t hold a candle to theirs.
But when I learned that sexual harassment of any kind was included, I reconsidered, and made a decision.
I’m coming forward. I’m speaking up.
Yes. “Me, too.”
Count me in.
My story is pixelated, not isolated to one event, one person, or one time period. I have bits that can all be brought into focus on a pervasive theme. These bits can be divvied up into chapters, if you will.
The first chapter of my story opens with me in high school, working an after-school job at McDonald’s. This older guy, (his name is Cardell) a manager who had transferred in from another location, started hitting on me. I had a boyfriend and I’m not one to stray, but I can’t say that I didn’t bask in the attention.
Innocent attention turns creepy, though. There’s a fine line. And sometimes the line is not even all that fine. The transformation from innocent/genuine to creepy/ulterior motive is an insidious one. It can sneak up on you from behind.
Once Cardell saw me smile in response to his earlier, milder compliments, those compliments grew more brazen, more suggestive, more explicit.
This was not OK. I’m not sure at what point it became not-OK, but somewhere along the line, it did.
I felt too self-conscious to say anything. I was not sure of myself. Part of me knew that I didn’t deserve to be the recipient of remarks like that, but I couldn’t be 100% sure, so I figured I’d better take the “better safe than sorry”, “benefit of the doubt” approach and just smile, shrug it off, and lie low.
But I began to dread coming to work…until, one day, he wasn’t there anymore.
This McDonald’s was not part of the corporate structure, but rather, a franchise, with a local owner. The owner, a nice guy, came to me one day and asked me if he could have a meeting with me. He sat down with me and asked me about Cardell; he had heard from several other female employees that he was treating them the same way he’d been treating me.
I told the owner that yes, Cardell had treated me the same way.
The owner then said that he had already terminated Cardell for this very reason, and now Cardell was launching a wrongful termination lawsuit against the company.
Because Cardell was black. And the owner was white.
Seriously, Cardell was playing the “race card”, trying to harass women and then, when caught at his game and his game caught up with him, trying to blame the ramifications of his behavior on good ‘ol racial discrimination (which no doubt still exists, but was definitely not at play in this case), and then, hoping to win a lawsuit with a financial jackpot reward out of the deal!
This is an insult to sexual violence “recipients” everywhere. This is an insult to Black people. It’s an insult to the intelligence of everyone.
Needless to say, the owner was going to fight this in court. The owner asked me if I could recall any specific dates. I couldn’t recall any offhand, but I told the owner that I had kept a journal with dates, and that I did remember writing about Cardell and some of his advances in a couple of journal entries. I even offered to make photocopies of those pages of my journal (we had a copy machine at home) which contained descriptions of events. The owner was extremely happy.
The McDonald’s franchise won the lawsuit.
I got to tell my story. But only because I was prompted. Otherwise, I might not have. That’s no one’s fault. I bear responsibility for not having spoken up sooner, because the McDonald’s franchise owner was a stand-up guy and would have taken the same action if I had been the one to tell him about it originally.
There’s a Chapter 2 coming. And probably more.
(Image Credit: Agnes-Cecile)