Tuesday, May 27, 2014

#YesALLWomen - Time for a Blogfessional

I've had a pretty blue two days for reasons I'll talk about later, so today I set off on a wandering journey around intown Atlanta. I thought about a lot of things, but then I got distracted by this #YesALLWomen #NotAllMen controversy. I thought I was on the uncontroversial side of things by posting something that explained why it's a valid topic of conversation. I innocently reposted a link on Facebook that discussed both the Isla Vista shooting and the hashtag that came about over the weekend. I made no other comment on the shooting or the article, but I received a derisive comment about the article saying it was "most regrettable" and didn't have anything to do with the tragedy at Isla Vista. I shared the article not in response to the shooting, but for what it actually said: "What is #YesALLWomen and Why It's Important."

Here's the thing...we need to talk more about our experiences as women....I need to talk more about my experience as a woman who has been threatened, abused and assaulted. It IS important, and it is a problem worth sharing.  I do not find it "regrettable" that so many women (and supportive men) are talking about this.  I find it deeply regrettable that we haven't had this conversation so openly until now.  I find it deeply regrettable that I haven't shared my own experiences but with a very few people.

Here's a sampling that I, alone, have experienced. Yes, well-adjusted, generally optimistic Kristen.  I've dealt with a lot of shit. And yes, I've dealt (or not dealt) with a lot of it poorly.  I've laughed some of it off.  I've kept a lot of it hidden. But it's blogfessional time and since so many other strong women have shared their stories, I need to "woman up" and and share some of mine.

Remember that time I was at summer camp as a somewhat dorky 14.5 year old and I was cornered by 4 older guys while trying to put up my lunch tray who told me I was "too pure" and "needed to be corrupted"?

Remember that time I was trying to lift up my high school boyfriend during college application time by telling him all the things he'd be great at, and he responded "You'd be a great secretary."

Remember how I was 16 and on a FAMILY beach trip in which I met my new "cousin" (by marriage only) who proceeded to hit on me all week, try to fondle me and grab my hand to put on his crotch? Remember how many times I said no?  Probably not, since I felt like I couldn't tell anyone because I felt I would be blamed or made fun of.

Remember that time in college when I was told I was "too intimidating" for anyone to ask me out? And that I should just "smile more" or not be as into music or politics or academics.

Remember that time senior year in which I was having beers with a male friend who started pawing at me and unzipping my jeans in the bar parking lot as I tried to drive his drunken ass home telling him "no" and "stop" knowing full well that he had a girlfriend of his own.  Remember when he continued that when we got back to the apartment and how I continued to say NO?  Remember how I couldn't tell any of my friends because I would be judged for trying to break up their relationship? Remember how I had to move away from all of my friends just to get away from the judgment and the "bad decisions" (which I had tried to say no to, over and over)?

Then remember that time when I was 23 and I was slapped across my face and then knocked unconscious by a guy I used to work with when he threw me up against a wall just because?  Oh and it gets better...when it was clear that I suffered a slight concussion, my ex-boyfriend drove me back to his place and then decided to have sex with me. The ex-boyfriend that dumped me two months prior saying he "felt nothing" for me.  Obviously part of him still felt something.  Meanwhile, I woke up the next morning and went to work for a 10-hour shift at the store wondering why I had a gash on the back of my head and a raging headache.

There was that other guy that I dated for a while who thought it would be funny to bite my breast hard enough to cause a large hematoma for a few weeks. Why would that ever be okay? SERIOUSLY.

And that other guy...a "friend" who I turned down repeatedly who kicked in the door of my friend's car when I showed interest in anyone other than him.

And then there was the Kentucky Derby Infield in 2001...where I along with 40,000 other people got drunk in the sun.  And at one point late in the day, I was led off by a guy I did not know who then started kissing my neck and running his hands up my shorts and beyond.  I was sexually assaulted in a crowd full of people too drunk to notice and a guy too empowered to do so by us not saying THIS ISN'T RIGHT.

Even this year, 2014, on Kentucky Derby Day when I wasn't drunk, wasn't immodestly dressed, wasn't "asking for it" I had my ass slapped - HARD - by an emboldened young man who looked me dead in the eye and said "I did that. Did you like it?" I had no response other than shock. I laughed it off afterward as my husband exclaimed "Hey! That just means you still got it!"  And yes, I guess I do.  But in what world is it ever okay for a young man to slap a woman (of any age) in a crowded, dark tunnel where I couldn't get away from him?  It really shouldn't be ok.  Ever.

I've been accused of being "cold and frigid," "asexual," "a fucking slut," "too pure," and "easy."  I don't think any of those phrases describe me. It took me a long time to get over a lot of these instances. A long time.  And they fucked up a few relationships in the meantime. 

I hated myself. I blamed myself. I was trying to find some identity between the two opposites that I was being called.  I lived in a constant state of regret.  Hindsight has allowed me to see a bigger picture that the bigger problem wasn't me.  I was letting the problem define me instead of acknowledging it, confronting it and taking back control.

I know my experiences are not unique.  I know that many other women have worse stories to tell.  I know that many women will never tell these secrets either.  But if the #YesAllWomen story helps some people expose truths and question how we can teach our children and ourselves to do better and with respect, then I don't regret for a second that it's being told.