YOU TOO?

When I first received the invitation to join the “Me Too” movement through Facebook, I asked myself if it was fair to add my name. Had I really been abused or marginalized by men? I like men. I sleep with one. I don’t feel that my sex has held me back from success. However, I am aware that this is a direct result of the brave feminists who paved the way for me to enjoy more freedom today than women have throughout most of history. Because of them, the politically correct attitude towards feminism today is to support it. Men who don’t – beware “Me Too.”

I thought back to those times in my life when I was coerced into sex I didn’t want, was hit or hurt by a man, or felt judged solely on my attractiveness or sexuality. Like a lot of women, I didn’t have to think too hard. Minor incidents throughout my adulthood sprang to mind – the times I’d been invited to “discuss my career” by powerful men in private settings, been groped on the bus or the dance floor, or was passed over for some position because a more attractive woman appealed to the man in power. All of these incidents incited a deep sense of injustice and rage, as well as a sense of impotency. What can be done to ameliorate this state of affairs where the light of “political correctness” does not shine bright enough to change these age-old male attitudes of entitlement to female submission?

The memory that had my fingers hovering over the keyboard in response, though, was the beating I took from a man in my early twenties. I moved in with him three days after we met, because I was broke and telling myself that I had “fallen in love.” After three months of bliss, however, he started doing strange things like turning the cold water off while I was showering, waking me up in the middle of the night and tickling me mercilessly, and asking me to perform sexual acts that scared and demoralized me. I participated because I wanted to get that bliss back. It didn’t work.

Now, I was financially dependent upon this person and unable to just leave. I kept trying to please him to no avail, but despite his dissatisfaction with my performance as a “girlfriend,” he wasn’t about to let me go. I began secretly saving money to move out, but when he discovered my intentions, a violent confrontation broke out that resulted in him assaulting me. I escaped to a women’s shelter, and then managed to get myself set up in sublet rental apartment. Not knowing where I lived, my ex began haunting my workplace. One day he followed me home, came up behind me while opening the door to my place, and pushed me inside. He got me on the ground and began to beat my head against the floor until I almost passed out. In desperation, I began yelling the words “I love you” over and over, which did make him stop. He then threw me on the bed and raped me. Now, this is one case where telling a man "I love you" doesn't constitute a "yes." However, I counted myself lucky to have been raped and not killed.

After he left, I called the police. Two male officers arrived who told me that I would be safer not to press charges. They told me that a restraining order would be expensive and ineffective. They advised me to simply cease all contact with this person and watch my back. I followed their advice, but that didn’t stop the harassment. My now-contrite ex doubled his efforts, leaving letters on my door, messages on my phone, and calling my friends to ascertain my whereabouts.

The worst was the fear I felt. Wherever I went, I was looking over my shoulder. Whenever I saw a man the same size and build as my attacker, bright hot terror coursed through me. I had never before been afraid of men. Now, I had an intimate understanding of how their sheer physical and economic power put me at a disadvantage. I realized that in the final analysis, a woman has very little choice when a man decides to dominate her physically. This state of affairs has led to domination in every facet of female existence.
Eventually, I moved to another city to escape. A thousand miles away, I was still looking over my shoulder. It took many years to get over my fear of tall men with long dark hair. Eventually I married a nice man and my memories of abuse began to fade. Twenty years later, my attacker contacted me through the Internet. He asked for the opportunity to apologize. He told me he had been through many years of therapy and now recognized how badly he’d hurt me. He then asked where I lived and if I would consider seeing him the next time I was nearby. Not a chance!

The fear I felt then has now faded, but the sense of personal responsibility for my own health and safety remains. I remember people warning me that I was foolish to place my trust in that man. I remember people telling me he had a violent temper, was controlling, and might hurt me. I ignored them all. I just wanted to be adored and taken care of, and I paid the price. It is a fact that even in today’s age, women’s earning power is less than a man’s. I made far less money than my attacker, and the prospect of not worrying about bills anymore was a powerful motivator in my decision to place myself in his power, though I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time. However, before I met him, I had plenty to eat, a roof over my head, clothes on my back. I was surviving just fine. I just wanted more comfort and less responsibility. I realize now that the beatings and indignities I suffered were a direct result of my own poor decision-making, and taught me a powerful lesson. The subsequent decisions I made throughout my adulthood were colored by my experience. I never again placed myself in a dependent position. I learned to take care of myself.

There is a saying, “I wouldn’t join any club that would have me.” This is the thought that sprang to mind as my fingers still hovered over the keyboard. I asked myself if the reason for my hesitation was due to a lingering sense of shame. Do I want to sign my name to this list? Do I want people to know that I allowed this traumatic experience to happen to me? Is it really anyone’s business but my own?

I listen to the conversations that have been ignited in response to the “Me Too” phenomenon. The men I know are now reviewing their own behavior, asking themselves if “they too” qualify as abusers. They are wondering if it’s OK to compliment a woman in the workplace or to flirt in social settings. Some of them are also wondering if they can safely approach a woman they are attracted to without fear of reprisal. I certainly hope that “Me Too” isn’t going to stop them from doing that. As I said, I like men. I sleep with one. If he hadn’t initiated our relationship by flirting, I would probably be sleeping alone.
The solidarity I feel with women who have been dominated and abused is intact. But personally, the activism I choose to participate in is private. Today, I don’t tolerate abuse of any kind. I can see it coming and I either remove myself from the situation or deal with it head-on. Once, I slugged a guy on the dance floor for grabbing my breast. I was immediately surrounded by a group of men who separated me from my attacker, took him outside, and laid a good beating on him. Of course it appears this person got exactly what he deserved. Though my sense of dignity was certainly compromised, I do wonder if the punishment fit the crime. I wonder if my defenders were motivated less by gallantry than by mob rule.

Though I recognize that the “Me Too” movement has advanced the public conversation about misogyny, and that this is a good thing, I view it with caution. For me, however - and I speak only for me - personal responsibility trumps victimhood. Finger-pointing has a dangerous tendency to lead toward injustice; the pendulum of violence and oppression swings both ways.
I realize that many women feel differently and have good reasons for doing so. Perhaps they may view my attitude as a betrayal, inspired more by remaining vestiges of subjugation than personal responsibility. However, it is my very femininity that inspires the wish for reconciliation based on compassion, understanding, and direct conversation. Joining a movement started on Facebook, with the potential to ruin lives either justly or unjustly, leaves too wide a margin for error.

I have forgiven my attacker, but I will certainly never forget how I placed myself in his power. If given the choice, I would not “out” him. Ultimately I believe the choices he made left him with his own trauma. In my experience, people get what they deserve in this life, and misogynists are no different. While female subjugation is alive and well even in today’s “politically correct” environment, I never forget that the responsibility for my life lies in my own hands. I don’t need a mob behind me to accuse and punish those who have tried to dominate me. I simply need to use my own intelligence, resources, and experience to as my guide.

The deep divide that exists between men and women is without a doubt based on the power differential between the sexes. Women can never take for granted the advances made in the last century towards female emancipation. I remember my history: the thousands and thousands of women burned at the stake as result of group hysteria. But here’s the thing; as many women were reporting their neighbors as men. The tribal instinct to separate “us” from “them” isn’t just sexual, it’s human. Women can be just as guilty of it as men. My fear is that that by saying “Me Too,” I am joining a club that has the potential to become a mob.

Have you been dominated, humiliated or marginalized due to your sex? Me too. But looking through the lens of personal responsibility, I can clearly see how I invited it. I remember enjoying the flattery and attention I was initially given by my attacker. The poor judgement I used by moving in with him after three days was inspired not only by ego satisfaction, but also the prospect of financial security. I placed myself at his mercy for my own purposes. I wanted to feel admired and I wanted to be taken care of.

In the end, I didn’t add my name to the “Me Too” list. My sense was and is that the backlash from violence and oppression can swing too far in the opposite direction, creating injustice at the opposite end of the scale. Men are indeed acculturated even in modern society to dominate women, and the “Me Too” movement has brought this fact to light. I think of the many women trapped in jobs they can’t leave despite sexual harassment in the workplace. I also think of the women who sacrifice their own self-respect by using their sexuality to advance their careers, security or ego. I believe there are as many of them as there are those who are blameless. I know because I have made similar decisions, and suffered the cost.

With all the respect I hold towards those who resist this power by joining forces against it, I suggest that “you too” remember that domination and subjugation are not solely the province of males. And to the males who are now questioning their own behavior, I offer the same advice given to me by my friendly neighbourhood policemen, with the reminder that “You Too” can become the subject of mob rule. 

Gentlemen, watch your backs.