You are not alone

It’s hard to be light and funny when your entire Facebook feed is congested with posts stating, unapologetically, “Me too.” Some posts just two words, and others…others full tales of Harassment. Abuse. Rape.

Girl hiding behind tress

For those of you who haven’t seen it, women have been sharing stories on social media in solidarity with one another to show just how many women have been sexually harassed or raped. Spoiler alert: It’s a lot. We’re far from alone in these experiences. Which breaks my heart.

This is rape culture.

When girls and women know that what is happening is wrong, but it’s easier and sometimes safer to just brush it off or act as if it never happened. When we have to bring a guy friend with us to parties to make sure we’re safe. When we travel in groups to avoid confrontation. When we have to lie and say we have boyfriends to get men to leave us alone. And when that doesn’t even always work. When we break up with someone in a text or ghost them because we’re afraid of what they’ll try to do. When we let someone say inappropriate things to us and feel the need to smile and giggle even though we feel dirty and exposed.

It’s the little boys who chased me and looked up my skirt when I was just a child.

It’s the teen boy who directed a video camera into my bedroom window.

It’s the teen boy who exposed himself out his bedroom window.

It’s the guy at the teen dance club who kept coming up behind me, rubbing his junk against my backside, no matter how many times I moved out of his way.

It’s the bartender that always looked me up and down, appraising my curves and licking his lips as he told me how much he wanted my 18-year-old self.

It’s the man who blocked my car in a parking lot to ask me out and didn’t move until I made up a boyfriend who wouldn’t like it.

It’s the stranger who relentlessly offered to father my children because he liked my blue eyes.

It’s the man who, on the first date, asked if I had hangups about sex when I responded to his continuous begging and pleading with a broken record “no.”

It’s the man at the karaoke bar who belittled me when I told him I didn’t want to date him. Seven times.

It’s the man who flipped out on me in a restaurant parking lot when I wouldn’t go home with him after a first date.

It’s the man I was dating who took pictures of me while I was asleep, naked.

It’s the man who told me I owed him when he couldn’t finish because of his own drug addiction.

It’s the man I told no, who did it anyway.

I don’t tell you this to feel sorry for me. I tell you this so you can see how often women are put in situations that can damage or break them. How prevalent these situations have become. I know that I’m not the only one with a list, and these situations are not unique to me. But the more we see them, the more we can do to stop them.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

OMG what is she wearing? She’s just asking for it.

When I was 17, I was privately and publicly shamed by an administrator in my school. A woman I respected and admired told me that I couldn’t dress like the other girls. Because I had a more voluptuous body, a body I was already ashamed of because it was bigger than most teen girls, a body that I’d kill to have back, but one that I didn’t understand apparently held power against horny teenage boys. (I’ll tell you a secret, though: it didn’t. My body was not what teenage boys were looking for. It was something adult men found attractive, though. And I suppose THAT’S why I was told that my outfit was unacceptable.)

Rape culture and dress codes

What was I wearing you ask?

In the peak of the new Millennium, I could have been wearing a tiny crop top and tight flared jeans. Short shorts and a skimpy tank. A two-piece prom dress that left nothing to the imagination.

But I was stylish in my short overalls with thick straps and a fully covered abdomen. The problem was in the strapless tube top that covered my breasts and stomach. It gasp showed my shoulders. But not any more than one of the very popular camisoles of the time. Not any more revealing than anything any of my cheerleading peers, who were much thinner than me, were wearing on that warm May afternoon.

And I was called out. By a female administrator whose name I still remember with crystal clarity. Who tried to mark me as her equal in womanhood.

“Women like us have to be conscientious of how we dress. We can’t wear the same clothes as the other girls.”

She was nothing like me. Tall, thin, in her mid to late 40’s. She didn’t understand me. She didn’t know me. And she certainly wasn’t like me.

But she did have the power to make me wear an old hoodie from the bottom of my locker over my overalls the rest of the day. The rest of that hot, spring day in an un-air-conditioned high school.

And I did. Because I was terrified of getting in trouble (save all those tardy detentions). Because I believed in authority. Because, at 17, I was already ashamed enough of my body.

This is what rape culture looks like. Rape culture shames a woman or a young girl into thinking she can’t dress a certain way, because boys and men can’t control themselves.

Rape culture lets men like Brock Turner out of jail after 3 short months, even though he ruined a woman’s life. He violated her body, and because of his “bright” future, he got off easy.

Brock Turner is out of jail. Do you remember him? You should. And you should probably stay away from him. Because he can’t control himself around women. And instead of the government keeping him away from and protecting us, we must do our best to stay away from him. We’re told to dress less provocatively and not to drink alcohol, instead of men like Brock being told not to fucking rape.

Well, I’m sick of this bullshit. For 16 years, I’ve held that memory of the school administrator telling me that “women like us need to be careful what we wear” for far too long. And school dress codes that favor boys, limit girls and promote rape culture need to disappear.

Let’s teach the right way to behave and stop worrying how people dress.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!