In recent days we have seen an eruption of feelings in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Southern California. #YesAllWomen has got me to thinking on the events I have experienced and advice I have received in my 50-something years.
When I was a pre-teen, there was a serial rapist/murderer roaming the country (Ted Bundy). So my parents, in an attempt to keep me safe, told me many times to always be observant of my surroundings, don't talk to strangers, travel in groups, etc. and other excellent advice for anyone! When I was about 12 I was walking to a friend's house across an open field and was approached by a man I did not know. I was frightened and ran like hell to my friend's house. A couple of years later, I was propositioned by a young man from a visiting church group. He was definitely older and stronger than me, and again I was frightened but was able to get away.
In high school, I was groped by a fellow musician in the band hall instrument storage room and I had done NOTHING to provoke this. In fact I had done nothing to provoke any of these incidents. A couple of the guys from band said they would take me and my gal friend home after the ball game. When the driver, a so called friend, started going off in a totally different direction, I panicked. I was sure he and the other guy were going to rape us. He said he was just "teasing us".
In later years I received cat calls and whistles which I found very unsettling, but I was told to accept as compliments. I dealt with my share of unwanted advances, but as a very shy person at the time, I was less likely to find myself in compromising situations. As I matured and developed my sense of independence, I worked my way through good and bad relationships and tried to learn from the bad ones what to look for and work toward in the good ones.
Thank God I have never been raped or abused, but that is not to say I have never feared that. Far from it. I have lived in constant fear that a stranger or even a friend would do me harm because I am a woman. I have been passed over for promotions and even lost jobs because I am a woman. I was once even propositioned by my boss in front of my predominately male coworkers. I have been patronized and belittled because I am a woman, now especially as a mature woman. These experiences have shaped who I am today and the way in which I respond to my world.
Today, I work in an environment with young adults. I see and hear what they say and do. The misogyny and bigotry and the sense of entitlement they seem to espouse as normal I find truly frightening. What I am trying to say is that my experiences are not unusual. #YesAllWomen have had similar experiences. This has to change!
Spring at the Smithsonian
18 hours ago