Gender, Inequality

#MeToo might be just a hashtag to some people. For us, it brings up haunting memories.

I spend days thinking about what might have happened. How I could have responded differently. If I’d been more aggressive.

This week, the words “Me, Too” took over social media. The idea behind the social media phenomenon was that if every woman who’d been sexually harassed or assaulted put the words “Me Too” in their status or used the hashtag #metoo, the world would see the prevalence sexual abuse.

Soon, all of our social media pages were filled with the words “Me Too.” Women began to add their own commentary to the status, mostly along the lines of “Me too, who hasn’t?” The question made the powerful point that almost every woman has dealt with some kind of sexual harassment or abuse in their lifetime. Unfortunately, most women have encountered sexual harassment and abuse multiple times.

While many men expressed their shock that so many women they knew had been harassed or assaulted, many women said they weren’t surprised at all. They talked about how sexual abuse is part of their everyday reality.

Though it’s really sad that we need a social media campaign to highlight the pervasiveness of sexual abuse, brave women coming forward to share their experiences has started a conversation that needs to be had. Women are learning that they aren’t survivors alone. Men are learning that this issue is way more prevalent than they thought and that things need to change. And we’re all learning the power of women’s voices to change the world.

At The Tempest, we’ve always been about providing a platform for women to share their stories, so a few of us decided to be brave, get vulnerable, and tell our own #metoo stories.

Maybe it was the alcohol that emboldened him, or maybe it’s an excuse. I don’t know I’d never seen him before or since.

Maybe my hijab was enticing, “What you have hidden under there?” when everyone else was in swimsuits, I was totally covered in my hijab and long swimsuit, with music blaring loudly on a boat in the middle of the sea.

He repeatedly called my name even though I refused to acknowledge him. Whenever the boat would stop, I made sure to stay close to my friends, hoping that he wouldn’t try to come over to our side of the boat, but he eventually did, sitting right in front of me. I pulled my hand away from the railing but not before he grazed it with his own, and I walked away from him, digging through my bag for a wipe, or hand sanitizer something to scrub away his repulsive touch.

For the rest of the trip, I stayed even closer to my group, keeping my eyes open to see if he would venture over again. I felt uneasy and disgusted by what happened. I let people in my group stand around me keeping guard, as I did too. Afterwards his friends were apologetic for his behavior but never said that to me. I didn’t care.

Many people think hijab protects you from harassment or assault; how amazing would it be if cloth could protect you from leers and unwanted interaction? Hijab has, and will never be about men. That incident has stayed with me, that despite me thinking I should be safe, in reality I was a magnet. Just me being there, as I am made me a target; #metoo.”

– Saffiyya, Sr. Community Editor

I was 14 when I first got catcalled, but I don’t even know if it was a catcall. I stood there at the bus stop, winter boots laced up, hands stuffed in jacket, ears listening to hallelujah, not listening to anything when a truck rolled by, usual for the hour, two men in the front seats, windows down.

I thought, “Aren’t they cold?”

They yell as they pass by a loud sound with no words to it, looking in my general direction as they did. I was the only one outside, butt half-frozen from waiting too long. I wore jeans I think, winter boots laced up, hands stuffed in jacket. The usual.

It couldn’t have been me they were yelling at, right? I was only 14. I was inside the clear plexiglas bus stop. They were men, a little rowdy, but boys being boys. Why would they care?
Did I get catcalled? I’ve been taught to dismiss it so much I don’t even know.

– Tempest Staffer

I really hate dancing with people. I have my own rhythm. White girl rhythm, for sure, but it’s all my own. The dance floor is my sanctuary, my temple. Disrupt my groove at your own risk.

And some dumb ass drunk boy always chooses to take that risk.

Suddenly I feel hands on my hips, on my waist, on my ass. Or perhaps he doesn’t even start with his hands. Sometimes it’s hips pressed directly against me. A boner in my lower back.

I always resist the urge to throw a punch, or an elbow. I’ve been taught that it’s too dangerous to confront the men who decide that my body is theirs to grope, without my permission. I try to spin away, but they always grab me and hold me close to their body, telling me without words that my permission means nothing to them. When they prevent my exit, I try turning around, pretending I’ll dance, only to say loudly and firmly, “No thanks.” I’m still polite, even after they’ve violated me.

Then the smooth talk begins. “Come on baby, just one dance.”

I become more insistent. Now it’s simply, “No.”

That’s when the name calling begins. “God, you don’t have to be such a bitch.” After being violated, I’m the one who’s villainized.

Best case scenario, it ends there. He walks away and gropes someone else. The worst case scenario that I’ve experienced is that he follows me, through the club, for the entire night. He finds a seat where he can watch me dance and treats it like a private show, violating me over and over with his gaze. Or he tries to touch me over and over, at various times throughout the night, never listening when I say no, never taking the hint when I run away.

Sometimes he’ll stop if I show my wedding ring, or if another man intervenes. If he perceives I’m someone else’s property he may back off, but never just because I don’t want him to touch me. If he wants to touch me, he’ll touch me. He’s made that clear.

And just so we’re clear, this hasn’t happened once, or twice. It happens every time I go dancing. And these are only the milder stories that I could tell when I say #metoo.

– Robin, Love Editor

I’m sitting alone on a grassy spot in the park, wearing my favorite new lipstick and scribbling poems in my journal. It’s the first warm day of spring, and I feel beautiful and tender and creative.

When a stranger asks to sit next to me, I say “sure.” In the sunlight, I forget to be afraid.

I avoid eye contact, but the more I try to avoid his gaze and focus on my writing, the more he questions me. What am I writing? Can he read my poetry? I give one-word answers. I hope he’ll see I’m not interested without me having to say it.

Some women are good at this, I think. Some women have trained themselves since puberty to respond to the emergency of male bodies in public.

I’m not one of them. When confronted with fear, I use my docility as a defence mechanism. I smile. Wouldn’t want to offend him. Maybe he’s nice deep down. After all, he must think I’m pretty. I’m supposed to be flattered. I am also supposed to be a self-aware feminist and not be flattered.

I finally get up. I hear him running up behind me. Where I am going? he wants to know. Can he see me again? Can he come join me and my “friend” (who I made up to make him believe I wouldn’t be alone)? He meets every made-up excuse with another question. Can he come hang out with me and my friend? Can he go to the Poetry Slam I’m going to later?

“Can I come?”

“I think it would be weird…”

“Where is it going to be?”

“I’m just going with my friends…”

He asks so many questions that I can’t keep up, and I let slip the location of the event where I’ll actually be later. I finally, definitively, tell him no and think he’ll leave me alone.

Then he shows up to the event hours later. Two male acquaintances have to kick him out, because I am straight-up terrified.

I spend days thinking about what might have happened. How I could have responded differently. If I’d been more aggressive. A better liar. If I’d said I was meeting a made-up boyfriend instead of a made-up friend. 

Women are asked to choose between being polite or fighting back in the face of male aggression. We should not have to make this choice. We should be able to exist quietly in a park without having to prepare to be stalked.

Months later, I see the same guy at a bus stop. He waves at me and says, “Hey, what’s up?” My blood turns to ice, but he keeps walking, completely oblivious as to how unsafe he made me feel. 

-Hannah, Staff Writer

The first time I had sexual attention forced on me, I was seven years old. Both of my parents worked constantly and my older siblings were away at college. So my aunt would frequently have me over at her house to watch me.

My cousins and I would play and my aunt would cook us Hamburger Helper. One day, things became incredibly uncomfortable for me. My older cousins decided that flashing me was a funny game because I would freak out. As a kid, I didn’t understand female and male genitalia but I knew that I did not want to see that.

Thinking back, it was an awful experience for anyone to have. Hesitantly, I still went over to my aunt’s house because my parents didn’t trust me to be completely alone just yet.

The next time I stayed over, it was my uncle pulling me away into his room, to flash me.  As a child, I was so afraid of conflict that I would just freeze. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know why it was so awful at the time, but I knew it wasn’t right.

I tried to get away and he grabbed my hand saying, “I thought we were friends, don’t you want to be my friend?”

I ignored him, ran out in the room, and was forced to sit in silence for the rest of the day, and for the rest of my life.

What bothers me the most is that men try to frame sexual harassment as friendliness. It’s messed up that grown men and young boys take advantage of growing girls, convincing them that friendship is that twisted. They prey on our vulnerability and mask it as kindness. Dealing with catcalling men, unsolicited gropes in tight spaces, and losing your trust in adult figures are things that girls have to face every day. It needs to stop. We can’t keep looking the other way.

-Tempest Staffer

It was my freshman year in college. I was in my dorm hallway, talking to a guy who also lived in my hall. He was drunk, and in the middle of a conversation reached out and grabbed my breast, and then let go and walked away. I was more stunned than anything else. I couldn’t even react because it was such a random occurrence. The shock silenced me.

Men should not be able to get away with inappropriate touching ever, and nor should women. The problem lies in the fact that women are the ones conditioned to accept this behavior and men are taught to implement it. Every human being is a human being. Respect your fellow human being. That’s all we need to do.

-Meagan, Life Jr. Editor

He was my driving instructor. 64, pale and lonely. He coaxed me into taking a 2 hour driving class with him. As I drove at 120 km/h on the highway, his hand slid slowly up my thigh, knowing fully well that I couldn’t take mine off the wheel. It took me a few seconds to react, and when I did, I pulled over and took a taxi home. I had half a mind to report him to the authorities, but I didn’t, for fear of sabotaging his career. I regret not doing that to this day. #metoo

-Dyuthi, Staff Writer

Some of us didn’t feel safe sharing our stories. Some of us weren’t comfortable telling the stories that were even more awful than these. Even as strong women, with powerful voices, sexual harassment and abuse are part of our everyday lives.

We live with the scars men have given us, literally and figuratively, every single day, and we endure more injury every time we are catcalled, groped, or exploited.

Maybe, just maybe, people will get off their asses and do something to address sexual abuse.