#MeToo: what I’d said initially, and some additional thoughts

In mid-October, I’d posted on Facebook that, like so many of my friends, #MeToo .

(I was sexually assaulted by a guy who broke into my mom’s apartment. I was 16 at the time, and ended up (thankfully) only severely beaten and concussed.)  My experience is, in a weird way, “easy” to talk about (though it was hell to experience), as it seems so clearcut: I was sleeping and woke up with a guy on top of me. There’s no possibility of blaming me:  no one (has yet, anyway) pointed a finger at me to say I “deserved it” in some way (as happens to so many other women), nor do people disbelieve me when I tell them about it (I had the black and blue, hospital records, and newspaper crime report to prove it).

Stop for a moment and reflect on how broken it is that the horrible, bloody, violent circumstances of my assault make it easier for me to share the story, compared to friends who were date raped or sexually harassed or molested.

yeah.  Very wrong.

At the time, I didn’t post about all the other incidents — large and small — that had happened to me that were also sexual harassment. I suspect that, like most women, I’ve grown numb to a lot of it, and don’t notice it unless it is very pronounced.  I also think that my one horrid thing eclipses all the other things in the same way that being in a coma for six months might eclipse breaking a couple bones.   If you were sitting around telling injury stories with friends, and you had broken your leg skiing and been in a coma for six months due to an automobile accident, you might not mention the skiing injury.

But the skiing injury still hurt.  And it still cost money. And it still sucked… and having Something Worse in your life, doesn’t mean that anything smaller than that isn’t of notice.

With that in mind, I’m trying to give more airtime to the rest of my experiences with sexual harassment and misogyny, as I think that cultural change will only happen when there’s greater understanding of how pervasive this is.

And with that as background:
I happened to go to YouTube last week (as opposed to watching videos inline), and noticed I had a comment on a video I’d posted a couple years ago about making templates for oddly shaped things. (The context was that I’d had to create a template for the Corian sink in our island, which is semi-hexagonal, and having discovered a clever way to do it, I thought I’d share.)

Here’s the comment (which has been removed):

Screen Shot 2017-12-30 at 5.36.50 PM

For the men in my circles: can you imagine posting a video of something technical, in which you were wearing dirty work jeans and one of the two comments you got was “Nice dick”?

I know it happens (there are lots of terrible comments posted on all kinds of videos), but this struck me as particularly egregious as I’ve only posted a couple of videos to YouTube and this one was as far from “sexxxxayy” as humanly possible.

So, yeah. #MeToo then. And #MeToo quite recently.

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Hidden barriers to women in tech — even clothes make a difference

Working for one of the best-funded startups in Los Angeles’ “Silicon Beach,” Chelsea decided to perform a social experiment with her work clothes.

She usually wore the same standard tech uniform as her male coworkers — jeans and a t-shirt — but felt she wasn’t getting treated with the same respect. Techie that she is, she conducted research — by switching to a more “professional-sexy” look.

“I changed my clothes for two weeks, and the response I got was incredible: My ‘work was improving. You’re doing a great job,’” Chelsea recently told TheWrap. “I should note for those two weeks I basically did nothing. I not only just changed my clothing, I probably decreased my work by, like, 60 percent.”

via Sexism on Silicon Beach: How One Woman’s Sexier Work Clothes Exposed Tech-Bro Bias

So Very Fortunate

I am so lucky — people are nice to me in all kinds of unexpected and delightful ways!
 
The other night at the Belle & Sebastian/Andrew Bird show I went to go find Seamus and Kerri to say hello and chat, and by the time I headed back to where we were sitting on the lawn, it was on the verge of dark.
 
I had made a note of where we were (yah for doing that much), but even when it’s full daylight I have a weird vision thing that makes it difficult for me to recognize people at the 7′-20′ distance (exactly, BTW, where people expect to be recognized). Add some very-near-dark and a whole passel of people and you end up with me standing on the walk, near where I knew we were sitting, peering into the lawn, frantically scanning the crowd for my people, and considering whether I need to text Adrian to tell him where I am so he can come get me.
 
And here’s where the SuperNice happened: I was just pulling out my phone to text Adrian so he could come claim me (yes, like lost luggage) when a random woman who was sitting 15′ away gets up and comes over to me. She asks: “Are you looking for your people?” and I say (probably pitifully) “yes — and I know they’re *right here* but I can’t find them.”
 
She points to a spot 15 feet away (in the direction I hadn’t been looking) and says: “They’re right there. Don’t worry I’m not a creeper, but I remember seeing you get up before and…”
I interject: “Ohmygosh, thank you! thank you!”
… because *wow*!
 
This wonderful woman got up, walked over to a lost-looking stranger, and helped her find her people (and she knew where my people were!). I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such kindness, but this is *exactly* the sort of goodness that I believe we’re suppose to be adding to the world.
 
Thank you, nice woman!!!
 

On blaming the victim…

Let’s say you read the following article in the paper:

Yesterday Sulyane Smith was driving home from work on
Hwy 64, when a drunk driver crossed the median and 
slammed into her car.  The police have been able to 
determine that she was on no illegal substances, doing
the speed limit, and driving in the far right lane.  
Ms. Smith, age 26, was huge Earth, Wind & Fire 
fan and was listening to "September" when the oncoming
vehicle hit her.  Doctors at the local hospital say 
that she will likely be paralyzed for life.

I’m guessing your responses would range somewhere from:

“Oh God, that’s terrible!”

to

“I hate drunk drivers! Is the guy who hit her still alive?”

Which are all, I think, really reasonable responses and indicate that you’re a compassionate person and you think young Sulyane was the victim of an *awful*, terrible, crime.

I’m guessing that no one…not a single one of you…would say:

“Had she taken a defensive driving course?”

“Didn’t she swerve to avoid him”

“If she hadn’t been listening to music this wouldn’t have happened!”

or

“Didn’t she see him coming?”

Because we don’t tend to blame the people who are hit by drunk drivers for not being *better drivers* or not being able to anticipate and avoid the situation.

Yet, that’s exactly what we do to rape victims.

11990393_1633760873560619_7278251565956441803_nSo when this graphic started making the rounds on Facebook (and I reposted it because I think blaming the victim for being raped is rediculous) it provoked some interesting discussions amongst my friends.

One friend said that she too does not believe the victim is ever at fault, but said “there are things you can do to lower your risk of being raped.”  She continued by asking: “What would you tell your daughter?”

As in, wouldn’t you tell your daughter that wearing short skirts or walking around alone at night is more likely to put you in danger of being raped.

Ugh.  I mean, yeah. I would, if I had one.  Just like I don’t walk through dark, abandoned parking lots in a late at night by myself if I can avoid it.

And yet, I still Very Much Agree with the graphic.  And I realize I can mostly reconcile those two things by the word “cause,” as in “correlation does not imply causation;” however, I still have troubles with that, because as a woman, anyone making a statement about what women should or shouldn’t do to lower their risk of being raped still *feels like* it puts the impetus for not being raped on me.

And I tend to figure things out by analogy (working through similar situations and finding out where the math doesn’t work anymore), so last night as I was not sleeping while worrying through this I came up with the drunk driver analogy.

We don’t blame the victims of drunk drivers for

  • not having taken defensive driving class
  • not being better drivers (and being able to swerve to avoid being hit)
  • listening to the radio or
  • not seeing the driver coming

…even though there’s a decent chance they could have avoided being hit if any (or all) of those things were true.

Think about the last time you took extreme measures while driving to avoid someone who did something bat-shit-crazy and nearly hit you.

That person could have been drunk.  And if they had been drunk and they had hit you, No One Would Ever say that “You could have avoided this, if only…”

We don’t blame the victims of drunk drivers.

And that’s the difference.  Because we never blame drunk drivers, it’s totally cool to say “Hey, defensive driving class is a thing you should do — you can never tell what kind of drunken idiots will be on the road.”

But saying “Hey, dressing conservatively and not drinking are things you should do, because you never can tell what kind of vicious rapists are out there,” is not.

I *know* this isn’t a black-and-white situation.  It’s shades of grey, like everything else.   But the kind of thinking that tells women to not wear skimpy clothing (so men don’t want to rape them) leads straight to women being clothed head-to-toe with no skin showing at all.

(BTW, I would *love* to see statistics that correlate % of women who are raped with % of their body covered by fabric.  I am guessing that if you look back through history and across cultures, you’d find that there’s no correlation at all between amount of skin and incidence of rape.  I don’t have the metrics to back up or refute this, but please holler if you do.)