Not Less

“Damn, girl! Your pockets are full!” Someone shouted at me. I was walking into the mall with my brother. I was thirteen, maybe fourteen. My brother laughed.  Then he yelled something to him in my defense.

“What did he mean, my pockets are full?” I asked.

“He’s talking about your butt.” I lowered my head, ashamed. I weighed less than 100 pounds. I wasn’t embarrassed about my weight. I was mortified because a man had just rolled his window down and commented on my butt. And then he kept driving. It was nothing to him. I was nothing to him. He could say whatever he wanted to me, a girl. A child.

In college, I worked at bars. It didn’t matter what sort of uniform I wore, my body was fair game for unwanted comments, lewd stares, and unintentional intentional slips of the hand.

I remember one table in particular, a table full of men, ten or twelve, a baseball team. I was friendly and funny, and could come off as flirty sometimes. I was being myself: laughing, joking with my table, probably flirting, but also giving them good service because that was what I did, when one called me over.

“Hey, hun.  Come here for a minute.” I was always hun, or sweetie, or sugar, or darling. Never Mandi, which was clearly printed on my name tag.

I walked over to him. He started talking to me and eventually put his hand around my waist and pulled me closer, then a little closer. And then his hand went from my waist to my hip, from my hip to my butt, and then he cupped it. Like he was allowed. Like he didn’t have to ask. I grabbed his hand and put it on the table.

“No,” I said. He tried to laugh me off.

I looked him in the eye again and said, “No.”

He didn’t like that. Emasculated in front of his boys, he tried to rally his table to get angry with me, but they bowed their heads and pretended not to notice. Cowards. I didn’t go back to the table. The bartender served them their check. Twelve men, several beers, several appetizers, taking up most of my section for most of my shift and no tip. That didn’t matter, but I noticed.

An hour or so later when I left to go to my car, the bartender insisted on walking me out.

“You never know,” he said.

“I shouldn’t have flirted with them,” I said, blaming myself because that’s what we (women) do. Then I noticed the man was sitting in his pickup truck at the back of the parking lot where the staff parked, assumingly waiting for me. We made eye contact, and my body went straight into fight or flight mode.

I didn’t drive to my apartment that night. Instead, I hitched a ride with the bartender and slept on his couch. I never saw the man again, but I looked. Every single night, and I never walked to my car alone again. I also never wore shorts to work again even when it was 113 degrees outside.

Early this school year, I was walking home from dropping my kids off at their elementary school down the street from my house. I noticed a truck driving past me, slowly. I looked over thinking it was a parent that I knew, and then the man rolled down his window. “Nice…pants,” he said and smiled. I was wearing workout leggings.

I looked away. He more than likely had just dropped off his child(ren) at school and before 8 am thought it was appropriate to comment on my “pants.”  I immediately heard voices in my head saying, “Women really shouldn’t wear leggings. It’s only asking for attention.”

I’m not writing this because I have a high opinion of myself or of my pants. I’m writing this because I am a thirty-eight year old woman who still struggles with male privilege and the fact that men think it’s okay to comment on my body, on anyone’s body.

I’ve had a stalker and a handful of creepy encounters. I’ve, on more than one occasion, driven my car around town rather than home for fear of being followed. I have had unwanted hands touch my body in more places than I care to name. Fortunately, I have never been raped. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still scare the hell out of me, that I don’t walk with my keys between my fingers to my car. That I don’t notice every single person I pass, that I actually think about what I wear (leggings included) because I don’t want to provoke that kind of attention.

I argue with my family members who think I’m just some twisted liberal because I don’t think dress codes are fair. I talk to my conservative female friends about how locker-room talk and what so and so said are two completely different things. I write about rapists going home when they should stay in jail. I tell my daughter that she’s strong and brave and that she can do anything. And yet, I still look over my shoulder, and blame myself every single time I get some unwanted attention.

And this is the problem with everything that we are talking about today.

Because it’s not about men vs. women. It’s not about all men being dirty perverts or all women asking for it. It’s about a choice few who think this kind of stuff is okay, and the cowards at the table who aren’t sticking up for what is right, the same ones who are questioning that a problem even exists.

This election season was ugly. On both sides, people continue to say things that are unfair and unjust and untrue. Just yesterday someone said to me that if a man grabbed me by the pussy, I would probably giggle, maybe even like it. This was in response to my defending the women who marched, and this is (only a tiny reason) why women who marched continue to have to defend why they marched.

They marched because some (Not all. Calm down.) think they are less. That we, women, are less, and therefore, they (some, still not all) can treat us as such. Less.

They marched because we are not less. (In the home, at the workplace, at the doctor’s office, on the street, in the bar, at the store, on Capitol Hill…anywhere.)

They marched because I have had this post in my drafts for over a year but have been too scared to post it. They marched for people like me, who were too afraid to march, and I thank them for it.

 

photo credit: The Boston Globe

photo credit: The Boston Globe

 

 

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28 thoughts on “Not Less

  1. Proud of you for sharing, although at the same time I am outraged that you have to do so. I marched on Saturday, and we marched for you and all women with stories like this in the hopes that one day, this will never happen again. We are with you, sister!

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  2. Well, imagine that you imported over night more then a million of a men like this. They call them refugees. They screem after my friends and my – whore! They are fed from my tax money. They rape almost every week some girl. And If you call them disguasting pigs – you are a racist.They are the rason why thousands of women in Germany are now afraid to live the life we had one year ago.

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    • Ombiaombia… respectfully, refugees are not equal to rapists or sex offenders. You didn’t import a million men who call you whores. Many of the men have family. They had neighbors and community. They didn’t want to leave their home. Some men are and some are not offenders and you can not really generalize people who have been fucked over in Syria or where-ever you are indicating the exodus to escape genocide. The human trafficking of women and girls is up all over the world due to white supremacist values and capitalist business practices, as well as child brides to supposedly protect the girls “culturally” in many muslim traditions, and we know this is a complicated problem. Racism is real in this tho. As much as is sexism. They aren’t so different really for how they are used to divide and undermine us. The cultural and gender gaps in the global world economy where 8 men own more wealth than half the world population combined speaks to a larger context.
      I’m sorry you feel afraid of where you live… But a larger fear to have is Donald Trump being leader of the free world. The author of this article is brave for standing up against him and his racism and sexism…

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      • Before I countinue to read this long comment which has NOTHING incommon with a reality of Germany today – I live a house next to 500 those men. Not families. Men. Young men. They attacked my female friends and me more the once. They eat from our tax money. They call us whores. We stopped going to the public swimmingpool in our street, because we wereattacked more then once, for beking almost naked. I know what war feels like. I was raised during the war in my country. How many wars you experienced? How was your childhood? How many arab men attacked you and tried to rape you? Only after those answers any further communication coudl make sense.

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      • My childhood was rapeculture too thank you VERY much! I live in the USA as a beautiful “edible” woman. What do I know of war? You mean, did my family serve in wars and bring back their post traumatic stress and abuse? We are the forever WAR. We are global. You have not suffered more… in Germany than I have in the USA. I don’t think you deserve to be attacked. That was not my call. I don’t think you deserve to be called whores. Don’t be simple.
        Hear me… we can’t make all refugees “bad.” it’s not true or real. please talk to me again about our world. Let’s refine this so we don’t upset one another.

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      • You need to speak in your own country, I guess against arabs. White men rape just as much tho. You don’t belong in our forum, you realize… without information here either? We have enough problems with Donald Trump the biggest pussy grabbing rape culture leader there is. I am friends with muslims and arabs in America that do not fit and never would fit your description.
        Whatever has been warehoused next to your neighborhood… has roots in how white supremacists whare-house people.
        The march on washington DC and all over america was a joyful one as much as we have conviction. We proved families and women matter and we are still fighting. We will not concede to racism or xenophobia however. Our cause is about recognizing all women. I am sorry if I harmed you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • one last thing… Don’t you dare question if my life knows war. If I lived thru war. I know war. I understand families being effected by war. I will never be kicked around by people who tell me I don’t feel as much as they do because of war.

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      • And you fight for freedom?! With things like telling people they don’t belong here because you don’t like their opinion?
        Really?
        This makes you even more discriminatory then people you are fighting against.
        This makes you worst them them. I will contiue to express my opinion when I feel the need to do so.
        I will continue do describe what arab men do to women in my free, democratic und modern country.
        How they think we are whores deserved to be punished just because we are not covered from had to toe.
        I will continue to demand freedom for women, freedom from jerks like them. I didn’t live four years of war hell just to now be molested by barbaric creatures like that.
        And I will ignore your comments from now on.I should have done this in the first place.

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      • Bullshit. You are being reactionary. What I am saying is you don’t understand our politics or TRUMP. You presume I do not know war. Your friends have been raped by “refugees”? well, I’ve been raped by white men. What’s the fucking difference. We in our movement against Trump fight white supremacy. We stand against tyranny. We don’t call all Arab men rapists and we don’t build walls.
        I am a freedom fighter in my own family. I stood up to rape in my own family at the risk of being ALONE.
        You don’t belong here if you cast refugees as bad. You don’t get to use racism to fight against rape. I don’t like anyone hiding behind cultural veils as excuse for rape. I don’t use religion as an excuse for rape.
        Go ahead and ignore me. BIGGOT.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. My understanding is that it was the biggest worldwide protest in history (don’t quote me though as I haven’t been able to confirm this through reputable sources).
    We women get shit DONE! I mean seriously… the ladies organised marches in all different parts of the world in no time. Obviously it is time for the ladies to be in charge, women would have shit HANDLED!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well done for making the decision to publish this. I think your sentiments and experience are unfortunately repeated the world over.
    I hope you will keep on standing up and that others will appreciate your strength and dedication.
    Shine on!

    Liked by 1 person

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