Me Too

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I have been overwhelmed and saddened by the amount of “me too” posts that I have seen in my social media feed over the past couple of days.

Not that I didn’t know that girls all over the place experienced the catcalls, unwanted brushes of the hand (or other parts), and suggestive looks and comments, but because these things are so commonplace that I have simply looked at them as a integral part of life.

I almost didn’t post a ‘me too’ status because I thought “I haven’t actually been brutally raped…I’ve never experienced violent sexual harassment…I’ve never felt like I was in imminent danger of sexual violation.”

But then I stopped myself.  I have experienced whistles and comments from men on the streets on a regular basis.  I have been asked multiple times by random men at bars if they could “just” see or squeeze my ass.  I have ignored whistles and “damnnnnn” comments from STUDENTS at my school because I wasn’t sure how to handle such disrespectful behavior and I thought if I ignored it it would just go away.  I felt a man rub his genitals on me in a crowded subway and try to take a picture of my face.

I have experienced all of these things and more, yet I still hesitated when posting a status to join the ranks of women who have been sexually harassed because I wasn’t sure if I had been hassled “enough” to stand with them.

How absolutely sad is that?

Women have become so used to feeling judged by their bodies that a certain level of discomfort has become normal.

That needs to stop.

Right the fuck now.

Women are not commodities.  Women are not eye candy.  Women are not tits and ass and a pretty face.

So why we are branded as such?

Simply put, humans are a creature of habit and learn almost everything by example.  If I were a man and grew up seeing the men around me talk about women in a disrespectful manner, calling out dirty remarks for a laugh, and generally basing their value of a woman off of how good she looks in a pair of skinny jeans, I would quite honestly do the same.  It would be normal.  And heartrendingly, that’s how most of the men in America are raised.

However, this is not the norm across the entire range of male humanity.  I have never once seen my dad make a disrespectful comment about a woman.  I can’t even remember him commenting on a woman’s body in a complimentary and non-sexual way.  It simply was never a part of the rhetoric that he used.

Not surprisingly, my brother is the exact. same. way.

Never once have I heard my brother comment about any girls in a sexual way.  There have been zero instances where I saw him oogle a woman.  No dirty jokes.  No inappropriate comments.  Not even with his wife, where it would be more acceptable.  It has been nothing but consideration and respect.

How much more amazing would every female’s experience be if every male had an example like my dad or brother to emulate?  I can’t even imagine how it would feel to step out into the world and not wonder who is checking out my ass or tossing a glance at my silhouette.

BUT WAIT, you say.  Sexuality is part of human nature!  Surely you cannot be suggesting that we move to a mindset where sex is not somewhere in the forefront?  That’s impossible.

I agree.  Sex IS part of our nature.  Sex, in fact, is freaking awesome.  And it’s doubly awesome when you feel sexy and confident and you know you look good and the person you are having sex with makes sure you know how attractive you are to them.

But a large part of that feeling is immediately doused in ice-cold water when you feel disrespected.  I have gone from feeling awesome and self-assured to feeling insecure and small in a matter of seconds all because of a moment of unwanted attention that crossed the line.

And no, this doesn’t only happen when I’m wearing a sexy dress or short shorts.  I have dealt with this feeling in every different type of clothing imaginable.

The bottom line is, I want to take my body back.  I want to be able to feel comfortable in anything.  I want to be able to wear something that makes me feel like a million dollars without worrying that someone is going to assume that I want to hear their two cents.

Comments on my body make me feel amazing when they come from people that I give a shit about.  Nothing makes me smile wider than a well-placed “damnnn” from the person that I’m dating.  But when it comes to words pouring from the mouths of strangers, it gets old really fucking fast.

So men, please, please listen:

Woman love to feel sexy.  We love to feel special.  We love to feel like we are on top of the world.  But that outcome is not achieved by catcalls, “flattering” compliments, or forcing yourself upon us.  That result is not realized by staring at us from the corner and raking your eyes constantly across our frames so hard we can feel it even when we uneasily turn away.  That effect is not attained by focusing solely on our physical attributes that you find pleasing.

We want to be seen.  Really, truly seen.  Move past the old rhetoric that has been passed down from generation to generation and be the man that takes a step forward to take a hand, not grope a curve.

You will still have your animal needs sated, don’t worry about that.  But maybe, just maybe, you will realized that treating women as civilized creatures rather than prey to be hunted will yield a far richer feast than the outdated methods of pursuit with bow and poisoned arrow.

Be the change.

Please.

Thoughts on Vegas

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Last Sunday night I went to bed thinking about all the random things that had happened over the weekend, mostly consisting of “ughhh why did I eat that” and “I’ll just grade that really fast at school”.  Monday morning, at 5am, I was sleepily glancing through my daily Skimm e-mail, and stopped cold when I saw the headline “Shooter at Vegas Music Festival”.  Every time there is a tragedy that happens, I always feel shock and empathy, but this time was different–this time, my best friends were at the festival.

After some frantic phone calls and panicked-but-trying-to-sound-calm voicemails, I saw that my friend had posted on Facebook that they were ok.  Relief immediately flooded my body, and I got ready for work in a haze of thankfulness.

The reality of things truly didn’t hit me, however, until I got to work and I started watching footage of the horror.  The staccato bursts of the gunfire sounded like a video game or an action movie, and the panicked people mere actors on a set.

But it was real life.  Live, horrific, indescribable.  I started bawling as the reality of the situation hit me.  I tried to imagine what my friends must have felt like, the amount of adrenaline pumping through their bodies, the terror coursing through every minor vein.

Yet as much as I want to enter in to their pain, I can’t.  I wasn’t there.  I have no idea what it TRULY felt like.  All I know is that I need to be there for them in whatever capacity I can be.

Which is all we can ever do in a situation like this.  Be there.  And by ‘be there’ I mean actually BE THERE.  Be available to meet up at 9pm if they need to get out of the house.  Be there to hear their stories, 20 times if need be.  Be there to sit in silence when the stories are too painful to utter out loud.  Be there when they attempt to be strong and be there when that attempt crumbles.

Humans are the largest paradox on earth because there is nothing so incredibly strong yet so softly fragile as the human spirit.  If there is any glimpse of light in this situation, its that it caused so many people to hold their loved ones a little tighter, hug a little longer, and love a little deeper than before.

It sucks that sometimes it takes a situation like this to make us realize how fragile life is and what the important things are; we have little reminders surrounding us constantly, and the reality of our impending death is always acknowledged when the topic is brought up.  However, being slammed in the face is a lot different than a gentle nudge, and that harshness, however unpleasant, can grudgingly be appreciated for the fruit that it bears.

The thing about tragedy is that it cannot be truly understood unless it directly effects you.  I have experienced way more empathy and love for the victims of Las Vegas than I have for any other horrible event, simply because I had a direct connection.  I can never enter into that experience fully, but I have definitely been opened up more than ever before.

The biggest thing that has come out of this experience for me is the importance of loving fiercely.  We cannot burn with the brightness of a 1000 suns every second, but we are infinitely capable of bursts of ardent flame, way more than what is self-allotted.

Love, no matter what kind, deserves to be fueled boldly and purposefully.  Make it a habit to show your love.  So many times we assume that those in our life know that we love them.  However, knowing and feeling are two very different things, and the latter is what everyone deserves to experience.

Simply saying “I love you” is powerful.  Hugging someone even when you just saw them yesterday, or when you know you’ll be hanging out tomorrow.  Squeezing a hand.  Keeping plans.  Sitting in silence in each other’s company.  Being honest.  Doing stuff you don’t care for because it makes them so happy.  Going the extra mile.  Loving so loudly and proudly it’s embarrassing.

People are imperfect and flawed.  But more than that, people are worth it.  No matter what kind of relationship you have, whether it’s a sibling, parent, friend, partner, that spark of love is precious and worth all the time in the world.

When it comes down to it, relationships are what we are left with when all of the bullshit of life goes away.  Relationships, not money or fame or luck, are what get us through life unscathed.  Relationships are the only currency of any true, consistent value.

Tragedy on both a major and minor scale helps us to refocus on the things that matter.  How lucky are we that we possess things so valuable that their loss would devastate our existence?  How thankful can we be that we actually have something to lose?

As the shock and the pain of this calamity eventually fades, keep the reminders of fierce passion burning bright.  There is so much devotion in the world, which is a force more powerful than a bullet and a strength more enduring than the deepest pain.  Nothing can stand in the way of pure selfless emotion.

When we are filled with the deepest and truest love, we are unstoppable.