I am not a young woman. I am approaching mid-life; within 2 years if I live as long as my grandmother did. I have been watching today’s women take a stand against the misogynistic treatment they receive, against the biases and prejudices.
First, let me say that I am proud. I am so very proud of women today for stepping forward and braving the backlash they fully expected in order to tell their truth. The only hope they had was that the next generation of women, or even the next woman, wouldn’t have to face that sort of treatment.
Second, I need to say I am sorry. I am sorry I wasn’t one of those women.
I have said, “boys will be boys.” I have dressed in a gender neutral manner in order to be successful in industries that are dominated by men in order to avoid the derogatory comments, the leers, the ‘easy’ assignments, and the general biases prevalent in the business. I hid my feelings from partners to avoid comments about PMS. I submitted to dominant behavior because I was afraid of physical violence even as I was living with mental and emotional violence. I worked to support ‘my man’ who quit his jobs because they, ‘didn’t respect him enough,’ or ‘violated his morals,’ or ‘didn’t challenge him.’ I have been woken in the night by an erect penis being shoved in my mouth and expected to perform oral sex. I have been reduced to tears in the back corner of a closet while my husband stood over me yelling. I have seen my young daughter step in front of me to protect me when my second husband raised his hand to hit me. I had a boss stick his tongue in my mouth, without consent, after asking me to continue my employment as his mistress rather than his office manager. I have had a sexual partner, who agreed to ground rules for our sexual intercourse, penetrate me anally, without a condom, while chocking me. I was too afraid to do anything but comply. My current husband told me that in order to be a ‘good wife’ I should subsume my needs for his because his health is fragile, yet when my father died, and I asked for support, I was refused due to his long-standing health concerns and his need for self-preservation. When I said I felt betrayed and hurt, I was told that I was being unfair.
Please understand. I do not want your sympathy. I want you to understand that I accepted this behavior as ‘normal’ or ‘okay.’ I wondered what I had done wrong. Why I deserved this. I never once stood up for myself.
None of this is okay. How did I not see that? How did I become so indoctrinated…come to think so little of myself?
Now, nearing mid-life, my children young women in their own right, showing me the way, I vow to myself, no more. I will not allow myself to be disrespected. I will not apologize for my feelings or my thoughts or my opinions. I will report inappropriate behavior. I will support anyone, and I mean anyone, who has been, or is being mistreated. I hold myself accountable to you, my fellows in this journey.