img_20171016_1010462137380319.png Feminist.. A word that many are afraid to associate with themselves, I welcome it. I’m here for equality, I’m here for the respect we are asking of our communities. I didn’t feel like I had anything worthy to write about last week so I didn’t. This will be an homage to the #metoo trend and a recount of some of my experiences relating to this hashtag. This started as a facebook post and turned into a blog post. This post could contain some triggers. *Trigger warning*

** I kept asking myself why.

Last year in September I went out of town for a work conference. It was during my boyfriend’s birthday but it was mandatory training I had to attend. My co-workers attending with me were all male. I was the only woman and the youngest by far. On the first night we arrived, I remember a man staring at me while I rode the elevator to my floor. The rooms were set up around the elevators so you could see everything including the bar on the 1st floor. As I rode the elevator up to my room there was a man slowly undressing in his room with the windows open. He was staring at me as he did this. Firstly, I thought how weird of him, then I felt uncomfortable. He looked at me like a piece of meat and without any reservations. So I went to my room, and thought about how strange he had made me feel in my own skin. Like it wasn’t mine anymore and it was for him. At least I was in my room and ready for bed. My co-workers had stayed at the bar and talked further about their days and business. I finally felt safe, I was closing my eyes and reluctantly kept picturing this small man.

I got a call from a co-worker downstairs, he had given me something to hold for him earlier in the day and it was still in my purse. It was cologne or after shave and he had asked me to bring it down to him. I put some clothes back on, a bra and green dress that was form fitting (It was actually a maternity dress that I really liked.. even though I’ve never been pregnant that has never stopped me from buying something I liked) I brought him his cologne and made it back up to my floor without seeing the man again. Then he appears on the floor below me (where he was staying) first he walks towards me from his room, then turns around and starts walking parallel to me on the floor below so that he can see me from a safe distance and he knows I can see him. He then proceeds to flash me his pale, white butt and look over his shoulder to see how I react. He was enjoying watching me. It took me a few seconds to comprehend what he was actually doing. I was shocked initially and then proceeded to yell “What the hell do you think you’re doing!? What are you trying to accomplish here?! You’re disgusting!” He proceeded to cover up and run back into his room. I called my co-workers to make sure he was still in his room. He wasn’t. He was riding the elevator and then went to the gym. Because I know that when I violate someone’s safe space I like to run it out on the treadmill. I reported him to our hotel and they advised me if I would want to call the cops. I did. The cops showed up and proceeded to tell me first they would need to find him, but he would have to admit to the allegations in order for him to be removed from the hotel. I was outraged by this. They felt him only showing his behind to me was barely enough to even call them. Mooning someone isn’t technically breaking the law, but his intentions were grotesque. He knew I was alone, he knew I was young and he assumed I wouldn’t say anything to anyone and it would get swept under the table like the other times he has done this to young women. Now I’ll admit although it seemed juvenile because it was, it also damaged me and made me feel unsafe and doesn’t necessarily promote trust in the community with these officers I encountered. Ultimately, he did admit his actions after I had to identify him and he was removed from the premises and I was moved rooms. He was not charged and only escorted off the property and asked not to return.

This happened on Denis’ birthday, I called him afterwards crying and wishing the only man I felt safe around could hold me. I didn’t sleep well for two nights although the hotel management had moved me to a suite to try to compensate for the incident. I thought many things to myself including how I had spurred him on. I still have to remind myself it had nothing to do with me, and that I’m thankful it was me instead of someone else. I spoke up. I yelled. Even though it was just him and I, I made myself clear that what he was doing was wrong and wouldn’t be stood for. I shamed him. He picked the wrong girl to moon his pasty ass at.

The reason I tell this story is because it’s one of MANY I have encountered as a young woman in my 20s. As a woman, it doesn’t matter what your size is. It can be fetishized no matter what. Your skin color, your hands, your feet can all be fetishized in order to make men feel like they have some authority over YOUR body. Somehow, they twist it in their mind and suddenly it’s never been your body, it’s been theirs for the taking. I’ve had men grab me in public places without saying a word or acknowledging me in any other way.

This morning I read a similar story of a girl I grew up with who was stalked on the way to school. I’ve had the same thing happen to me, when I was in middle school. A friend and I had to hide from a white truck that kept driving past us very slowly.

A few months ago, I was leaving a friends birthday dinner with another good friend of mine. We are both married. We were approached by a young man, probably late 20s. He first walked past us and then it was like a lightbulb went off in his head and he turned to start walking toward us. I smiled nicely at him as we got into my car as quickly as we could. After we got in I immediately locked the doors. He still came up to the car and tapped on the window for our attention and asked to ‘chill’. I showed him my wedding ring and he paused, then acknowledging that I was already someone else’s property and he didn’t want to overstep another man’s boundaries that had been set.

In some cases, it feels like a dream. I’ve tried to detach myself from these moments but they are real and they keep happening to women around the world. 

Every. Single. Day.

If you haven’t had these things happen to you, I share with you this insight: If it hasn’t already happened to you, it has happened to women you do know. Always be safe. Always know your surroundings. Always speak up because it could mean life and death one day. This is the reality of a woman living in this world. A white woman still makes 60 cents to the dollar of a white man and there is an even bigger difference in minority women. In 2017, our bodies are still not our own in many eyes. In the eyes of Congress and in the eyes of our President who has admitted to “Grabbing her by the p***y”. We are still second class citizens to men, and this is why. This is why I speak up, this is why I’ll keep fighting for women’s rights. This is why I call myself a feminist, because even though many have tried to make it a dirty word, it still means equality for our sexes and with equality comes respect. That’s all we’ve been waiting for.

-AA

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