I grew up pretty sheltered but I remember being a child, standing with my mother and hearing her catcalled as we were waiting for the bus.
When I was walking in my neighborhood at age 13 and it happened to me, it was almost expected. Although I remember being confused as to why an adult man would proposition an obviously underage girl. I also remember thinking that catcalling wasn’t a thing that happened in my neighborhood. I lived in such a “nice” area, after all.
But unlike so many women I know, I wasn’t scared. I thought I should be flattered. Because it was something that happened to “pretty women”.
There were a lot of little incidents throughout my teenage years that seemed perfectly harmless at the time. Being touched “affectionately” by much older men in my theatre. Hugs that lingered just a tad too long. Eyes that shamelessly roamed my budding figure as opposed to my face.
It took me years to realize just exactly how much I had been primed and groomed to not only anticipate male attention but to make it a goal.
There are other things I could talk about but when I saw this post going around, the first thing I thought of was not how frightening it was but how conditioned I was at such a young age to expect it. To even embrace the idea that being leered at, subtly fondled, and having lewd suggestions made by strangers was some kind of “rite of passage” into womanhood.
Sheltered as I was, raised by a strong intelligent feminist as I was, these messages still had the power to infiltrate. To color my worldview and throw a long, long shadow over my adult relationships - not to mention my very sense of self worth. That belief that I deserved whatever treatment I received. That maybe I just wasn’t good enough for anything else.
That is the insidious nature of internalized misogyny.
Even now, there is a feeling of shame in sharing this. Which is exactly why I feel that I need to.
(From FB: If all the people who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.)