Warning: This blog may contain upsetting material regarding sexual harassment and assault proceed with your best interests in mind. Only you know what you can tolerate.
I had a blog scheduled to post today, but I couldn’t present it in light of the sexual misconduct and assault allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein. When I started writing Inspire Confidence in May 2016, I knew that I would occasionally need to write about inclusion and how society impacts the gaming community. At this point about 1 in every 4 blogs I write here are about some kind of societal issue that is spiking in the news – I try to only write about these topics when they are timely. So at least once every 2 months for the last year and a half, there has been some major issue in the US (primarily) that involves gender disparity or some other big news cycle that focuses on men behaving badly – the Pulse nightclub shooting, Black Lives Matter backlash, how to talk to a woman wearing earbuds, not all men getting uppity over #YesAllWomen in 2014 after the Isla Vista killings, solidarity with Green Ronin’s non-male talent search and Monica Valentinelli after being lambasted for backing out of a convention because she was sexually harassed by a convention employee but not the other GoH (coincidentally men) who also backed out, and one of just how to keep yourself safe because sexual harassment knows no boundaries apparently. You know what I get tired of writing about? Men behaving badly, but that doesn’t seem to stop happening, so here we go again.
How it started
Harvey Weinstein was a film producer and movie studio executive that was responsible for a ton of movies and television you’d recognize. As a result, he has a lot of money and a lot of access to people who are at a deficit of power when compared to him. This is the quintessential set up for sexual harassment or assault – a man, usually in a position of power, who comes in contact with women who abuses the power imbalance to his advantage. Sexual harassment and assault are not about desire, they are about the power play. This New York Times article tells us the stories of some of his victims, how he’s denying these allegations, but his own lawyer Lisa Bloom ‘… who has been advising Mr. Weinstein over the last year on gender and power dynamics, called him “an old dinosaur learning new ways.” She said she had “explained to him that due to the power difference between a major studio head like him and most others in the industry, whatever his motives, some of his words and behaviors can be perceived as inappropriate, even intimidating.” ‘
Sure, misogyny was the way of the world for the last 10,000-ish years, there’s a learning curve. But one would think that after 10,000 years maybe we’d be further along than this.
The Washington Post tells us that Alyssa Milano began the #MeToo.
“If all the women 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,”
And so we did, women, men, NB people posted “me, too” by the thousands. It’s hard to know where the count is now for the hashtag, but at the time the above article was written a quarter of a million people are talking about it, by the time you read this, I’m guessing we’ll be in the millions. My own social media feed reduced me to tears. While I posted #MeToo, I had no idea how many of my other friends were also the victims of sexual harassment or assault. I remain certain that nearly 100% of all women have been the subject of sexual harassment, because I remember #YesAllWomen. I know it’s hard to be reminded that every women you have ever met has had some man tell her something that would make the skin crawl off your body, but I’m kind of thinking that should stick with you. We choose to forget that stuff because it hurts to know about it and it’s ultimately someone else’s pain that we don’t have to take into ourselves, but we need to remember and we need to work to stop the bad behaviors of mostly men. So, I’m going to share some of my stuff with you now. Some of it’s stuff I’ve never told anyone about, not because I want you to feel sorry for me, but because I want you to get off your ass and do something about it.
Sh*t men have done to me
I’m going to truncate this because you don’t need all the details. These are my stories, there are more out there and many are much worse than mine. I consider myself lucky that my list is so mild by comparison.
- A older married man that I worked with forced himself on me in our place of employment, he kissed me and felt me up numerous times, I was in high school at the time.
- The father of one of my school friends would talk inappropriately to me when I called to talk to my friend. My friend’s mother was very sick and she told me he was just lonely. Many years later I wondered if he was doing more than talking to her. It never occurred to me what might have been happening to her when I could have possibly helped her. I live with this fear and regret of realization.
- At a wedding that I was in, the groomsman that was my “escort” and whom I had never met before the wedding stuck his tongue down my throat while we were dancing with the wedding party, he was already drunk.
- A guy that I dated coerced/forced me to have sex with him after I repeated told him “No”. I didn’t fight him because it was just easier to have him finish and roll over to go to sleep.
- While working in the electronics department, a man came in looking for a word processor (this was before computers could really do that) and after I helped him find what he wanted, all the while hitting on me, he told me he would only buy the word processor if I would go out with him. He erroneously thought I worked on commission and that not making the sale would hurt my paycheck. Thankfully I didn’t have to worry about paying my bills when I told him “No”. He left without making the purchase.
- When I was younger and in middle school, a boy that I had known nearly all my life found a baggy of ketchup on the floor outside the cafeteria, he asked me if I had dropped my period.
- My Organic Chemistry professor told an entire room full of students that the female students were required to build models of all the organic compounds so that we could see them while the male students weren’t required to do so because they had great spacial visualization.
- I left the engineering college after my first year at university because I was one of two women in my class and I realized that I didn’t like engineering enough to pursue a job in it because I got tired of being talked down too.
- Less than a month ago a car full of boys, young enough to be my sons, cat-called me as I was walking from a restaurant to my car.
- While working in the bookstore, I lost count of the number of men who followed me around my store after they found out I was a gamer nerd who took care of the sci-fi/fantasy section.
- When my male supervisor told me after I was hired on at a laboratory that I had done the interview math exam incorrectly. I was confused and asked what I had done wrong. He explained how he would have done the math problem to me. I realized we had just used different mathematical styles to get the same answer, I asked him “Did I get the correct answer?” And when he said “yes”, I told him that I had clearly not done it wrong, I just did it differently than he would have, that didn’t make it wrong.
- The boy in high school, whom I sat behind in the 7th and 8th grades and had not seen in over a year and after I lost about 40 pounds, who spent the entire 7th and 8th grades belittling me, felt it was appropriate to hit on the thinner me. I was the same person inside, all that changed was the wrapping, I declined his offers.
- Approximately a year ago I called out an old guard game designer “Jim” for his sexist comment about not liking that an actress that he personally did not find attractive (her breasts weren’t appealing to him) was cast in a role for a movie he was looking forward to seeing. I told him that women weren’t here to please his male gaze and that his comment was inappropriate. I unfriended him (and thus do not have screenshots of that). But I do have a screenshot of the response I received from another old white dude who felt that I had gone too far and was attacking my allies and went on to mansplain allyship to me. Below you’ll see how some “allies” talk to women. Immediately after sending me this private message on Facebook, the sender blocked me, preventing me from entering into any kind of meaningful conversation. This is not how good allies behave regardless of the issues.
What you can do
Don’t forget about the things you’ve seen, all the names of all the women and men that you know who have publicly announced that they have been the victims of sexual harassment or assault. This is scary for us to admit, because we’ve always been told that we deserve to be treated like this, that it is our lot in life as women to be treated like sex objects. Stop the cycle.
- Speak up when you see or hear something that isn’t right. If you see it at work, go to HR or step in in the moment. If you see it in the community, definitely step up.
- Support legislation that protects the victims or persecutes offenders.
- Do not hide those guilty of bad behavior with comments like “that’s just how he is” or “everyone knows that about him”. If you know about it, why haven’t you done anything about it?
- Educate yourself. I am but one woman in a chorus of women. There are amazing voices out there speaking that you should hear, go listen to them. I suggest you start with Nicole Stamp, because she’s got a great list of advice you should read.
- Reflect on how you behave and recognize your role in this problem. You have to see how you’re part of the problem before you can be part of the solution. It’s okay to wake up and see that the person in the mirror isn’t the hero you thought they were, but the good news is you can be, if you make better choices and do better.
Just in case you aren’t sure, you should assume that every woman – cis and trans, every NB, and every non-male identifying person you encounter has been sexually harassed at least one time in their life.