When I was a teenager, I worked at a local restaurant after school and on weekends. One of the managers there was a disgusting pervert. He would leer at the female employees, say very offensive things, and touch us inappropriately without consent. We all began to hate going to work and would get stomachaches just thinking about having to work a shift with him. Everyone who was affected filed a formal complaint against him with corporate and we told the other managers what was happening. Everyone nodded and smiled at us and promised to take it very seriously. We came into to work the next week and he was gone. We were so relieved and going to work was no longer a nightmare. A few days later, another employee came into the restaurant and she was shaking and looked furious. Her mother had just called her to let her know that she saw the pervy manager working at the restaurant’s other location. They had just moved this guy to another restaurant. Now he had a whole new restaurant of women to prey on. This clearly told us that they valued a predator over their female employees.
There’s a reason that I chose this particular story to share. Along with every other woman I know, I have many stories of endured harassment. I am also a survivor of sexual assault. However, what happened at that restaurant when I was a teenager paints a picture of the pervasive problem we need to talk about and deal with. There is a dynamic in our society of men in power positions taking advantage of that power to prey on women.
When the New York Times published their exposé about the sexual harassment charges against Harvey Weinstein, I felt angry. Then when I saw the outpouring of stories from women across industries recounting harassment and assault similar to Weinstein’s, I felt sad. When people on Facebook began posting “Me, too” to show how pervasive sexual harassment and assault are, I felt heartbroken. I have felt an excess of emotions over the past few days, but what I didn’t feel was shocked.
I’m not shocked because I don’t think I know a single woman that hasn’t been harassed, assaulted, cat-called, or made to feel uncomfortable simply for existing in their female body. This behavior is pervasive and it is persistent and it has been going on for generations.
The “me too” movement began more than 10 years ago by activist Tarana Burke. Those two words are powerful. They show other survivors that they are not alone. They show them that we see them, that we believe them because we have been there too. The movement is about support but it is also about making a change. It is about saying, “We are here! This is happening! It MUST STOP!” So, what can we do to work towards that change?
We must keep fighting. We must persist. We have to keep having the hard conversations. We have to keep holding people accountable for their actions. A drastic societal shift isn’t going to happen overnight and women have been fighting this fight for decades, and let me tell you something, we are tired. We are tired of women that come forward being attacked in the media. We are tired of companies settling harassment claims like some injury claim lawsuit. She didn’t slip in your store…her body was violated! We are tired of having to tell our stories over and over and relive the pain just to explain to people why these behaviors are not acceptable. We are tired of not feeling safe. We are tired!
I may be physically and emotionally tired, but I will not give up. Everyone has a different way of coping with an issue. For me, the only way I know how to function is to focus on the positive and work toward a goal. This was the reason I became involved with Madison County Democratic Women in the first place. After the November election, I felt lost and I joined MCDW to work towards making a difference. It was time for me to get involved and be the change that I wanted to see in the world. Now, more than ever I need to keep up that fight. We have all said #metoo and now it is time to say #iwill.
I will work to break this cycle of harassment in our country by getting more women elected to office. The more women that are in power, the louder our voice demanding change will be. Emerge Alabama has just announced that they will be starting their first candidate training class in January of 2018. Their goal is to recruit more women to run for office and provide them with the training they need to win elections. If you or another awesome woman that you know is thinking of running for office please look into attending this training session: https://democraticwomenofmadisoncounty.com/join-the-emerge-alabama-class-of-2018/
I will work as hard as I can to support the amazing Madison Country Democratic Women that are planning to run for office in 2018! Harassment is about social power. Political power is a key way to address social power. Let’s step forward and elect women to positions where they are influencing policy and legislation. Please, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information about volunteering for one of these strong, fearless women’s campaigns.
Say #iwill and join us!