My first reaction to all the Harvey Weinstein hubbub was “well that sucks, and I’m lucky to not have had to deal with that in my career.”
But then I remembered I had. It was put so far away that I had forgotten that in my first year as a teacher, it was required to hug (be hugged by, endure squishy cheek kisses, walk down the hall arm in arm or hand on butt) a particular employee every day in order to have things like an elevator key, or a cart, or students who didn’t threaten you because you were “cool” with him.
Why didn’t I speak up? I was lowest on the totem pole, and it was my first job. I just wanted to fit in at work. No one else ever said anything, and I didn’t want to make more waves beyond my bad classroom management. Besides, who knows what would happen to me if I wasn’t cool with him? Sometimes you had the more boorish boys in your class on your side if you were “cool” with him. I was 22. Cool was still important.
Why haven’t I spoken about it since? I didn’t know it then, but I had been programmed to think that this was normal and this was not harassment and this was just a “rite of passage” at any new job. Also, I haven’t had anyone to tell it to – anyone who knows him is still there in that insular community, and I have lost touch. And frankly, I forgot. Because there are a lot of things about 22 that are better off forgotten.
Why would I bring it up now? My trauma does not define me, and yes, I have misgivings about this #metoo movement that requires us to bring up things that I would rather keep buried in order to be seen as human and worthy. This is not the only example of harassment I have experienced, just the most prominent one at work that was not in some part my own damn fault.
But I brought this incident up to my husband, over breakfast, and he was so uncomfortable even hearing it. Wouldn’t make eye contact, non-committal single word responses, changing the subject. And it brought me back to that shameful place where I just wanted to bury it deep and never admit I was that stupid again.
I don’t blame him – he doesn’t talk about feelings regularly, and I have accepted that about my reality. But it really makes me think that there is an issue when the people closest to me can’t accept that this happened to me. There are also people closest to me who will be surprised if they read this. If you’re one of those surprised people, I hate to tell you that this is really not the worst thing that’s happened to me. And it happens to us all. That’s the power of #metoo, and I guess I’m telling my story.
IT IS NOT OK to have to give up bodily autonomy to do your job. IT IS NOT OK to have to chip away at your definition of professionalism to do your profession. IT IS NOT OK to have your humanity subjugated just to be human.
But it is normal. And it is normalized. And that is not OK either.