Home About Feed Archives Contact

Me, too

October 21, 2017 | #metoo,Harvey Weinstein,Hollywood,Men,Power,Sexual assault,Sexual harassment,Women

Me, too.

My pastor talked to me about what a wonderful and healthy thing pornography was. I was alone with him in his car. I was 5. When I was an adult, I learned that he was later arrested for molesting children. How many voices had to be heard before that ever happened? Or, asking another way, how many children had to be hurt?

I spent the night at a friend’s house. While there, her two older brothers crept through the hallway by her room. They were naked.

I went with a friend to a family gathering. I was told to go meet her grandfather. I stood by his chair. He reached under my skirt and, with his long, sharp fingernails, pinched the skin on my butt until he drew blood.

I went with my family to visit another family’s house. The grownups sent me off to play with their son in his room. I’d heard he had a train set. Instead of playing with it, though, he forced kisses on me and put his hands on me. I told him to stop. He did it again. I was 7.

I was on a playground with my older brother. Another boy, who was much bigger than I was, picked me up in a big bear hug and shook me. I screamed for him to let me go. I cried and begged my brother, who was at least as big as this other boy, to make him let me go. My brother laughed.

When I was in confirmation class, 8th-grade boys made gigantic rubber bands by stringing together dozens of regular rubber bands. Some of the boys were taller than my father. They, in their man bodies, were all bigger than I was. They sat behind me, and throughout the class, snapped my butt with the gigantic rubber bands. It hurt and made me cry. Nobody said anything or made them stop; not even the pastor, who led the class. This happened all year. I was 11.

When I waited tables, a man grabbed my ass as I put his plate on the table. The owner, a married man with children, fired me because I wouldn’t flirt with him. I was 16.

In September of my last year of college, an 18-year-old freshman went missing. Women and girls were terrified. Women who had night classes would wait together outside for rides, instead of walking home in the dark. They held “Take Back the Night” marches. They wrote articles and letters to the editor. They bought mace. Police found the freshman’s body in December. Two men raped and killed her and left her naked body in a field.

When I lived alone in my 20s, a man I’d known as a friend for years, visited me in my home. Without asking, he followed me to my bedroom, pushed me down on my bed and tried to kiss me. Another man — married with children — I’d known as a friend for years, stalked me and left dozens of messages on my answering machine. He knew where I lived, and I knew he was in town, so I left my home and stayed away for an entire day and night.

Side note on waiting tables: As much as my husband loves his daughters — and he grew up in socialist Norway where women and men have closer equality than many places in this world — he still sometimes doesn’t get it. He’s told one of our daughters, who is always helping others, that she should be a waiter. This bugged me at the time, but I didn’t know why. A little more recently, I shared my experiences as a waiter in the presence of my husband, some friends and our kids. Even after my husband heard this story, he still — at a later time — told our daughter that she should be a waiter. I was dumbfounded. Did he not hear my story? What part of my experience did he want our daughter to have? Then it occurred to me, he must see my experience as a one-time thing, because he CAN see it that way. But if he heard the stories of all kinds of women who have worked as waiters, maybe then he would see that my experience was not an isolated incident. (That’s the power of #metoo.) Otherwise, he’d still believe that our daughter could sidestep an experience like mine. Because he makes the mistake of believing that his daughter walks through the world like he does, not like I do.

Husbands might not understand. Until they do. Chris Richards is a pop-music critic for The Washington Post. His wife, Caitlin Gibson, is a feature writer there. In December 2016, they both had stories that ran on the same page. Both their mailboxes filled up with email. Many of Gibson’s emails called her vulgar names. None of the emails to Richards did. In fact, he said, he’s never been called vulgar names by readers, but it’s routine for Gibson. You can see his Twitter thread here: https://twitter.com/Chris__Richards/status/806611671871606784. In case it disappears, here’s a screen shot:


I spent a lot of time in my children’s elementary school, volunteering in their classrooms. When one of my children told me that some boys were calling a girl some awful names, I spoke to the teacher and then the principal about it. The principal had talked to the girl and her parents. He was convinced that her capacity for understanding was diminished, and she was not hurt by the names. He missed the point. Did he talk to the boys and their parents? If he didn’t, he should have. When the boys called this girl a freak (or worse) and grownups didn’t stop it, it’s not only about the impact that has on the girl. What does it do to the boys? It allows them to dehumanize another human being, while at the same time diminishing their own humanity. And what does it do to the children who witness that behavior? It normalizes it. This is how it starts.

Seeing. Standing up. Speaking out. By men, most especially. (Men, collect your people.) This is how it ends.






Others write about this:

“Dear Men: It’s You, Too,” Roxane Gay, The New York Times, Oct. 19, 2017: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/opinion/metoo-sexual-harassment-men.html

“The woman behind ‘Me Too’ knew the power of the phrase when she created it — 10 years ago,” Abby Ohlheiser, The Washington Post, Oct. 19, 2017: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2017/10/19/the-woman-behind-me-too-knew-the-power-of-the-phrase-when-she-created-it-10-years-ago/

“#MeToo, #ItWasMe, and the Post-Weinstein Megaphone of Social Media,” Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker, Oct. 19, 2017: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/metoo-itwasme-and-the-post-weinstein-megaphone-of-social-media

“The Conversation We Should Be Having,” Rebecca Traister, The Cut, Oct. 19, 2017: https://www.thecut.com/2017/10/harvey-weinstein-donald-trump-sexual-assault-stories.html

“What school dress codes have to do with Harvey Weinstein,” Soraya Chemaly, The Washington Post, Oct. 20, 2017: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2017/10/20/what-school-dress-codes-have-to-do-with-harvey-weinstein/?utm_term=.ce009dbaf44e

Posted by Becky @ 3:14 pm | 1 Comment  

Books: Reality Bites Back

April 9, 2011 | Advertising,Books,Ethics,Feminism,Jennifer Pozner,Journalism,Media,Media literacy,MTV,Television,Women

She had me at, “I call bullshit” (on p. 14 of the Introduction.)

“She” is Jennifer Pozner, and the book is Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV. This is actually the last book I read last year. Yes. I’m that far behind. So let me get to it.

Pozner set out to explain our “social beliefs” and how networks, advertisers and media owners exploit them for profit through reality television — and what we can do about it. I must say, she did a mighty fine job.

She drags reality television, kicking and screaming, out into the light of day and shows it for what it is. I can’t help but think of this page of photographs of women arrested for prostitution.*

On the surface, reality television looks all sparkly and pretty and maybe even a little princess-y. (That’s my nod to Peggy Orenstein. More on her book in a later post.) Or, at the very least, clean and presentable. It’s all the soft lighting, candles and makeup. (Well, until we get to Jersey Shore.) In the harsh sunlight, though, reality television looks more like the last picture on each row of photos (their eighth arrest) than the first.

Pozner doesn’t admonish anyone for watching reality television. Instead, she wants to educate everyone about media literacy, critical thinking and healthy skepticism.

She covers everything from “twisted fairy tales,” in which humiliation is the flip side of “happily ever after,” to supermodel shows, eating disorders and battered self-esteem.

She mentions a red-carpet moment at the 2009 Emmys, where Ryan Seacrest told Jenna Fischer, “Congratulations on being a size 0,” as if that were a laudatory achievement — disappearing into nothing. (Now I know why it bothered me so much how Seacrest fawned all over Jennifer Hudson this year, after she showed up everywhere thinner than ever, thanks to a contract she signed with a weight-loss company.)

Pozner only mentioned Buffy the Vampire Slayer a couple of times in the book, but I knew she was a fan, believing Buffy to be a strong, positive female character. A feminist, even. Wow, I thought. I’ve never had the slightest interest in watching that show. I was far enough removed from high school that a cast of high-school students had little appeal. (OK. So that doesn’t explain why I enjoy Glee now, although there is a tiny Joss Whedon thread there, I suppose.) Besides, I cut my eye teeth on Stephen King. I figured I’d had enough ghoulishness to last a lifetime.

But the topic kept popping up, and I started to wonder, should I at least watch one episode.

Nah. Why should I? I don’t need to waste my time on that. (*cough*)

Apparently, my possessed dvr had other ideas. (Yeah, I think I’ll start calling it Christine now.) I sat down one night in my comfy chair, checked my list of recorded shows and chose RuPaul’s Drag Race. (OK. Now you know. RuPaul is my guilty-pleasure TV.) There were several episodes, so I thought I’d settle in and catch up. Guess what came on? Buffy. I swear. On every single RuPaul show. Somebody thought I should watch some Buffy, so I did. And I could see what Pozner was saying.

She also covers everything else — from embedded advertising to unapologetic misogyny, racism and violence. She watched hundreds of hours of reality television … so I don’t have to. She went behind the scenes to explain how things work and whose interests drive reality television. Guess what. It’s not your interests. She ends with a section of media literacy and a ton of great resources.

It really is a must-read.

“If we care about independent thought, artistic integrity, and cultural diversity, we must demand that programming improve, not accept its erosion with a yawn.” (p. 295)


*This is a copy of page 246 in Carolyn B. Maloney‘s book Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated: Why Women’s Lives Aren’t Getting Any Easier and How We Can Make Real Progress for Ourselves and Our Daughters, which I wrote about a while ago. It was originally published by Prism magazine in 2007, and Maloney said it made the strongest case against sex trafficking she had ever seen.
Posted by Becky @ 9:53 am | Comments  

Amazing women

December 9, 2010 | Women

Remember how I said I’ve always wanted to gather a powerhouse panel of amazing women? I want Helen Mirren on it. Did you see her at The Hollywood Reporter Women in Entertainment Breakfast? That’s why.

(Thanks, Melissa at Women & Hollywood, for posting this video.)

Posted by Becky @ 4:40 pm | Comments  

  • Elsewhere

  • View Becky Gjendem's profile on LinkedIn

    Follow BeckyDMBR on Twitter

    Somebody likes me