October 17, 2017
I’ve been slow cooking my brain in all of the “Me too” these past few days. Not only have I seen how many women (and even men) in my life that have experienced these things, I’ve seen several men share and honestly apologize for their past behavior. I’ve been stewing in it quite a bit. Most importantly it’s caused me to reflect back on my past behaviors. I know things now I didn’t know then. I am guilty of things I know now to be creepy and inappropriate. I was handsy and overly persistent on several occasions. I make no excuses for it, and I’m not writing it off. Just because people do way worse shit than I’d ever consider doesn’t make it okay. It’s not enough to be sorry. I need to be better. And I have gotten better, and will continue to get better. I’m not going to be part of the problem again.
It’s gotten me thinking a lot about what the hell was going on in my head when I crossed those lines. The best I can come up with is that certain behaviors are so normalized (even celebrated in stories and films) that a lot of guys commit harassment without realizing that's what they are doing. Your typical rom-com and Hollywood love stories teach us that "persistence pays off" yet display behaviors that are absolutely not okay. The stuff guys pull in movies like Say Anything and The Notebook is framed as romantic but in reality it’s just downright creepy. It’s not okay to not back down when a woman tells you it’s not a good time for her (Say Anything), it’s not okay to (even as a joke) say you’ll kill yourself if she doesn’t go out with you (The Notebook). The level of “persistence” shown in these movies (and others like them) is actually stalking and harassment but men and boys are constantly bombarded with the message that’s what women want. The idea that “she’s just playing hard to get” contrasts with the far more important one that “no means no.” We shouldn’t normalize this shit and we sure as hell shouldn’t be putting it up on a pedestal.
I don’t share this to rationalize my behavior, or to make excuses. But rather to try and diagnose the issue at large. But I don’t think any man who blocked a woman’s exit or drugged their drink was at all confused about what she really wanted.
That said. Me too. I bumped into a big guy at a Flogging Molly show at The Vic, and spilled some of his beer. He said “You might as well drink the rest” handed me the beer and then grabbed my ass. While learning over the railing on the deck outside a bar in Des Moines (I’d stepped out to make a phone call) a large party of drunk middle-aged women arrived and several of them slapped me on the ass on their way in. Being in my early 20’s at the time, I was able to laugh that off. Once in a bar in Chicago I was very drunk and a guy kept buying me drinks (I was too drunk to realize that my glass kept getting refilled). He tried to take me home and when I told him I wasn’t gay he got aggressive “Why do you think I kept buying you those drinks, asshole!?” He found me later in the night and apologized. These are a just a few, but there’s not a lot more.
I don’t compare these things to what women face. I was able to laugh most of those off because I don’t face it constantly. At 5’7” (171cm) and 150lbs (68kg) with shitty posture I don’t cut the most intimidating figure, but I didn’t feel fear in any of those situations. Hell, in the second incident I even felt proud in the moment. Which is kind of fucked up. I think? It says a lot that I’m not sure.
But it comes down to this. We need to reflect on our past behavior and experiences. We need to be open and honest about that shit, even if it’s just to ourselves. We need to start seeing people as people, and stop seeing them as things. To anyone I have made uncomfortable, to anyone I've crossed a line with, I am deeply sorry. At one point I was part of the problem. Now I’m doing what I can to be part of the solution.