Me too!

Reading all the stories about sexual harassment under the #metoo thread has evoked a lot of memories for me.

I find myself reflecting on how deeply conditioned I was, and other women of my generation were, NOT to speak up.  So I want to share the story of the French Woman on the Train…

I was nineteen.

Traveling around Europe that summer of 1970, some of the time hitchhiking, some of that alone, let’s just say I experienced A Series of Unfortunate Events. I’m still alive to tell the tale, so it could have been worse. But in my proto-feminist consciousness of the time, my attitude was, “Why shouldn’t I do what I want just because men are creepy?”  Nonetheless, I had decided never to hitchhike again, but to go from Barcelona to Paris safely by train.

In the compartment with me were two men, European, fairly young and good-looking. On the seat across sat a young French woman, demurely reading a book.

One of the men sat next to me.

As the train sped northward through the night, he moved closer. His hand brushed my thigh. I moved over. He moved closer. His hand crept up my thigh. I moved further away. He moved closer…

Before long, I found myself sitting on the floor to get away from him.

He switched seats, and sat down next to the young French woman. She continued reading her book. He moved closer. His hand snaked up her thigh.

She picked it up, regarded it calmly for a moment, then took his ring finger and sharply jerked it backwards. I don’t think she actually broke it, but he yelped, swore violently, and moved away.

I looked at her with awe. Why hadn’t I thought of that?

Why was I sitting on the fucking floor?  It wasn’t as if I had considered fighting the guy or confronting the guy and decided not to. I hadn’t stopped myself out of fear. I simply hadn’t thought at all.

Confronting or raising a fuss or fighting back just weren’t even in my universe of possibilities. The creepy guy next to you at the movie theater is breathing hot and heavy—you move away. Who has ever stood up and yelled, “Help—this guy is harassing me!”

Until I saw that woman fight back, it had literally never occurred to me that you could.

That’s the ‘culture’ part of rape culture

—the invisible web of assumptions and expectations that we don’t think about because they have already shaped how we think and respond.  So don’t ask why women didn’t speak out.  Women didn’t speak out because women didn’t speak out.

And now we do.  That is how culture changes.

2 comments to Me Too!

  • Lynette Schmidt

    Thank you for this I have not posted with the run on Me Too. I was raped at 16 I did not succeed in fighting back wound up pregnant and forced to marry the rapist and live in a violent hell till 18. I did take my son and leave and fought back in every way I could to take care of my son and my life. This story brings tears to my eyes and heart and brings up such memory. 70 years ago even with a voice yelling stop the man who I was on a date with raped me. I did not want it did not know truly what was happening because sex did not exist in the world as it does today. Sadly the young women are now inundated with sexual content everywhere and still the voice is not a potent tool to stop this insanity.

  • I stopped hitchhiking after a wealthy businessman picked me up and pulled out his dick and said, “Have you ever seen one of these before?” I said, “Yes I have and yours is disgusting. Let me out now.” I got the car license and reported him to the police. They found out who he was and absolutely nothing happened. After reading this blog, I wish I had done the same thing to his dick that the woman did to that man’s finger!!

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