I don't really want to have to tell my harassment stories. I have many of them. But every time I tell one of those stories, it feels as though I'm required to strip naked and walk through the streets in order to make my point. Guys have asked me what I was wearing. Women asked how much I had to drink. The first time I tried to tell one of those stories, I could see the guys who tried to picture it in their minds, a titillation, with the younger, sweeter, prettier me as the star. Now, thirty-three years later, I see people cringe, doubt, shudder at the thought of this old woman, this wrinkled, tired, angry woman being the object of harassment. They can't imagine it being true.
Don't get me wrong-the #MeToo revolution is a long time coming and I'm grateful for it even if it's hard to speak out. There's a gratitude for your Thanksgiving table, the #MeToo revolution.
Can you imagine that conversation?
Mom has just put the turkey on the table. The scene is classic. The food is gorgeous. Your brothers and sisters sit there, even your Trump-loving brother-in-law-TLBIL is what you call him privately with your husband. You can barely look at TLBIL while he goes on and on about the ignorant libtards in this country as if none of them sit around the table with him. Right now, he's talking about how Mary was a teenager and Joseph was a thirty-two year old man and that makes Roy Moore okay in his eyes. If he could only go to Alabama and vote for that good Christian man, he would. Why should a perfectly good representative suffer for what happened thirty years ago, dammit.
Dad, at the head of the table, hushes everyone by holding up his carving knife as if in toast. Then, Mom sits down and reminds him that you all haven't gone around the table with your gratitudes yet.
"The food will get cold," he mutters.
Your baby sister, the loudmouth, the rabble-rouser, the militant feminist who's always going at it with TLBIL over equal pay for women, starts first, always clockwise around the table ending with Dad.
"I'm grateful for the #MeToo revolution in which our society has finally begun to believe that if a woman dances naked on the table, she still has the right to say no to sex. Okay, I'll say it. When I worked at the cafe, my manager Al, got me cornered in the walk-in refrigerator and pulled out his-"
"Please!" your father interjects, "can we just have a nice Thanksgiving here?"
"No Dad," your sister replies, "because the patriarchy won't allow it, won't allow women access to contraceptives, won't allow women rights to our own bodies, won't allow us to tell our horrific stories about men who abused us, won't allow us to say no, to wear whatever the fuck we please without expecting to get assaulted for it."
"Well, if a woman wears a miniskirt up to her crotch, then she deserves what's coming at it." TLBIL says.
"Can we just have-"
"No Dad," your sister goes on, "because it's time for people to listen to women's stories. It's time for you, yes you, to finally listen to what I went through every day I had to work at that lousy place. I needed the money. I didn't want to wear that stupid short skirt they forced me to wear. I didn't want to have to always watch to see where Al was when I needed to go into the walk-in or anywhere else he might corner me. And hell, I didn't need you telling me that I'd never work in town again if I kept talking about it. You should have protected me, Dad. You should have sent the police to arrest that man the day I came home and tried to tell you that story. Instead, you asked me if I'd been flirting with him, fucking flirting. You told me not to get in a room alone with him. How was I supposed do that when he was my boss and told me there'd be a mandatory meeting at 7pm and I was the only one who showed up because I was the only one he told? You said I needed to keep quiet or I'd get into more trouble. Do you know how many girls Al has cornered in that walk-in refrigerator, Dad? Do you? Do you know how many girls were assaulted because you wouldn't let me tell my story when it happened ten years ago? Huh?"
And at that, your sister slams her hands on the table, bouncing the silverware, pushes the heavy chair back, and runs out of the room. Thanksgiving is over and we are grateful.
Maybe it's time for all of us to have a Thanksgiving conversation like that. Maybe that's what we're doing with all these god-awful stories, clearing the air, finally, and for a good reason. Maybe in a year or two, we can actually be grateful that this nasty part of our history, the repression and abuse of women at the hands of vile men who don't respect our boundaries, is finally something we look on as a part of our nation's growth toward a more equal society.
It's hard to speak out. I know. I have stories that will curl your toes. But I have to tell you this-on Thanksgiving, I will be truly grateful that we, as powerful women, are finally beginning to shout out our stories whether you men want to believe them or not.
Thank you for listening, jules