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10 September 2018, 08:47

I have always been a very strong, opinionated and aggressive woman. I have always tried walk the walk and talk the talk of a woman who will not be messed with, one with confidence and strength. I’ve been watching the #metoo movement and have some surprising thoughts on it. I believe that the movement is a broad broom, sweeping clean the floor – treating just about any allegation with the same weight as the most worst of revelations. That being said that I may perceive Louis C.K.‘s masturbating in front of women deserving of a different consequence and punishment than Bill Cosby’s serial drugging and raping of women, I do believe that the systematic whitewashing and disregard of abuses that the powerless suffer at the hands of the powerful needs the broad strokes of a brush that paints it all as wrong. Because it is all wrong. It all shouldn’t have happened. It all should be punished. And if these were just outlying cases in a system that DID give justice to the wronged, I think maybe there could be more recognition of subtleties and distinctions of individual cases. But, right now, I am in favor of letting the broom sweep it all clean. And well, I bet you’d be surprised, with my boisterously badass attitude, I also have my share of #metoo stories. People are under the assumption that we, as women, are in control of how we are perceived, treated, controlled (in some cases) and perhaps, abused (in many cases). I will share two of the more mild #metoo stories to show that even a woman, who is seen (for better or for worse) as tough and maybe immuned to such situations, can and was a victim.

Story #1.

I was a college photographer, and it was my freshman year. There was a large outdoor frat party going on that I was assigned to shoot and I was walking around the outskirts of the cordoned off parking lot, watching the dancing and events unfold, camera in hand. I had a couple of beers before hand, but not at all drunk or inebriated. I had my wits about me and I was alert to my situation. I wasn’t dressed “wrong” or “slutty”, which doesn’t matter anyway, since that is never a reason why blame should be laid at a woman’s feet as to why she was attacked or assaulted. I just stood, just watching the crowd when I had some drunk frat boy grab me and drag me to the side of the building. He had came up behind me, blindsided me, and I was easy to drag since I was off balance and caught by surprise. He, then, proceeded to pin my hands to the wall and started to kiss me. I did try to pull away, but he pushed his body against mine, trapping me against the wall. As he let go of one of my wrist to try and grope me, I elbowed him in the face, then he slapped me hard. I, then, brought the full force of my Nikon FM2 down onto his face, and got loose. I ran from the scene, and didn’t shoot another greek event until about 5 years later.

Story #2

Couple of years ago, I was hired as a art director for a food company in South Carolina. The man who I considered a shadow CEO, the man who brought the company to the states from abroad, but didn’t connected himself to the company legally, hired me. Even with a few very RED flags that came up during the interview, I went ahead and took the job since, I really needed one. During my tenure there, he was a giant bag of inappropriate and regularly and flagrantly was abusive to all the staff. Due to his unseemly and very improper comments on everything from the girls in the office to the way I was dressed, I had avoided ever trying to work alone with him. One of the last times we were alone together was in the temporary trailer set up as the offices were being renovated. It was late, and I had hurried to finish up some packaging branding. He was a short stout, boisterously vulgar Persian who swaggered and peacocked around continuously all day, day in and day out. He was of the mindset of being all powerful and could just about do anything he wanted to. I had gone into the smaller room where the printers were set up to get proofs. He had come in and shut the door behind him. He started toward me talking about my future and creativity and how I was an attractive woman. Well. I could be more attractive if I had dressed better or more as a woman. He crowed about how attractive women get ahead because of their beauty. He came nearer and nearer asking if I thought he was attractive. I then, bristled and in no uncertain terms told him whatever he thought was going to happen here, WASN’T. He laughed and continued toward me. I told him I was going to scream if he didn’t back off. He laughed and told me to go ahead. Then, thank fucking god, we heard the front door of the trailer open – it was the director of operations, which diffused the whole situation. I shouted a “hey” to the operations director, and got the hell out of there. About a week later, one of the office girls came to me with her story about this man coming on to her, and basically threatening her job if she didn’t comply. I told her she should go to the police and report it. This shadow CEO went out the country that month, and didn’t come back when he was scheduled to. Turns out, she did report it and he was wanted for questioning her sexual assault charge. The sheriff’s department came to interview me because it turns out, she had told everybody about this and I was the only one who told her to go to the police, so consequentially, they were told of my involvement, such as it was. He had one office girl charge him with rape, and this other had sexual assault. It had tossed the whole “company” in chaos and created an atmosphere of weirdness that hung heavy for the rest of my time there. He had stayed gone for about six months. I’m not sure what happened with either case because both women had left the company. I had not heard again from law enforcement and the shadow CEO was expected to return, which did not fill me with joy. When he came back, I made my departure two weeks later.

So. Those are the two stories I CAN tell in public.

It’s not how women (or men) presents themselves, or if she deserves it, or she set herself up for it, or any other bullshit like that. It’s the power that is held over them. It’s the dynamic of the powerful against the powerless. I present myself as tough and strong, sometimes as vulgar, aggressive and obscene, but that does not protect me from unwanted and inappropriate behavior. All the #metoo stories happened when I presented myself as appropriate, proper, strong and professional. None of this happened because I acted or didn’t act in a certain way. This happened because I was seen as a thing and not as a person. A thing that could be grabbed, and a thing that could be subjugated. Probably, it was even more appealing to be able to make submit an otherwise strong, aggressive woman who didn’t know her place – to conquer something, to bend something to your will. I don’t know. I have met many strong, good men who are bosses, who are friends, who are colleagues, who are partners, who are lovers. And I have seen those who aren’t good, who wield power (whether professional or personal) and revel in the unchecked abuse of their positions. I have had a few discussions about this of late, of how this has swelled into a witch hunt of sorts. I don’t have a strong opinion of whether it’s a witch hunt or not. I just know, I do have my stories. I know others who have theirs. And I DO know, there shouldn’t be so many stories from so many people.