I used to just accept it. I even told myself it was “normal.” I used to pride myself on being one of only a few women in a male-dominated industry. Yet, I used to cry in my hotel room at work conferences and then convince myself I was just being weak. I would quickly change the subject when someone said something so inappropriate to me that it would make the group grow silent. I would watch what I drank and give myself a bedtime so that I didn’t give them an opportunity to make me feel like an object. If I wore an outfit that got me too much “attention,” I would banish it to the back of my closet so I didn’t get noticed as much. I used to stomach it…but that time has come to an end.
The #MeToo movement is in the headlines every single day, even more with the recent addition to the Supreme Court. It has taken many shapes and forms, from horrific stories of rape to men objectifying women just for walking a certain way. I consider myself one of the “lucky ones” because I was never raped or forced to unwillingly participate in a sexual act. Though, I find myself in recent days feeling tremendous guilt, because what I have tolerated for many years could be looked at as a starting point for men to go down a path of irrevocable violence.
I have spent 15 years in outside sales, spanning from my early twenties to my late-thirties, where I have openly allowed men to treat me inappropriately. From the comments about my looks and physical attributes to the occasional ass grab, it happens so often there is no way to keep track of how many times. I am great at my job, better than most men and women in my profession. Yet when I started my current position 8 years ago, at an introductory meeting with an important customer, the owner turned to my employer and said, “I see why you hired her.” It was insulting, degrading, and all four men in the room just laughed. I smiled and began a long career of allowing this to happen over and over again.
Yet in recent months, something in me has changed. Some people may say its age and being worn down after years of a slow burn of abuse. I attribute it something so much bigger. #MeToo has provided me with a sense of not being alone. It has allowed me to open up to people more, and instead of only crying in my hotel room, I have started reporting abusive behavior to make it clear it’s no longer tolerated. I speak openly to women about what is going on in my life, and it allows them to also open up and tell me their stories. Every woman has at least one story, and sadly, most women have many stories to tell.
#MeToo has made me so much stronger, but unfortunately, it also may make me unemployed. I would never be fired, because again, I am DAMN GOOD at my job. The choice to stay just may no longer be an option. As much as I want the industry I am in to change, it has been around for over 100 years and most likely will not. The men I work with will try to understand, and sometimes they even come close to it. They sympathize and say sorry, however they ask questions like “Was he drunk when he did that?” Because being drunk for men is an excuse to be inappropriate, but for women, it is looked at as a reason to question and doubt us.
Unfortunately, in all of this mess, there is a sweet, smart, beautiful 4-year-old little girl I need to look out for. I have lost countless hours of sleep in fear for her future. So it is my job to teach her to respect herself and demand respect from others. That she will always be more than a pretty dress or a flirty laugh. Her worth is endless, and she must always be treated as an equal, regardless of the circumstances. And that letting things happen to her, like I have let them happen to me, should no longer be an option for her generation.
Yet we are currently in a very unfortunate political climate that allows a United States President to openly mock a woman for telling her story. Even in 2018, we continue to make the abuses of women their fault and not the man’s. So I stand with my sisters and say #MeToo. I may have to leave a job over it, but that feels so very worth it.