Two things to know: I rarely dream and if I do, I can barely remember what it was. That said, last night I had a dream and remember most of it. Also this post is overly simplistic, but this is an honest reflection of my dream from last night and part of my processing of years of systemic sexism.
I’m on a crowded city street with my oversized purse (I mean bag) hustling to my ending point. I’m side stepping and minding my own business, close to what I think is a Metro station when some bag just slaps my ass.
I’m describing something that happened a lot starting in middle school and am not referencing walking to the Metro. Walking while girl or women is something to be cautious of though. Starting in middle school my anatomy become fair game. I had to dress not for myself, but in defense to what a boy or man may react too. For years I did nothing, laughed it off and walked away because the few things I said something there was backlash. Who in middle school wants to be labeled a prude, a bitch, or cold? I was just looking for acceptance and often remained silent.
I stop slightly shocked (I’m 32 this should be done) and check who it is. It’s a man who walks off casually because he thinks he’s done nothing wrong. I become frozen. I do not know him and the flashbacks from the years flood me.
What does a girl or woman do when it happens? The context if off for this to be an appropriate behavior, I’m in public and do not know the man. I was taught stranger danger and that I had a safety bubble (which was violated in my dream). Yet so many times in my life, this unwanted touching (thank God it’s never been a groping) has been responded with ignoring and a little laugh.
My mouth starts to open and I yell, he touched me and I ran to find someone safe. Most of the crowd ignores me, a few women notice and I’m brought to a female police officer.
I can name off instances when I was in situations where I felt uncomfortable and just let an ass grab or something else breeze by. In fact, it got to a point where it felt normal and I never spoke up. I thank God to this day, that this aggressions never turned into sexual violence, into being raped.
I just accepted that my ass was going to be slapped, dressed appropriately, guarded my drinks at bars, watched out for my girlfriends’ safety… and all the other things girls and women are told to do so they aren’t asking for it.
The man doesn’t get caught in my dream. We look, but nothing.
I woke up this morning and as I took my shower I remembered. I rarely have spoken up for myself in those situations, but something happened in my sub-conscious last night. I’d like to think that I would have gone a step further and hit him with my oversized DC bag of tricks, but I at least said something.
But what is also telling is that only women came to my rescue. The men around in their well-fitting suits kept walking. This has been the norm for many of my gender (cis & trans). It’s okay to objectify us because, well, we are objects to be conquered. Women are not objects, we are fully functioning humans.
I have to think that this dream is related to the Presidential Election and all the backlash that Mr. Donald Trump has finally received. His bragging on sexual assault took it too far for many people (but not me) and lack of repentance even further. But what was ultimately highlighted was the systemic sexism that plagues our society. The one that teaches girls that they are not enough, that teaches boys that girls are objects. The one that makes it so a sorority girl doesn’t report rape because it will shut down there sorority on campus, that doesn’t prosecute men for sexually assaulting that woman. The one that takes it so women feel unsafe on the subway because a man feels entitled to grope her.
Now, I am not sure what the answer is, but I have a few quick suggestions:
- Talk and teach your children about consent.
- Teach boys and men healthy masculinity.
- Women, start speaking up and sharing your stories if it is safe for you to do so.
- Men, start listening to women.
- Men, start standing up for women and telling the Donald’s in your life that they are partaking in unacceptable behavior.
- Vote on November 8th. #nevertrump
Dream rewrite: Someone slaps my ass and I turn around immediately swinging my DC bag at the bag yelling, “did you just grab me?” He falls backward and those around me stop, check in on me, and someone has a chat with the man about his inappropriate behavior.