Be Strong, Speak up and People Will Listen

My Senior year of high school was full of AP classes, college courses that I was taking to try to eliminate courses I would need when I actually got into college.  Everyone in my school took Psych AP.  EVERYONE.  They all said the teacher was fantastic, the course itself was so interesting and best of all most of my friends would end up in my class with me!

In high school, I wasn’t the activist I was now.  I thought a lot of things and wanted to get involved but I never really had the confidence to do so.  I remained silent.

The very first day in my Psych class, we went through the usual introductions and met our outspoken teacher.  He was the kind of teacher full of energy and willing to push the rules a slight bit….

We began our very first class discussion about the differences between men and women.  As he lectured the topic slowly shifted to the reasons why men’s sports were much better than women’s.  Men were more entertaining and better athletes.  He just went on and on and on, bringing up ‘facts’ about how all the major games are men’s sports, the majority of the money from the school is received by the men’s teams, maybe if women’s teams were better athletes, they’d have more viewers, women’s sports were a joke.

I sat there stunned.  My heart was racing and more than anything I wanted to just scream at him, how dare he say that?  Those were blatantly sexist statements!  Women’s sports were a joke???????  I just sat there dumbfounded with my mouth open, looking around to see if anyone else was as surprised as I was and I wasn’t alone.

He continued bringing up what he called ‘facts’ and finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.  He said “women aren’t even in racing because they can’t do it.” and that was my last straw.  As many of you know, I was raise around Drag Racing and was always well aware of how women were viewed in the sport.

My hand shot into the air.  It was like it flew up all on its own, I had absolutely no control over it.  He paused and looked at me and said yes?  I told him “You know you’re wrong.  Shirley Muldowney began racing cars in the 1970s, she was a top fuel driver and men in the sport told her to get back to the kitchen where she belonged but she never listened to them and beat them.  Rhonda Hartman-Smith was another woman racing top fuel, Angelle Sampey races motorcycles and Melanie Troxel is coming back into the sport.  Who told you women can’t race cars?”

It just came out of my mouth and there was no way to stop it.  Just like my hand, it was a knee-jerk reaction, it just happened.  I had never spoken out like this to anyone, ESPECIALLY to a teacher or any adult in an authoritative position.  That statement stopped the few boys from laughing in the class and several more girls began to speak out.  However, it didn’t phase our teacher at all, he tried to argue with me and just make a complete joke of what I had just said.

The worst class in the entire world finally ended and I just unleashed my thoughts about this teacher to my friends who were with me.  How could everyone like him so much when he is so rude and narrow minded!!?? 

That night I went on my computer and made a list starting in the early 1900s of women in racing and their accomplishments, stapled it together and was ready for battle the next class period.

We all sat down, waiting and then he entered the room.  He started by saying he wanted to talk about yesterday’s lecture and I prepared to raise my hand again.  Then he dropped the bomb, it was an experiment, he didn’t actually believe any of what he said.  My mind was blown.  He went on to explain different concepts that applied to reactions by the class.  Then we continued our studies. He was not the horrible sexist monster I had battled with the day before!  He ended up being one of the greatest teacher I had during my high school career.

At the end of class, I went up to him and I told him I almost dropped the class! He told me that I surprised him, I seemed quiet and not the person to speak out first.  I laughed and presented him the list I made the night before to which he laughed and leafed through the pages.  He said “I like your dedication, you’re smart, you know how to argue.”

It was a long while after my senior year in high school, not until my senior year in college, that I remembered that I have a voice too.  I can speak my mind, I can argue intelligently about topic.  Instead of living a life of self doubt, lacking the confidence to say what we feel, we should all remember how capable we are and how our actions affect those around us.  I was the first to speak up in class during this experiment and after me other girls followed.  What if I had said nothing?  Would anyone have tried to say something?

Change happens when one person speaks.  That’s all that is needed, one person to raise their hand.  I’m not saying I changed the world in the slightest by that class room demonstration.   However people often say 2 things to me

1.Why do you keep talking about this stuff, nothing you do is going to change anything.

2. You should really just stop talking about this stuff.  Stop pulling out the feminist card (latina card, white card and the list goes on, who knew I was carrying so many cards with me?) every 5 seconds.  The only reason these problems like exist is because people of you keep going on and on and on and on about them.  If you just stop people will forget about it and they will be fine.

Each time these things are said to me, I remember that when one person speaks, those with similar beliefs go to them and then a group is formed.  That group grows and grows and grows until major changes are be made.  That is a fact.

I will never stay silent because as a society have the ability to change.  We have come so far, but there’s more to be done, not only in the states but around the world where women aren’t so lucky.

Don’t let lack of support or criticism of your voice ever stop you.  Be strong, speak up and people will listen.

♥ Meggie

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Why do you always blame men??

I am involved with a variety of issues which are typically considered “women’s” issues.  Domestic abuse, sexual assault, street harassment, human trafficking, subjects viewed as men attacking women, men hurting women, men treating women (for lack of a better word) like shit.  My Facebook wall is a public service announcement 24/7, filled with articles about men taking advantage of women under the influence or how men need to respect women and not shout at them, how women shouldn’t be forced to change the way they dress because some man will shout a lewd, disrespectful comment, men need to change, not women.

Because of all that, I typically get asked why do you always blame men?  There are two parts to this answer.

I am a firm believer that men don’t rape women, men don’t hit women, men don’t assault women, men don’t harass women in the streets.  Rapists rape women, abusers hit women, assault women, shout at women.  If I was passed out, none of the men I hang out with would rape me, they would take care of me.  If I was walking down the street with men I know, they wouldn’t shout at a woman.  If they like her, they would speak to her as an equal.  If they get mad at a girlfriend, they won’t hit her.  Why won’t they do these things? Simple, because real men treat women as equals.  Men respect women, men love women and men take care of women.

The second part of this answer is that a large part of my advocacy and public education is regarding men.  I strongly believe that men are incredibly underrepresented when dealing with DV/SA (domestic abuse/sexual assault) and a variety of other issues.  As a society, we tend to view these as a woman’s problem because the majority of the victims are women and majority of the perpetrators are men.

Not only that, men face different types of problems when trying to speak about any assaults.  “Of course men can’t get raped because a real man is strong and can defend himself.”  “Women cannot sexually assault men, they always want sex, DUH!” “Real men can take care of themselves, right?” This ridiculous stereotypes make it exceptionally difficult for men to disclose their abuse, especially if  a woman is the perpetrator.  This is the main reason why male assaults are so under reported.  This also makes it almost taboo for society to discuss male sexual assault.  Many people don’t know that 1 in 6 men are sexually assaulted before the age of 18, that men can get raped by women, that men do seek out services from DV/SA organizations.  At Mutual Ground, a DV/SA agency in Aurora, 3% of their clientele is men and that is slowly growing.

To create a society where women won’t be harassed in the street, where women won’t be assaulted or raped is to create a society where men can experience the same.  Men deserve as much respect, love and protection as we do as women.  Men deserve the right to come out and receive help & support after an assault.  We have to work together.  We can’t continue to blame 1 sex for “causing” this problem, this epidemic because this isn’t a women’s issue, this is a people’s issue.  Both men and women are the cause of it and both men and women are the victims of it.  Just because the percentage of victims is greater for one gender doesn’t mean the other isn’t affected.

I don’t blame men.  Those articles on my Facebook page aren’t about men.  They are about the real perpetrators, the rapists, the abusers, the cat callers, the street harassers.  Those people make society unsafe and those are who I speak out against, not men.

Bold Moves

I am a very anxious person.  I don’t really like going places alone, I am terrified of new people (even though I adore being around people) and I am afraid to try new things, to speak my mind. 

A lot of that has changed throughout the year and I’ve worked hard at dealing with my anxiety.  I go a lot of places by myself, I have pushed myself to be in positions that make me anxious and scare me so I can conqueror those fears and that has really helped me.  I am shedding these layers of anxiety and fear and just going for it, embracing life with nothing holding me back.

Now, I’m going to do something that makes me very anxious, I am going to plan an event.  I don’t mind planning events for others, I love it, but this one will be planned and hosted by me.  I have talked to several friends who are more than willing to help and participate.  My biggest fear though is that no one else will show up!

I want to engage my community and surrounding communities in raising awareness of domestic abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking.  Those are very difficult topics to talk about, so I have no idea where to start in planning this.  I have people who are willing to speak, myself included, but I’m not sure what else to include.  I’d love to have a day long event, where people can spend time and eat, have fun, raise money for various nonprofits but also learn about what is going on in our own backyard.  I want to bust the myths surrounding assault and trafficking, I want to come together as a community to work toward an end.

I am so excited that I am going for this and that all of my friends and family are so incredibly supportive.  I love sharing information and my own experience.  Sometimes people think they are all alone or they’re embarrassed about what they have gone through in life.  I know that’s how I felt.  I didn’t want to admit the kind of relationship I was in to people around me, I didn’t want to admit to myself that I was with someone who could care less about me.  I’m hoping if this event is successful, it will provide resources if anyone is in a situation like that.

If anyone has any suggestions how to engage my community, marketing or ideas for how to make this a fun day, please share with me!  I’d love to hear what you have to say.

♥ Meggie

A Porn Star Kind of Day

So some events have happened to me recently that I have not liked at all.  I’ll start with the second one first.

Just yesterday I was in downtown Naperville with my friends and as we were crossing the street we heard from behind us “Hey babe, check out that ass” and a whistle.  Yes that whistle, the ones the cartoon coyotes in Zoot Suits make.  I was furious.  That’s just disgusting and I don’t care if it wasn’t directed at me, it doesn’t matter.  To address a woman like that is revolting.

The other incident is when I went to wash my car just the other week.  The house kiddie corner from us is now a bachelor pad.  The first two guys that moved in are nice, just quiet and keep to themselves.  Now they have a minimum of 6 cars in the driveway every day, if not more and some of the guys over there aren’t quite as quiet.  I went out to wash my car, as I do every weekend when the weather is nice enough.  I don’t wear anything scandalous, I’m in shorts and a T-shirt.  Sometimes when it gets really really hot, I’m talking 95 or higher with almost 100% humidity, I’ll wear a bikini top but only go out when my dad is out there with me to avoid putting myself in a situation where grown men shout out of car window at me like baboons.

Anyway, I’m washing my car fully clothed and some of the guests of my neighbors came out from the garage, walked to the end of the driveway to watch me wash my freaking car!  I guess I was having a porn kind of day or something because I felt like I was putting on some sort of show!  Seriously!?  Was that necessary??  I wasn’t dousing myself in water, I wasn’t stripping down, I wasn’t sticking my butt out as I bent over, I wasn’t showing anything, but they treated me as though I was performing a strip tease in my driveway!  It made me feel awful.  That’s the moment when a simple check out which could be a compliment turns into something that is degrading, making me feel like a  sexual object rather than a person.

I completely understand men will check out women and women will check out men, and sometimes you present yourself in a way that you might get more glances, for example a woman in a bikini top or a man shirtless.  I’ve checked out guys before and I’ve seen guys check me out and my friends out with just a simple quick glance, nothing creepy or not with a long stare or anything like that.  However it is disgusting when a simple “check out” turns into shouting explicit thing out car windows or hooting or whistling or watching someone from a driveway!  Come on!!  That is really disgusting and not classy at all.  Ladies, I’m not excusing you from this either because it is just as disgusting and distasteful when you do it too.

So go ahead, check out someone of the opposite sex or same sex, but don’t treat them like they are solely a sexual object there for your viewing pleasure.  That will make the other person feel like crap and it’s degrading, whether a man or a woman is doing it.  Just think about it next time you go to check someone out.