I have been in deep reflection over this “Me too” phenomenon. I have been giving it careful consideration trying to tally those moments that would allow me to say, ah yes, it has happened to me, too. It turns out, I don’t think I can say, “me too” quite that easily.
There was this one time when I was a teenager. I was waiting at a bus stop when a creepy guy in a wheelchair wheeled himself right up next to me and grabbed my knee. He was easy to escape. I just got up and walked away. I turned back to make sure he wasn’t hot on my heels and noticed that he was missing the same exact knee that he touched on me. Maybe he was just feeling nostalgic for things passed. Maybe he was just copping a feel. Either way, I jumped onto the first bus that arrived oblivious whether it was the right one to get me home. Thankfully, it was and the creepy wheelchair guy with his missing leg shrunk into the distance.
As a freshman in college, my rag tag friends and I decided to spontaneously drive to New Orleans from Tallahassee for Mardi Gras. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a car between us. I remembered Drew from philosophy. He had a car. We convinced him to join the fun and without any idea where we were going, where we’d be staying, we all piled in his car and took off for the Big Easy. In this story, Drew was a perfect gentlemen. It’s the crowds that were the aggressor.
I just remember the massive, oppressive, stifling crowds that could so easily just sweep you up and carry you off, grabbing and groping tits and ass along the way (never pussy, that’s just wrong, but really isn’t it all wrong??). The hands came out of no where and everywhere. I had to get out of that fucking crowd. There were no faces so you couldn’t admonish the attackers. After a few hurricanes, it didn’t matter quite as much. I also remember sitting on the side of the street watching the parades, catching beads while sitting next to the actress that played Punky Brewster. We got plenty of beads and the funny thing is neither of us ever lifted our shirts.
What I do know is that as a female I have had to quiet myself. I have had to subdue my shine. I have had to lower my head, avoid eye contact, as to not welcome an attack.
When I was in residency, one of my attendings had my creep meter resounding at full blast. I wasn’t the only one, our whole group noticed and met with the administration to voice our concerns. I didn’t instigate this effort, but after that meeting he somehow turned his focus on me. He also went to administration and complained about my attitude. They recommended that I seek counseling. I didn’t have to, but I obliged. The Psychiatrist said he wasn’t sure why they made me come, told me to just put my head down and get through it. Don’t make waves. Don’t say anything. Just finish. Graduate. And get the fuck out of there. He said it just like that. So I did. I quieted myself. I dulled my shine. I endured. And I hated myself for it.
Years later, I ran into another former resident. She told me to look up that attending from years before. She wouldn’t tell me why, just said check him out. Turns out that asshole had lost his license to practice medicine because of inappropriate behaviors and prescribing practices. This is not so easy to do. Doctors almost never have to give up their licenses.
There have been numerous instances over my years of study where I had to make myself small. Quiet. Unheard. Dim my shine. To be fully me would be to overpower, subdue, not physically, but mentally the men in my vicinity. I learned that early on. Maybe even from my father. When my mother stepped out of line, he made sure she got right back in.
For some odd reason, I chose a career dominated by men. Men who are often quite brilliant and quite insecure. There were many times that I was embraced (and not in a pervy way). They saw my shine and encouraged it. Both men and women. Because women aren’t completely innocent. When a woman sees another woman step out of line, she knows it brings attention to us all. It puts us all in the crosshairs. Instead it was those people that encouraged me that I chose to emulate. My shine recognizes the shine in you and I want to encourage it. That’s why I do this job. The funny thing is when someone is bright and shiny, it doesn’t diminish those around them. We combine our brilliance. We become bigger and brighter together.
Me too. I have responded to the fear that those in authority have tried to use to control me. I have let the fear win. I won’t do it again. Nothing, no one, is worth diminishing your shine.