Put Him Back in His Place
Why am I so mad about the presidential race? Because I’ve lived through this shit. I’ve been stalked while riding my bike, cutting and swerving through the neighborhood, trying to get away from the pickup truck, pedaling as fast as I could, realizing I couldn’t outrun him, couldn’t keep up my flight much longer. I’ve had a man press his hard penis against me in a crowd, leering at me in glee when I whipped around to find out what the hell was going on. I’ve been violently grabbed by my supervisor and forcibly kissed when I thought I was building a professional relationship.
That’s not why I’m mad.
I didn’t “report” these things because who knew there was a “thing” to report? Who knew pressing up against an unsuspecting woman was something men did to get their jollies? Who knew to call the police when I was stalked, fearing for my life, but steeped enough in the culture to know they’d ask, “But did anything happen?” Who knew I’d experienced what would later be called “sexual harassment” for “unwanted advances” in the workplace? Who knew that almost every woman in the world has endured this type of behavior in her everyday, day-to-day, day-after-every-damn-day, life? (If you can stomach it, read this Twitter feed on first assaults, but be prepared—it paints an awful picture of the world we live in.)
That’s not why I’m mad.
Okay, that’s a little of why I’m mad.
But the boiling anger comes because I thought we were past that shit. I thought the time when this type of behavior was shrugged off was over, kaput, done with. I thought we as a culture no longer responded to sexual assault by waving it off. Dismissing it. Calling it “locker room banter.” Gone were the days, I thought, when we accepted violating women’s bodies as normal male behavior because—shrug—”boys will be boys.” Yet, here we are in a national presidential election debating whether bragging about grabbing a woman by her most private part is a big deal. Listen to Trump’s supporters, trying to minimize it by calling it “potty mouth.” That’s a term you use for four-year-olds talking about doo-doo, not a grown man bragging about sexually assaulting women.
PSA break for a grammar lesson: “Grab” is a verb. A verb is used to indicate action. That is not talk, not words. It’s action.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. Grab them by the p**sy.”
“I’m allowed to go in, because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it…. ‘Is everyone OK?’ You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody OK?’ And you see these incredible looking women, and so I sort of get away with things like that.”
Just like the faceless man in the pickup truck who stalked a vulnerable rider on a bike: he did it because he could get away with it. And the leering man in the crowd who thought it was the funniest thing to assault me with his penis: he did it because he could get away with it. Oh, and I forgot the time the ex-governor of Mississippi catcalled me as I walked to court, just trying to do my job, carrying a damn briefcase. Or even the consultant who walked around my desk into my personal space and plopped into my desk chair, spreading his legs wide.
So forgive me if I identify with Hillary, standing on the stage, trying to carry on a professional debate. Only to be confronted with a man who loomed over her, invaded her space, blocked her path to the audience, stalked her across the stage, and glared down at her with rage as he threatened to put her in jail. That’s a man using his body to assert his dominance over a woman, a man who needs to be told to get back in his space.
Which is to say, thank God for the women who are standing up in droves and saying, “This happened to me.” And the men saying, “I don’t act like that.” Thank God for Anderson Cooper asking, “You have bragged that you sexually assaulted women—do you understand that?” Thank God for the pro athletes saying, “Not in my locker room, we don’t talk like that.” And thank you, Jesus, for all the women saying, “We know you, Donald Trump, and we’re putting you back in your place on November 8.”
Won’t you please do it, too? On election day, won’t you tell Trump to back off? With your vote, tell him he’s not gonna get away with it, not this time. Vote to put him back in his place.