A few days ago, I sat at my desk reading two articles that outlined in detail Harvey Weinstein’s harassment, assault, and intimidation of women.
As I read about the way he threatened and assaulted women – placing them in the position of giving him what he wanted or facing his wrath – which could (or would) essentially ruin their careers, I began thinking of my own run-ins with men who believed their physical or positional power allowed them to sexually threaten, touch, or intimidate me.
I thought all the way back to the neighbor boys in grade school who pulled some shit when my mother wasn’t home, and the bra-snapping in junior high, and the older cousin who stuck his hand down my shirt while I was sleeping. It was a family sleepover. I woke to his hand on my right breast and him looking at me, silently, like, “What?” Stunned, I didn’t say a word. He removed it eventually.
I hated myself for not yelling. I was ashamed and humiliated. I assumed I had done something terribly wrong to make him think he could do that to me. I never mentioned it.
I thought about the boss in the restaurant where I worked as a busser at age 16, the boss who told me there was “one way I wouldn’t lose my job,” pressing his erect dick against my thigh as I stood pinned against the kitchen wall. I wrote about that here.
I thought about the boss I had in college who told me one day that he thought “it would be a really good idea if we had sex,” and I realized he may fire me if I didn’t fuck him. I didn’t. I began looking immediately for a new job.
I thought about the man who stuck his hand up my skirt as I sat at a bar stool. I thought about the two men who tried to rape me on two occasions, and my narrow escapes, and I thought about the strangers who took my hand and placed it on their penises more times than I can count.
I thought about all that, and how we elected a man who bragged about this exact type of assault and I got fucking angry.
I shared this post on my Facebook page and wrote these words: “#HarveyWeinstein, fuck you, and our pussy-grabbing president, and everyone defending the sexism of either of you. May you walk into the fire of a million women sick of your shit.”
I didn’t think about it. I just posted it, in anger. And then, I began receiving the standard disgusting comments one expects when one states such things publicly, but a couple of comments indicated that my anger was “not helpful.” And that got me thinking.
First of all, I’m nobody’s fucking life coach.
If I ever indicated that I’m here to guide spiritual development, well, I didn’t, because that would be delusional. I am a fucked-up, often immature, mercurial human being waking up each day and hoping for the best. If I were some sort of mystic, I’d be somewhere leading silent retreats with a stoic face, as opposed to here, at my desk, eating a cowboy cookie and wondering if you’re going to like my blog post.
I can say I do my best every day, but the fact is my “best” is occasionally (often? regularly? weekly?) rather pathetic.
I’m human at best. A complete asshole at worst. And every day feels like a battle between my higher and lower selves.
And yes, my higher self knows screaming FUCK YOU and FUCK YOU and FUCK YOU from the rooftops is not particularly “helpful.” Nobody’s going to go home and say, “Wow, Janelle screaming FUCK TRUMP SUPPORTERS sure did enlighten me! I see it all differently now!”
And yet, I’m not entirely convinced our anger on this front – the sexual assault/rape culture front — isn’t necessary and vital.
Because women have been told since childhood to shut the hell up about these small and large assaults because “that’s the way boys are.” It’s just “locker room talk,” you know.
We’ve been taught since birth to be grateful because it could have been worse.
We’ve been taught to be quiet because you don’t want to be one of those women, the ones who walk around accusing men of every little infraction. Consequently, women minimize and overlook and tell ourselves “It wasn’t that big of a deal.”
Later, at night, we shudder to remember. And later still, with our friends, we realize every single goddamn woman we know has been assaulted or molested or harassed at least once.
We’re taught to ask ourselves what we could have done to cause it. We’re taught that our bodies were made and built for male consumption – don’t get too fat. Don’t get too thin. Don’t show too much skin. Don’t use your breasts for breastfeeding. Don’t complain. Don’t attack. Don’t be too sensitive.
We’ve been taught to cover ourselves to avoid getting raped, to carry pepper spray and not get too drunk and look around at night while walking and avoid certain places – and we’ve been taught that this is mature, sound womanhood.
We’ve been taught how to WOMAN safely.
We’ve lived and breathed this information and LIVED and BREATHED it again – this way of being – every fucking day since we knew we were “women,” and it’s all been done with an air of normalcy, an air of “nothing to see here, folks, just another woman trying to stay safe from men who want to assault her.”
SO FUCK YEAH WE ARE ANGRY.
Wouldn’t you be?
Fuck yeah we get to scream for a bit. Fuck yeah we get to come out and yell that we are done living like this and it isn’t “normal” (or shouldn’t be), and we will fight and burn this shit down and maybe our fury right now is our fuel — some fire in our step, some flames to our voices, because we are tired of being attacked and silenced.
Attacked and blamed.
Attacked and told how to not get attacked again.
Attacked and told how to keep our daughters safe from attack.
Sometimes rage is the first liberating emotion. Sometimes we have to recognize we are furious before we can move on to other emotions.
Sometimes rage leads us for the first time to our voices.
I believe this anger needs to bubble up and out of us in one steaming explosion of united rage, so we can come together in the pain and love that moves past anger and into a planet that’s safe for our daughters.
Nobody asked me if I wanted my body violated. Nobody asked me if I wanted bosses who suggested sex as my obligation to them. Nobody asked me if I wanted to play along with this, and I did, and it got me nothing but a pussy-grabbing piece of shit president.
And the nation made clear it doesn’t want to hear our voices.
So yes. If we have to scream, we will scream. And if it’s in rage, it’s in rage.
How about this?
We will be helpful when you stop violating our bodies in person and legislation.
Until then, rage on, sisters, because I know it’s rooted in love. Love of ourselves, our daughters and granddaughters and sons and grandsons. Sometimes love is fierce as hell – a fighting, relentless, burning thing – and the nation has made it clear it won’t hear our whispers.
So fuck whispering.
We’ve tried that. It’s time for something else. We get to be furious. We get to fight. And we get to win.
Jamie MonizTuesday, 17 October, 2017 at 11:31
Yes! Rage is the great game changer. Rage saved my life. Rage burns down injustice so we can plant new seeds of justice. It is necessary. I stand with you and countless women who have had to endure the atrocities of this male-dominated world. We will not go quiet into that good night. We will RAGE against the dying of the light. Thank you for sharing your truth. You are not alone.
Michelle OlsonTuesday, 17 October, 2017 at 12:15
AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!
ScottieTuesday, 17 October, 2017 at 12:15
Ok so play a stupid thought game for a second….here’s what I don’t get…Why aren’t men mad? I mean even the sexist jerks. Some guy is advocating, talking about, or getting away with touching their woman. Why is that ok? Even the uber macho full of testerone cartoon “man” “protects his woman (or property, whatever). I just don’t understand why more men aren’t upset. And how in heavens name did this go on for SO long and SO many times? I guess I can sort of see questioning he first accuser (I can’t but I’m trying to be fair), but the 2 through 16 or he 20th? No one thought…”hmm, perhaps there is something to his?”
I’m angry. I’m angry that some woman marginalized my friends who came forward to talk abut their struggles on MY Facebook page. However, I’m also proud of each one of
Them who jumped to defend everyone else there against her nonsensical argument and ridiculousness. It hurts that women contribute to the problem
Even now. 🙁 I’m mostly sad because that sucks.
Lizzie LauTuesday, 17 October, 2017 at 12:27
When it was just me I did brush it off as no big deal or even blamed myself. Now that I’m a mom to a daughter, I’m fucking furious, and I’m passing the rage on to her.
A boy at school slapped my daughter, and every other kid in the line, as he ran by. I asked her if anyone did anything about it. She said, “I did Mom. I chased him down and hit him back.” “You slapped him?” I asked. “No mom, I HIT him.” she said and showed me her fist. I high-fived my 7 yr old for punching a kid, and will continue to encourage her to unleash the rage every single time anyone touches her without her consent.
RainTuesday, 17 October, 2017 at 12:47
Mad respect for you!
I am sorry that happened to your daughter and am glad she stood strong for herself.
My youngest, 5 1/2yrs, was assaulted at school by 3 boys in Gr 4. They had sticks, she didn’t, they over powered her and assaulted her.
I am joining you on teaching my daughter to stand up and protect her body.
Lou TaylorTuesday, 17 October, 2017 at 12:30
Well excuse the fuck out of me but who dictates what is helpful to another person? If they want to be HELPFUL maybe they should write something uplifting that will be total bullshit at best. Some of us found it very helpful that someone validated our pisstivity and showed us not only was it ok to be pissed but we weren’t weren’t the only ones who have been silently seething for a very long time. Some us probably rivaled Mt. St. Helen when we finally blew and screamed “FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING FUCKER.” The abscess filled wound can not heal until the muck and the pus have been drained so all those Pollyanna personality types can just go fuck themselves. It was liberating and satisfying and it felt good to shout it right out loud. It felt so liberating I was tempted to go find the assholes who told you that and kick their asses. Anger feels GOOD. It’s the thing many of us have denied ourselves because we cloaked our feelings of shame and self doubt in a misplaced humility that was completely unnecessary. Wasn’t very helpful my ass. Maybe those who felt obliged to share that with you should move to D.C. I hear the White House is looking for speech writers. The rest of us will stay
.here and be real and feel uplifted by your willingness to share
DawnTuesday, 17 October, 2017 at 13:01
You are the coolest !!!!
CarisTuesday, 17 October, 2017 at 13:23
thankyou Janelle for your wit and courage and words of honesty, people like you who speak out loud speak for all of us, we need you. Not all of us can be brave so some must be. Even witnessing rape and assault is traumatic, even hearing about it is traumatic. .. to be mocked and belittled for wanting it to stop is a form of mental asssult that sinks deep into our bodies and minds. Thankyou for acknowledging the reality of rape and sexually intertwined threat and coercion. much love c
LisaTuesday, 17 October, 2017 at 14:32
Here’s a song. It makes me feel better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5G8XRd8Fe0
Peggy MTuesday, 17 October, 2017 at 16:38
wow, what a song!
JenTuesday, 17 October, 2017 at 14:33
Every day we have the opportunity to speak up or act up.
Wish we didn’t have to, but this is the world we live in. Anger drives us, anger can be so motivating!
Thank you for writing this.
CorbyTuesday, 17 October, 2017 at 15:45
Fuck. This. Culture. My life didn’t change after a drug infused rape, countless incidents of pawings and guffawings, cornerings and pokings, threats and Cat calls until
I found my anger and rage hidden deep below my shame. I still fight to unbury my voice. And even now, I can barely breathe when I see some dude leer at my 8 year old daughter. What the fuck??? This is not a girl’s rite of passage… this is crime… pure and simple. We need a revolution – and only a group of angry women (and the men who agree with them) can make it happen.
Liz HigginsTuesday, 17 October, 2017 at 16:21
Amen sister! Yep yep and fuck yeah.
Peggy MTuesday, 17 October, 2017 at 16:44
I am sick of being told that I can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I’m sick of being told to make him think it’s his idea. Or that I should wear a skirt and show off my legs because men like that. Or I should “smile”. I’ve been angry for a long time. But I have felt like it was an individual battle. Oh, sure, there are the women in the spotlight–the Betty Friedans and the Gloria Steinems–but they weren’t helping my little world. And they weren’t enough. It is going to take our collective voices tinged with anger, infused with anger, all about anger, before it changes.
RosaTuesday, 17 October, 2017 at 17:51
Anger. gets. shit. DONE.
That is all.
Quinn BiscoffWednesday, 18 October, 2017 at 8:56
AnnTuesday, 17 October, 2017 at 18:52
TTuesday, 17 October, 2017 at 21:15
I was sexually assaulted exactly 9 days ago. I’ve spent the last week scared to tell my husband out of fear that he’ll take the other guy’s side and assume that I wanted it. Which I did not, in any way. I needed to read this exactly right now. My broken heart thanks you, Janelle.
LorainWednesday, 18 October, 2017 at 9:45
I am so sorry this happened to you. It’s not your fault. None of it. It’s not your fault.
TWednesday, 18 October, 2017 at 10:58
Thank you <3
LiaWednesday, 18 October, 2017 at 7:29
I have spent a couple of minutes thinking about the women I know that were against the #metoo. It angered me and I wondered where that came from, and if I was wrong. Now I feel better just thinking “Fuck them!”
Quinn BiscoffWednesday, 18 October, 2017 at 8:55
preach lady!! #angergetsshitdone
i have been told i take politics too personally
are we on the same planet?
politics are personal, they are my views and values . . ? duh
it’s always refreshing to see people get pissed like i get pissed <3
if we speak confidently, strongly
we are being masculine
an affront to men
they hate us for it
BWednesday, 18 October, 2017 at 9:39
I just read this post while waiting to see if I had to serve on a jury for a rape trial. As part of the impanelment process we were questioned individually. I just had to admit to a room full of strangers that I had been sexually assaulted. I had never uttered those words except to my husband. I was thankfully excused from the jury. As I left the room, I felt the same burning shame that has haunted me for 30 years, rise to the surface. By the time I reached my car, tears were spilling down my cheeks. As I sit here trying to compose myself it occurs to me how ANGRY I am. I am ANGRY that this act of evil has shaped so much of my life. I am ANGRY that I have been unable to move beyond that terrible moment in time. I am ANGRY that I have let the secrecy and shame immobilize me. For the first time in my life, I don’t think I can keep the anger inside. It’s time to let it out. Thank you so much for being a genuine and compassionate human being whose writing continues to amaze me.
LorainWednesday, 18 October, 2017 at 9:40
“First of all, I’m nobody’s fucking life coach.” I definitely will be using this phrase in a way that won’t constitute plagiarism.
And, thank you for this.
StaceyWednesday, 18 October, 2017 at 9:45
Burn it all down. If not for me and you, then for our daughters and sons.
DaphneWednesday, 18 October, 2017 at 14:10
I went to fill up my car this morning. The pay at the pump feature was not working, so I had to walk across the parking lot to go inside the station to pay. As I was filling the tank, I noticed 2 men in construction gear sitting in a pickup truck, drinking coffee. They had a perfect view of me, my car, and the parking lot. My first thought was, “Oh shit. I am going to have to walk in front of them, on full display.” I was immediately uncomfortable.
My second thought was wishing that I was dressed differently – not in a dress and heels. Maybe then they wouldn’t notice me.
Think about that. A 53 year old woman – immediately made uncomfortable by the mere idea of walking in front of 2 men in a dress and a pair of heels. Why? Because we live in a society where catcalls and rude comments are the norm, not the exception. Because we live in a society where men think they have the absolute right to judge women by our bodies. Because we live in a culture that teaches women that attention from men – be it positive or negative – is affirmation of our self worth. Because we have been raised to believe that that kind of thing is ‘harmless’, and if it bothers us, we are ‘too sensitive’. Because sexual harassment and abuse and assault are so prevalent and pervasive that even those of us on the receiving end have been forced to downplay them – just to fucking survive. So, yes, fuck whispering. Fuck apologizing. Fuck tip-toeing around the real fucking issue. Fuck it all. I am fucking furious.
JoodzyWednesday, 18 October, 2017 at 14:41
You’re nobody’s life coach? Sorry lady, but you’ve been coaching me for a couple of years now.
Margaret SkyWednesday, 18 October, 2017 at 15:49
Thing is, no one gets to tell anyone what to feel. I mean they will try, but we each have the right to our emotions. Anger and rage are natural responses to having our boundaries violated. Anger prepares us to fight or flee, which is what I bet many of us so wish we could have done when we were violated. But for many of us, we didn’t. Because this shit has been so normalized in our culture we are taught to take it and keep quiet. And we’re angry because we’re saying, “Wait, Society, this whole thing you told me about how this is normal and okay is wrong. I’m done with keeping quiet.”
MaryElWednesday, 18 October, 2017 at 18:15
Yes and yes. Keep resisting and speak up for the ones who can’t, or are afraid. The fear is real.
MaxineThursday, 19 October, 2017 at 0:07
My initial reaction to the #metoo campaign was that I hadn’t ever been raped or physically assaulted to the extent where I felt like a victim. But I was completely in team #IBelieveHer . Then I started to think and I could name multiple events just in the last year alone that put me into the category where I could say #metoo.
My problem was that I actually believed the bullshit of “he is just being XNAMEX – you know how he is” or “Boys say silly things without thinking” locker talk.
And I got angry too. I got angry with them, but more so, I got really angry with myself for accepting this behavior (especially now that I am a mom to a 2year old girl and I want her to live in a world without this kind of behavior or god forbid, fear)
My bosses boss (male) thought it would be “amusing” to walk into the office one day and (loudly) ask me if “I got any over the weekend”. In front of his boss, the Marketing director (male) and one of his fellow Sales Directors (also male) – All 3 of them laughed at the “joke” and at me turning bright red in open plan working space. I instantly reacted and told him that it was “not appropriate”. Suddenly, the MD & other SD are trying to back pedal and act as if they didn’t egg him on by laughing. No apologies, nothing. They quickly disappeared into a boardroom for a meeting, and I headed to the bathroom for a good cry. The part that got me was the fact that neither of the other 2 men (espeically his own boss)reprimanded him – instead, I was treated as a killjoy for not having a sense of humour. And I was angry at myself for getting upset and taking it so personally (background = trying for baby #2 and thwarted with health issues to conceive)
Time to get angry indeed – fuck life coaching… especially when I live my the Janelle Mantra of “DON’T BE A DICK”
MargoFriday, 20 October, 2017 at 16:49
Yes! Rage is what we need. Get angry… get your voice heard. Stand up and yell ! Good for you… and thank you for your voice! I hear it here in Canada!
TelaSunday, 22 October, 2017 at 11:20
I, and women I know, have all told ourselves it wasn’t that big a deal. Thank you for saying that it is. And we’re allowed to get pissed.
PattyThursday, 2 November, 2017 at 17:14
I’ve been trying to figure out what my sense of unease, chaos, anger, fury, general pissed-off-ness is recently….after finally coming to terms with the general feeling of being constantly “triggered” during and after the election….I was drugged and raped when I was a 21 year old virgin by a man who is known in the tech world…..I looked him up today, for the first time in several years, the urge felt a little out of the blue. It’s been 30 years (I just realized) and I have no sense of closure, no sense of any kind of dealing with it….there was no physical violence, I actually enjoyed the sex, but I absolutely told him I wouldn’t have sex with him and he decided I would, actually took me across state lines to do it. I am a 51 year old woman, mother of two daughters, divorced from a man who didn’t remember when he was the first person I ever told about it….I am angry all the time, for myself, for our daughters and sons, for the society that doesn’t care enough to see the damage being done and support any change…..I started reading your blog when I saw your piece about white privilege. I check in every once in awhile, helped a lot to think to do it right after I looked “him” up…..your anger and insight is all appropriate and so helpful to people who are maybe having trouble thinking it’s okay to feel that way, that it’s okay to put it out there. Thank you.
sage wilsonFriday, 3 November, 2017 at 4:43
I was sexually assaulted by my 83 year old grandfather just over 2 years ago. I had just been released from a mental hospital and was spirited away by my mother to spend some time with the grandparents as some sort of a safe haven from my “evil” FTM partner (their words). When he pickedme up from the train station he made me kiss him on the lips and said “Are you going to love me?” I said yes. Clearly he did not mean love in the way that a granddaughter loves her papaw.
The first day I was there, he came into the living room, said “I heard you needed some money,” and then stuck his hand in my panties. I should have pushed him by the so he would have fallen back and hit his head on the marble floor. I should have called the police, but I was afraid they wouldn’t believe a mentally ill person over a United Methodist minister.
The next day, he came into my room and licked his lips and said “Let me see it, I’ll make you feel real good.” I said no, scrambled across the bed and stood with my back to the corner. He said “It’s ok” and I said no, it’s wrong, it’s illegal! He said “It’s ok, I’m your grandpa and this will make you feel better.” I continued to refuse and he eventually left the room. I flung myself down onto the bes and screamed my lungs out, crying uncontrollably. He came in to the room again a little while later and said “Please stop crying. I’ll be a good grandpa. I won’t touch you. Only nice hugs.” Then he left the room.
I spent the rest of the day wondering whether or not to speak up, while he dressed in his suit and went to church.
I called my cousin who is a doctor and told her what happened and she offered to buy me a plane ticket to get home. When my favorite uncle who lives with them came home from work, I told him. He said “That’s impossible. Are you sure that’s what happened? Are you taking your meds properly?” He has a son who also suffers from bipolar disorder. HE DIDN’T BELIEVE ME. I called the woman who birthed me, whom I thought of all people I could truat and who would believe me. She listened with half an ear, and when the call was over she didn’t hang up properly and I heard her say to my dad “She’s acting cray-cray.” Finally, I called Bren, my partner. In tears, I told her exactly what had happened and Bren of course believed me and immediately offered to drive from Austin to Dallas to pick me up.
I decided enough was enough and I called my grandma who was at church by then. She answered the phone and said “You know we’re in church,” and I said yes, but it’s an emergency. I told her what gpa had done and she said “We’ll talk about it when we get home.”
I spent the next hour packing, trying to compose myself and figuring out what to say.
When the grandparents arrived home from church, they called my uncle into the living room and all sat down. I stood on the other side of the room and said my piece. My grandma said “Buist, how could you?” She had this look in her eyes that told me she was not surprised. She also said”Honey, that’s impossible, your grandpa is impotent.” My uncle continued to deny the possibility. My grandfather said nothing. Then he went to lay down. Gma said he was tired. I think he was pouting because he got called out. Gma gave me her credit card and let me purchase a plane ticket home to Austin. She also gave me $100 cash. My uncle silently drove me to the airport . The last flight had already boarded and it was about $53 to upgrade my ticket. I happily handed over the $100 bill, silently thanking Gma. They didn’t take cash at the counter but I must have looked like a wreck and one of the ladies took the money, gave me change and used her card to gret me the ticket onto that plane. They called ahead so the crew would wait for me. I went thru security, and ran as fast as I could through the airport to the terminal. Guess what I passed under while running? Purple banners of people’s stories of domestic violence. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Huh.
Anyway I made it home to Austin and into the waiting of my partner who offered me a cigarette and didn’t make me talk about “it.”
I haven’t heard from my grandparents, my uncles, or my cousins who were like sisters to me.
I know what happened was real. I know I did NOT hallucinate anf I know I’m now a black sheep in the family. It makes me sad because my Gma is 84, and unless the motherfucker passes before she does I won’t be able to go to the funeral.
Mental illness is REAL.
Sexual Assault is REAL.
It can happen to a 30 year old woman by her 83 year old grandfather.
Thank you, Janelle, for giving me the impetus to tell my story. And thank you for being fucking awesome.
NoritaSaturday, 4 November, 2017 at 11:49
Living hell, Sage, I am so so deeply sorry this happened! You are incredibly brave to write this and even more brave that you got the FUCK OUT OF THAT INSANITY! You are safe now. Thank you for writing your story & hitting the Send button. Sending you peace & healing. You are FIERCE. Know that people care, even though we’ve never met.