Tag Archives: sexism

The Weight Of It All

I think the complexity of it — it being the effect of men on women, their weight and influence on our very existence — scares a lot of women from engaging in the conversation. We view our existence and our lives as our own; our ownership, our choices, our paths. But what if it’s not as simple as that? It’s much simpler to view it in black and white and peg us (females/feminists) as women who care too much/give a damn/make excuses/whatever. I wish women could be enthralled by the idea of diminishing the sexism and roadblocks, instead of being scared by it (it’s easier not to care, though). With the advent of sexism in the workplace and in daily life, I can only hope more and more women can be awakened to the barriers being placed on women. The weight of it all is real. The influence and weight men place on women is heavy and felt.

I’ve been networking the last few months, in preparation to begin a transition from current job into a new field. I made the decision earlier this summer to stop networking with men. It seems a brute and harsh reaction, but networking with men only led to not being taken seriously, connections not being made, and instead an offer to buy me drinks at another date, in perhaps a more “casual setting” (read: take me on a date). This happened to me and several other female friends, who all decided to refrain from networking with the opposite gender. What does it take to be taken seriously? We are all successful and driven; we even made a point to not wear tight-fitting clothes to these networking meetings. Though at the end, we were nothing more than a pretty face.

Though, what about how we women relate to each other? So often the first connection women make is whether or not they have a (male) partner. Half of the conversation is then spent comparing and contrasting experiences with males, with the important characteristics and facts about ourselves being saved for later. Why are men such a defining part of female existence?

Men continue to influence female workplace dress. Prior to interviews with men, I would agonize over what to wear. Would one dress emphasize my hips too much, in a manner that may be “suggestive”? What about a dress that hugged my curves and flaunted my figure? Would a pencil skirt imply I wanted to be fucked? In the end, I always choose clothes that fit somewhat loosely and give only an inkling of a figure underneath. I feel safer being bland and nondescript than being assessed on an underlying sexuality.

How much should we care? How much can be done? Earlier this week, I told a supervisor whom I admire and we have often had many a great talk about feminism, sexism in the work place, etc., that a client made a comment about my “pretty face”. I felt at great unease from this comment and was instantly distraught at the thought of my work being thought of as different, as attached to my body rather than my intellect and follow through. She essentially replied that I shouldn’t fuss/sweat it too much, since worse comments could have been made. Though I realize this is true, I was crushed at the fact that this woman, who has shattered many a glass ceiling in her day (hate that phrase, but it’s true in her case), could dismay my discomfort.

As a mental side project, started tallying how many times per day I’m catcalled on my 1/2 mile walk to and fro the public transit station I frequent for work. It’s disheartening, but telling. I’ve also made notes of whether the drivers are in vehicles that are clearly marked as part of a company, etc. I’ve often wanted to call these businesses and complain, but again, have feared the roadblock of a dissent manager getting in my way to do so. Despite often starting my day with such an upsetting experience, I’d rather brush it off and get on with my day than acknowledge it and have it be disregarded by someone who didn’t experience the tragedy of that moment.

A person very close to me, who is highly successful in a field in which men reign, hates the idea of feminism and all that goes along with it. She doesn’t see the point. She kept her mouth shut, did the work, and laid low to rise up. Why can’t we (again, feminists) do the same? It’s easier to assume instead of understand, and the sadness of that is difficult to bear.

The issue at hand is complex. In fact, there are many issues at hand. It’s more complex than it’s often given credit for (outside of liberal media, that is). The difficulty lies in the notion of getting people to feel that the idea is not “not complex”. There is weight and matters to be sorted through here, divided into layers and split up amongst their fixings.

The point, at the end of it all, is to have the voice be heard and the weight felt. To know that we don’t have to be silent, but that we can kick and cry and scream to move ourselves ahead if we need to. That we don’t need to mold into what is expected of us nor refrain from speaking our truths. We need not be discouraged. Hope is brewing, simmering, and rising.

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My Incompetence as a Farmer and Why I Blame Patriarchy

Okay, so some of you may think this is a stretch, but lemme give it a shot.

Here’s where I’ve thus proven myself incompetent on the farm (I’m interning on an 150-member organic Community Supported Agriculture farm; I’ve been here a month):

I lack hand and arm and core muscle.

I’m not drill savvy – I needed to get a screw into purling (for a hoop house we’re putting together) and I couldn’t tell forwards from backwards in terms of which way the screw was moving. I just struggled for a while and then assumed I didn’t have the arm strength to do it.

I didn’t know that for tractors and stick shift cars, you have to park them in a gear or they roll backwards. I failed at parking the tractor in the proper spot, after multiple tries, and I later almost caused the car to roll into a pond (I was able to save it with 2 meters to spare; it did take out the horse fence).

I didn’t and don’t know what to listen to in terms of an engine (i.e. how to tell when you’ve given it enough throttle).

I didn’t know how to hitch a trailer or a tractor accessory.

I can’t back up a trailer.

I am not very good at starting a fire.

I don’t know to look for plastic on or near a wood burning stove before lighting a fire. I just end up with a pool of melted plastic and a house full of fumes.

Here’s why I think some of these incompetencies wouldn’t exist if patriarchy weren’t shedding it’s lovely shadow over our existence: 

I didn’t have a dad around for much of my life to show me how to use tools. When he was around, tools weren’t something he could afford to buy, and there wasn’t the time or money to do things like camp or hunt. My mom, while quite skillful in a lot of areas, doesn’t usually fix things herself. It might be a lack of time, as she works a lot (blame other structures for that, such as academia and capitalism and the nonprofit industrial complex), but it could also be that her dad passed his fix it skills onto the boys in the family – all my mom’s brothers are pretty savvy – and not the girls. Similarly, my mom’s brother and other men in our lives who were handy didn’t pass their skills onto me. Sure, they tickled and teased me (and there was the time that our tree trimmer friend put me in the harness and let me go up into the elm, and he gave my barbie the name Tree Trimmer Barbie) but even when I got to go fishing, they didn’t put a hook on my line! And I’m convinced it was not because I was 3, but because I was a girl raised by a single mother and an immigrant dad.

Maybe this is a stretch.

The point is, I feel incompetent out here on the farm. I guess that’s what you get with a city girl goes to western Wisconsin. It is quite possible that programs such as Boy Scouts prepare guys for country living a little more than what’s available for girls. And men are told to train their bodies, be tough – women aren’t. Men are supposed to be the handy ones, so I’m guessing they’re more likely to seek out or, through social pressure, be exposed to tools and machines and mechanical skills. Leaving me in the dust.

The farmer I work for is a single woman and she is often defending her know how and her ability to do things herself – whether it’s carrying a heavy load, trouble shooting the new sand point well, or getting the water feature working on her antique transplanter. She tells stories of always being the minority, and perceiving certain attitudes when at a meeting or buying supplies. I am interested in interviewing her about her experience as a single woman farmer in rural Wisconsin. If anyone has interview question suggestions, please post them in the comments. 

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I can, at least, bottle feed the calves.

Ideally, I would have done some research for this post to back up some of my claims about male handiness being socially constructed, but life on the farm means I need to be rushing outside right now. Wish us luck transplanting today!

Written by Magdalena Kaluza

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Rewriting our Story: The Struggle to Empower Women

Women in the Media

The illustration above showcases some of the recent organizations, writings, studies and statistics that have come to the front page of main stream news. Many previous authors have have written about how the internet has accelerated and in some ways, revived feminist organizations, movements and collaborations. I agree, with the access to knowledge and information we see the global widespread discrimination, violence, misogyny against women, as well as the successes, educational attainment, military inclusion, and role of women in the workplace.

With nearly 70% of women experiencing violence (physical or sexual) in their lifetime – this astounding and overwhelming UN Report demonstrates the need to rewrite our story.  A majority of women, girls, mothers, wives, sisters, cousins and friends encountering violence more than likely at the hands of men. This stat makes the violence experience seem inevitable. As a result, our culture incorporates “empowering” choices to help keep women safe. For example, think back, at what age did you receive or have you given the following advice:

  • Don’t go into dark alleyways or streets alone at night
  • Don’t walk alone at night, anywhere, even in your own neighborhood
  • Park under the street light or in the parking ramp closest to the exit
  • Take a taxi from a bar instead of public transportation
  • Bring friends with you if you use public transportation
  • What time are you coming or going?
  • Are friends going with you?
  • Call me when you arrive.
  • How well do you know him?

All of these seemingly helpful hints or advice are simultaneously disadvantageous to the feminist movement – because they target young women. The “advice” tells women that we can make the right choices and bad things will not happen. For some that is true, but for many of us, the choice may not be in our hands.

For many of us, it is men who make conscious, manipulative, unhealthy and violent choices that shape our lives forever.

Where are the efforts and campaigns to change men? Sure, we have heard about them, but unlike these mainstream efforts highlighted in the illustration, we are still “empowering” women. (NOTE: I am not advocating we do not have safe plans or take caution and I agree there are “sensible” things anyone can do.)

So; where are the questions to men about why would you chase a women alone? Why is intimidating her rewarding? How drunk was she — that doesn’t seem cool? Why are women the sole or primary providers in families — is this really evidence of women’s advancement in the workplace or is it because so many men walk out on women and families?

What do these organizations and statistics have in common (referenced in the illustration)? It seems that the effort of modern day feminism – to support equal rights, safety and empowerment for women – is increasingly becoming part of daily news, charitable contribution and donation efforts.

This is an applauded effort but, unfortunately, the men who rape, beat, humiliate, harass women in the world are not the strange scary psychos that we can spot, fear and lockup. They may not be the weirdos, or creepy men, the stereotypical men we avoid. They are less likely to be strangers, and most likely to be our current, former partner, acquaintance or in all simple form – a man we know.

These men are brothers, gay friends, cousins, fathers, husbands, friends, uncles, god fathers. They know us and we know them. They make conscious choices, manipulative choices, choices out of misogyny, privilege and wealth. We as a society have to recognize that with astounding numbers like 1 in 3 military women will be sexually assaulted and 1 in 5 civilian women, that there is an epidemic, a conscious epidemic, that enables men, for centuries to repeatedly abuse, manipulate, hurt and walk out on women.

Until men can identify, understand and change their choices, actions and language that routinely negatively impact women on a daily basis, and therefore, the family, the stats will remain a reality.

What does it mean? It means we have to rewrite the story. We have to think, talk, live, play and work differently with the men in our lives. It means we have to hold men accountable, at every stage – at the small jokes that seem harmless, at the movies they watch and quote, no matter how seemingly funny or “normal.” It means we cannot be embarrassed or protect the ego and the “system.” It means we must have the uncomfortable conversation with the male friends we have known for years, and even those we may admire most, like our fathers and brothers.

To rewrite our story, we need men to engage in choices, decisions and opportunities that empower women.

What are your thoughts? Check out the movements and reports in the illustration by selecting the links below.

Chime for Change

College Enrollment by Gender

Domestic Violence Hotline

2013 US State Department Report on Human Trafficking

An Open Letter to Facebook: Take a Stand on Gender Violence & Hate

The Pixel Project

One Billion Rising

Reproductive Rights for Women

Why Society Still Needs Feminism

Women in Combat: Sexual Violence

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Our Struggle is Real: The Women of Real Life Athena Share Their Stories

The women of Real Life Athena have come together in this post to share stories of struggles that they have been confronted with as women, as feminists, and as human beings. Stories may be graphic and unsettling, but our goal was not to evoke any preexisting trauma. We hope to raise awareness to issues that occur everyday.

This post does not seek to be an exhaustive account of all the issues women face. This post is not claiming that only women experience the topics covered here. This post is not a comparison of struggles; every struggle is valid no matter its severity. Rather, this post seeks to humanize the issues we face by putting a name and a face to real life accounts. This piece is a means of awareness through storytelling.

The women involved in this collaboration have graciously and bravely come forward to give their testimonies. Our struggle is real and we are in this fight to end it.

Trigger Warning: Some pieces in this Real Life Athena post may be triggering or troublesome, and we encourage you to know your own limits and feel safe to refrain from reading as needed.

The Normalization of Abuse

Throughout my life the reoccurring issue of sexual and domestic abuse is something that has surrounded and affected me as a woman. Although, I am not a victim myself, I’ve seen the affects it’s had on many women, including my mother, grandmother, aunts, cousins, and close friends. Because I grew up around it, I struggle with the way it has become normalized to me.

When I think of abuse, I envision a perfect house, where no one truly knows how ugly it is inside. Because my mother was a survivor, she became very protective and wouldn’t let me stay with anyone until I was able to speak up. Throughout my childhood, I constantly remember my mother sneaking family members out of their homes and allowing them stay with us. I will always remember the day when I came home from school and saw my aunt laying on our couch covered in blood and bruises; finally understanding what abuse was.

As I grew older, I became an observer that held things in. We never openly spoke about the abuse that went on. As a family, we only knew to be there for each other, no matter the situation. Because of my mother, when I see any sign of potential abuse, I immediately become protective. Still to this day I will never understand why the majority of my family members have been sexually and domestically abused. What I do know is that all the women in my life are strong and didn’t allow themselves to be labeled as victims. They are survivors.

I hate the fact that hearing about abuse cases doesn’t affect me like it affects most people. I have heard it so many times, you could say I’ve become immune to it and have gradually learned to brush it off as a coping mechanism. I first become extremely angry, but when I realize that there isn’t much I can do, I try and let it go. That’s why I am so passionate about Real Life Athena; I want other people like myself who feel like there’s nothing they can do, to realize that if we all come together, we CAN make a difference.

Written by Akeena Bronson

Misconceptions of Feminism

There are many trials and tribulations that go along with calling myself a feminist within our society. I believe most if the issues all of us feminists face today lie in the misconception of one word: feminism. The day I realized I was a true feminist was many years ago while attending a discussion forum for sexual harassment. The guest speaker running the discussion asked all the feminists in the room to raise their hands. In a room of about 150 women only 15 raised their hands, not including myself. She went on to define feminism as simply believing the sexes should be treated equally. I was so ashamed of myself for not claiming to be a feminist at that moment. However, looking back on that moment now and thinking about why I might not have claimed to be a feminist has become clear. There are so many awful stereotypes that need to be cleared up. I am not a bra-burning, man-hating lesbian. I do not want to kill babies. I am not a hairy, dirty hippie. I am not angry all the time, only when necessary. And I am not a cunt or a slut (as Rush Limbaugh may say). I am a human who believes it is time for sexist oppression to end and time for the sexes to be treated equally. I am a human who believes that half of the population is just important as the other half.

Written by Danielle Hefferan

Violated and Blamed

One of the most important things in our community is self-expression and most of us express ourselves through fashion. Clothes that we choose to wear say something about us and it says even more if you’re a woman. If we dress provocative, we’re sexy. If we dress too provocative, we’re slutty and looking to “get some.” Once a few summers back I wore a tube top to a house party and one of the guests thought it would be funny to pull my top down and expose me. My embarrassment and shame was probably the highest it’s ever been. The worst part about the whole experience was when I was telling my then boyfriend about it, his exact words were, “Well maybe you shouldn’t wear such tempting clothes.” It was like all of a sudden this traumatic event that happened to me was no longer about the how I felt my body had been violated, it was a matter of me dressing inappropriately and getting the attention my clothing choices “deserved.”

Written by Alexis Bourgerie

Why do I Feel the Need for Male Validation?

I have very comfortably and confidently labeled myself a feminist since I was young. I am independent, outspoken and understand the injustices we face as women living in the bodies that we do. However, something that I struggle with living in the reality of our patriarchal world is this feeling of the need for male validation. This struggle is definitely intrinsically connected to patriarchy and I often try to combat this feeling. I have been socialized to believe that certain characteristics and actions of mine should be validated by male friends, romantic partners, co-workers, etc… This has been something as small as the importance of a male friend of mine saying what great taste I had in music or something larger such as myself feeling unattractive because of a lack of recent male attention. Even recently with the Ratchet Molly Party situation, I was talking to a friend on the phone about needing to reach out to male friend X and male friend Y, she says to me “No, we dictate this conversation and then we tell them to spread what we are saying.” She was totally right but I felt that our perspective was not complete without some sort of male affirmation.

I spoke about this idea of male validation with a couple of my friends who date women and they also echoed similar sentiments in their interactions with men. Even in non-romantic settings of male-female relationships, many women have this feeling (conscious and subconscious) of wanting to be validated by males. I see this as such a sad symptom of a world where male domination and power is something we are too comfortable accepting.

Written by Sarah Brammer-Shlay

How Harassment Feels

In the middle of nowhere I try to find a taxi to take me home, but every time I stand out on the sidewalk, I get called a prostitute, or someone honks at me and startles me.

I walk to a street that I can’t pronounce and I call someone, drunk, and crying for a ride.

Someone approaches me to tell me how pretty I am.

At a train stop I tell someone to leave me alone after a minute of their compliments.

He yells that he’ll fuck me. He’ll rape me. Stupid bitch.

The train station workers tell me I can’t pass. They tell me I’m too pretty to let pass. There is no-one around for about a 1/4 of a mile. I start to panic. I walk around this guy. He starts to laugh with his buddies and they try to block me so I can’t walk through.

I hear them laughing behind me when I run away.

When I finally get to my friend I am crying. I need a hug.

She says: “guys are just like that sometimes. You just have to ignore them, you know?”

I don’t like to go out anymore.
Whose world is getting smaller?

Written by Madelaine Kluesner

Stereotypes and Sexist Assumptions

A few years go I met with my male professor to have my midterm evaluation in one of my drawing classes. I thought I was just going to be judged on my drawing ability. However, he had another agenda–after commenting on my drawings he, out of the blue, told me that I had a pretty face but if I wanted to find a husband it was necessary that I learned how to cook. The conversation continued for about an hour, with an absence of questions such as if I actually wanted to get married, if I wanted to marry a man, if cooking was important to me, or in general what was really important to me, not to mention that the conversation was completely unrelated to my performance in the class.

His assumptions that just because I am a woman and I should learn how to cook, or need a husband to be happy does not encapsulate me as a person. I’ll admit during the meeting I was confused and even laughed about it afterwards. However, as I reflected on the situation I realized how typical and stereotypical these types of assumptions and statements are in our heteronormative society. It’s the simplest conversations like this one that made me realize the importance of talking about sexism even if it is small, or said with thought of good intentions.

Written by Megan Leys

Without My Consent

I was lying in bed with a man. It was late into the evening. We were watching a movie and proceeded to turn the movie off. We began to kiss. By this point, we had started hanging out more seriously in the past few weeks. He began to remove his clothes. I didn’t protest. He removed my clothes. I didn’t protest. We had consumed a few drinks earlier that evening. I had entered his apartment, his room, his bed. We were on his bed and we were kissing and nothing was said by either of us. My clothes were removed and nothing was said. With nothing said, he forced himself, unprotected, inside of me. He didn’t have a condom on. I finally said something; I asked him to stop. He stopped. I left and have since removed him from my life.

I was ashamed. I didn’t want to go that far. But I assumed that it was my fault. I was tipsy, I entered his apartment, I entered in his bed, I let him kiss me and take off my clothes–so I thought it was my fault. A lot of shame and blaming of myself has come along with experiences like this. Through support and love I am healing. I am coming to accept that he never asked and he never put a condom on–and that was wrong. They say, “Consent is Sexy.” But consent is not just “sexy,” it’s necessary.

Written by Jenna Vagts

The Fight to be Taken Seriously

A constant struggle I face as a woman is the fight to be taken seriously when discussing topics and issues that have traditionally been designated to the male sphere–politics, philosophy, economics, etc. A while ago, I engaged in a long political discussion with a man whose views differed significantly from my own. The conversation got pretty heated as we delved into the finer points of the policy in question. The man’s response to our exchange? He asked me out. He told me he thought it was “cute” that I was so passionate in challenging his rationale. Why does it have to be cute that I have a mind of my own? Why is it that when a man speaks about something important it’s considered intellectual but when a woman speaks on the same topic it’s considered trivial? I’d like to say this was an isolated incident, but I can think of countless other situations in which a man belittled or made light of my opinions solely based on the fact that it was a woman who had them. And this experience seems to be especially tied to my speaking out about something related to women’s rights: “Oh, you got riled up over that blatantly sexist movie? How adorable. You think women deserve equal pay for equal work? Precious.” It may seem small in comparison to the many other challenges we face as women, but this type of reaction from otherwise intelligent and educated men is exactly why we still need feminism. Because I shouldn’t have to work twice as hard as a man just to be taken seriously, and I shouldn’t have to have my thoughts and feelings discredited simply because I am a woman.

Written by Sarah Mintz

Dismissals, Slurs, and Objectification

A couple years back, an argument arose on Facebook between some friends of mine about a sexist ad, portraying a nearly naked woman on a motorcycle. My friends who spoke out, merely calling it “gross,” were insulted. I screenshot the entire conversation, and the following comments were posted:

“Watch out, there’s a rogue feminist on the loose. Better call animal control”
“Go back to hell you spawn of Satan.”
“Can you tell me, definitively, why sex should not be the role of a woman in society? If you really think about it I know you will realize it’s a difficult question. Support it with facts and evidence, try not to use your opinion.”
“Unwarranted outspokenness is arrogant and disrespectful.”
“I feel like at some point, you would have to stop and think ‘maybe this is just how the world is’ and accept sex as a marketable asset”

Facebook arguments don’t often lead anywhere positive, but I got involved and tried to stick up for my friends. I was called a “worthless whore of a human being,” and was also told that because of my history with a male friend, I was an object:

“All you women have done more than I ever could to perpetuate the stereotype that feminists are outspoken and belligerent and in Safia’s case that women are objects.”

I was extremely hurt by these comments and it took a while to brush them off, even knowing this person was uninformed and intentionally mean. In a progressive community it can be easy to think these things don’t happen anymore- but dismissals, slurs, and objectification became real for me after this event.

Written by Safia El Hmamsi

Social Pressure and Physical Appearance 

An issue I have been struggling with recently is the extreme contradiction I feel when it comes to attempting to improve my physical appearance. I feel contradicted because it bothers me that the importance of physical appearance is often an external value that women in particular are expected to live up to. Still, I can seem to separate myself from this value. Sometimes I avoid putting extra effort into how I look, but this doesn’t change that my perception of how I look is tied to my confidence and how I feel that day.

The worst instance of this was a few weeks ago when I was getting ready for a meeting as I normally would until I realized that my primary preparations were physical – the right clothes, cleanliness, makeup etc. This goes against what I feel is more important, like what I could contribute or what questions should have prepared. It may be true that my appearance does influence people’s perceptions of me, but when I fix my appearance am I only supporting and maintaining the expectation? I feel that the only way out is for more people to acknowledge and challenge these implicit values that guide our thoughts and actions.

Written By Lexis Manzara

Street Harassment

While I was waiting to pick a few kids up outside of Anthony Middle School a car full of teenage boys drove past me. It was a lovely spring day so they had their windows down. As the car came closer I started to make out the hollering I could hear from far away, “Bitch, slut, mother****** bitch, get out of here you slut!” I had to helplessly watch the car drive past and make eye contact with the men as they yelled at me. I had no time to react, and was too flabbergasted to think of anything to say back. I felt small, alone, and insignificant. They had won.

Written By Sonya Kuznetsov

Objectifying and Sexualizing My Relationship

As someone who has started dating another woman throughout the past few months the number of comments and propositions that have been made by men about sleeping with the two of us are more than I am comfortable saying.

Flattering–to some maybe. Uncomfortable–extremely.

I love men and I love women. I don’t however love women so that men can watch us when we’re together, or stare at us dancing together, or sneer or grin or make subtle or not so subtle comments about us together, or have them thrust their bodies and wink.

I’m not in a relationship for men to give me attention. I’m not dating a woman for men to dance with the both of us. I want to express myself, hold her hand, dance, and kiss her as any heterosexual couple would do in public. Why shouldn’t I be able to?

Think about it. Have you ever been approached by a total stranger who you’ve never met before and told that your loved one is hot? Have you ever been approached at a bar and had a guy put his hands on you and your significant other’s waist at the same time and then make a snarky comment about how he wants to get with you? How did you feel? How would you feel if that were you?

My struggle is real. To some maybe it’s cute or flattering or hot or sexy. To me it’s uncomfortable. To you, maybe you roll your eyes and say “oh yea…Maria that must be so hard…” in a sarcastic tone. To me I feel violated. I feel sexualized and I feel humiliated. I feel like a joke and I feel objectified. My struggle is real and I want it to stop.

Written by Maria Schneider

Experiencing Sexual Violence and the Process of Healing

When I think about a struggle that has deeply affected me as a woman, my mind wanders to events that I have tried to ignore and block out for years. Along with blocking out these memories, I put up walls to my family and loved ones. Because my mind wasn’t fully matured at the time, I thought I would be a “burden” or in fact ruin the boy’s life and happiness who did these things to me. In doing so, I lost my happiness and self love.

For a few years of my childhood, I was molested continuously by a boy who was the son of my dad’s friend. The boy (let’s call him Jake) was a few years older than me and we would have play dates and sleep-overs. I remember the first time it happened. I had a bed set up for myself on the ground next to his bed. Jake’s mom tucked us in and got us ready for the night’s sleep. After she left, he came down to the floor with a “Calvin and Hobbes” comic book. I wasn’t yet reading fluently at the time so I had no idea what he was reading me. As Jake read to me, he would say all these big words and then ask if I knew what they were or meant. Of course I would reply with a “no”. At first he would explain what it was on the body (even though I’m pretty sure they were made up words or not really in the story). After he explained a few words to me, he then went on to show me where they were located on my body. The last thing I remember of this event was Jake touching me between my legs, along with a sharp and deep pain. I managed to block everything after that out, and to this day, haven’t been able to recover the end of the story. I know this wasn’t the last time it happened. I think it was too painful for me to be present in those moments, so I have blocked them out of my memory.

It has taken me years to be able to talk about this, but it is taking longer to fully heal myself from it. Over the years I have been dealing with sexual addiction issues, self love/body issues, trust issues, relationship issues, and depression. For those who know me, this might come as a surprise. Over the years I learned how to hide how I was truly feeling at times, or even numb my feelings. That also has affected me in a negative way and this is one reason I am deciding to open up. I share this with you because it is helping my healing process, and hopefully it can help anybody else who has been through something similar.

Written by Amy Miles

Our stories are frustrating and unsettling; our struggles are great and they are small. The real life accounts shared in this post cover a variety of different issues that require further discussion and explanation. The women of Real Life Athena will be continually working to expand on these topics, in hopes to connect the emotions we feel from reading personal stories to more in-depth analyses of the issues at stake.

The women in this collaboration were brave and gracious to share their experiences. Sharing our stories can help to raise awareness of issues that occur everyday. Our stories can inform others of how their actions deeply impact those around them. Sharing our stories has the power to help us, and those around us, to heal.

Our struggle is real and we are in this fight to end it.

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