liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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Now I Gotta Say Something

When the whole sordid story about WinCon (full information here) started obliquely washing up on my FList, I had no clue what was going on.

My reaction: "Why are my FListies suddenly saying that when people find themselves thrust into an uncomfortable situation — especially an uncomfortable situation of a sexual nature — the first course of action should be to not blame the person who was made uncomfortable, but the person who caused it? Seems to me this is kind of obvious, yes?"

As it turns out, it's apparently not obvious to some people.

Now I am, on the whole, an optimist. People are Generally Awesome. But there are some People Who Really Suck that ruin it for the rest of us.

The latest discussion arising from the WinCon situation has done nothing to dissuade me from that belief.

Most people are Generally Awesome.

But some people Really Suck.

Know what sucks? Victim-blaming.

You know, I'm really glad that there are some people out there who've never been tricked into an uncomfortable situation (as what happened at WinCon), or found themselves unexpectedly in a uncomfortable situation (again, as what happened at WinCon), or were in a public space where certain modes of conventional behavior and common courtesy are expected only to be faced with one of those people Who Really Suck and don't get that there were personal boundaries that shouldn't be crossed (WinCon again).

For the subtextually impaired, the above paragraph is sarcasm, by the way.

But what makes me truly glad in a non-sarcastic way and keeps me in the People are Generally Awesome camp is that for those who have found themselves in bad situations and found people who were willing to step forward and Do the Right Thing (such as the WinCon ComCon — much praise for their handling of the situation) and people who were willing to offer support for the idea that they were not the ones at fault (far too many people to count since this has come to light).

To be fair, I was able to track down what people were upset about, and I spent a lot of time following links trying to get a bead on what happened.

And believe me when I say that my jaw dropped, it dropped wide open and pretty much stayed there.

All I can say is: People Really Are Generally Awesome. My faith in humanity has been maintained.

But there are some people — when I become the Evil Overlord of the Planet — that I will put up against the wall because clearly they are Not Getting It.

Frankly, with the way my personal life is going, I really wasn't in a headspace to comment or say anything, mostly because it would come out as "Garble, blargle, BLAH!" followed by a fuck-fueled rant of epic proportions.

I should also add that I wasn't particularly triggered by anything I read because I'm one of the Lucky Ones. And isn't it sad that the fact I haven't been sexually assaulted (yet) makes me feel Lucky. Equally sad is the idea that this could change in an instant through no fault of my own.

Still, I feel so blessed to know that if I am ever sexually assaulted there'll be someone (maybe a lot of someones) who'll be right there and ready to blame me anyway.

For the subtextually impaired, the above sentence is dripping in sarcasm.

Then, whaddya know: I got triggered. By this post from harmonyfb. (WARNING: Victim-blaming to the n-th degree while using her Pagan beliefs as justification.)

Fuck you very much, Harm. You've joined the list of people going up against the wall when I become Evil Overlord.

Know why? Because silence DOES NOT equal consent. Silence can also mean shocked speechless.

I am a short, but very well-endowed female type person.

This means that when I was younger and thinner I had all kinds of people make inappropriate remarks to me out of the blue.

In self defense, I developed a hardshell, a terrifying black-eyed stare, and a big-ass mouth complete with cut-you-off-at-the-knees tongue. This has generally served me well, mostly because the skeevos I've come across were very obviously skeevos with bonus cowardice. Give the Vibe (you ladies know what I'm talking about), and they'll generally back down.

Like I said: I've been generally lucky on this score.

Only once this has not worked in my favor, and in that instance my brother and his friends grabbed the guy, informed him how this was Not Okay, and then promptly banished him from their circle of friends.

By the way, they didn't do it just because it was me involved. They would've done the same even if this dude tried to pull this crap on a complete stranger. Why? Because they're mensches in the best way, that's why.

But I'm not going to talk about that, because that's not the memory that got triggered.

This is the memory that got triggered:

Waaaaaay back when I was a senior in college, the U sponsored senior portraits as a momento of surviving college and entering the big bad world.

Naturally I signed up, put on a dress, and marched on down to get my picture taken.

Upon entering the room to have my portrait taken, the photographer (who did look skeevy) was on the phone with someone. As I waited for him to finish, something in the back of brain was like, "I don't trust this guy. Something looks off about him."

Then I mentally berated myself for being an ass. Just because I didn't like the looks of the guy didn't mean he was a bad guy, right?

Anyway, he gets off the phone and tells me where to sit and how to pose.

Fine as far as it goes.

Then he starts talking about "his wife" and how she's "uncomfortable about her big tits and her well-rounded ass".

Cue my thought-bubble: What the ever-loving fuck?

Right in the middle of this two other girls show up and are waiting just outside the door to have their picture taken.

I don't think he saw them. I could only see them out of the corner of my eye, he wouldn't have been able to see them at all.

Anyway, as he continues along in this vein they're looking at each other with WtF clearly etched on their faces.

Then the photographer asks me, "Do you feel uncomfortable about your big tits?"

My jaw drops open in shock.

The two girls take off and disappear.

This caused my head to snap toward the door where I had seen them disappear in a puff of smoke. They left me alone with this guy! So much for the fucking sisterhood, right?

Meanwhile, the guy continues to talk dirty to me. About me. And he's doing it in such a way that I'm quite literally shocked speechless by what he's saying because this sure as shit can't possibly be happening, right? It's got to be my imagination, right?

I have got to be reading things completely wrong, right?

I managed to grit my teeth, squeeze out a smile, and get the fuck out of the room.

I then walk several blocks back to my dorm room while I keep playing everything he said to me over in my mind.

I could have been misreading him. I could have imagined it. I could have let his looks be an influence on his actual words.

Clearly I'm the crazy, wrong one in this scenario.

And if I wasn't wrong, why didn't I whip out my patented sharp tongue, cut him off at the knees, and huff my ass out of there? Why did I sit there frozen in shock and let him say those things to me?

Why the hell did I not say anything?

By the time I got back to my dorm room, I had mentally beaten myself up so hard that I was physically black-and-blue, not to mention exhausted. And confused. And humiliated. And embarrassed.

Why? Not because of what he did to me. But because I didn't say anything. Because I sat there and gritted out a smile while he said a whole lot of sexually awful things to me.

In a bizarre twist of fate that day, my roommate had decided to skip classes to work on a term paper that had been kicking her ass and was actually in the room. I walk in, she looks up, and immediately asks, "What the hell happened to you?"

Still in a vague kind of shock, I tell her the whole story.

And then I say, "I was probably reading into things or I misunderstood him. That has to be it, right?"

What I was hoping she'd say is, "You're right. It's totally your imagination and you misunderstood. Don't worry about it."

What she said instead was, and I will never forget it until the day I die because it was One of Those Moments, "Jesus Christ! It's not your imagination, and it's not in your head. I can't believe this happened to you. To you, that last person I'd expect this would happen to. You've got to do something about this. If you don't, what hope do the rest of us have?"

Yeah. She actually said that. To me.

I stared at her. Clearly she had this idea in her head about Who I Was, which at that moment in my head Was Not Who I Was.

She thought of me as whole lot braver than I felt right at that moment.

Maybe this was the wrong thing to say to most people right at that moment.

As it turned it out it was exactly the right thing to me right at that moment.

Once I found my voice, I looked at her and said, "You know what? You're exactly right. Help me find the number for the Student Life office."

She got up from her desk, helped me hunt around for the university directory, and then stood right by my side while I dialed the number and proceeded to let loose on the poor individual who had the misfortune of picking up the phone.

At some point, this poor woman tried to interrupt with questions.

I cut her off. "You know what? If you're going to question my word on this, I'm marching down there right now and you can question me to my face."

There was shocked silence at the other end of the line, followed by, "How fast can you get here?"

"Give me 5 minutes to make the walk," I said. I then hung up the phone.

As I marched toward the door, my roommate blessed me with a, "Go kick their asses."

Needless to say, I made that 5-minute walk in less than 2 minutes, despite the fact I was wearing a dress and high heels. I was now fucking furious. That man made me feel like I was nothing but whack-off material. That man made me feel small, and weak, and stupid, and crazy.

Fuck that noise.

I was going to kill the shit out of anyone that even tried to convince me I was the one in the wrong.

I flew into that office full of black-eyed, Italian-style, cold fury. The kind of fury where you're so angry that you've passed right on by the yelling stage and moved right on into the talk-reasonably-with-your-fists-clenched phase.

They took one look at me and whisked me into a private room. The staff listened to my tale, only asking what I thought were fairly reasonable questions. The staff disappeared and returned with another, older woman, who turned out to be the head of the department, and asked me to repeat it again.

Which I did, and but this time added something about the way I was dressed, which was fairly modest.

(And how fucked up is it that I was so convinced that I'd have to fight tooth and nail to get someone to do something about this guy that I had to offer what I was wearing as evidence that I didn't have this coming. That, people, is the very definition of letting the Rape Culture mess with your head.)

The older woman stopped me right there and said, "I don't care if you walked in there with nothing but a G-string. He had no right to say anything like that to you or anyone else."

This blindingly obvious statement took the wind out my sails so hard that I actually had to lean on the table to hold myself up. They believed me. I wasn't going to have to fight tooth and nail to get them to do something. I was willing to take this all the way, wherever this was going to go, but the fact was I wouldn't have to. They were going to take care of it.

The older woman thanked me, and said they would do something about this. She also said her staff would follow up with me in a day or two.

I thanked them, and left.

And yes, the Student Life office did follow-up with me. That day, in fact. Apparently, the second I left they walked right into the room where the photographer had set up shop, fired his ass, and rescheduled the remaining portraits for another day.

The Student Life office also offered me counseling, but I told them I was fine. All I cared about was that this guy was gone and wasn't going to be victimizing anyone else.

And that, as they say, was that.

And yes, that same portrait is hanging on the wall in my parents' living room and it doesn't bother me in the least.

In fact, I'm kind of proud of it.

I know what some of you might be thinking.

You might be thinking: "Well, Liz, that's a nice story and all, but don't you think you're kind of proving the victim-blamers' point? You spoke up and did something about it."

If you think that, then fuck you. No seriously. Fuck. You.

The point is that in the heat of the moment I didn't say anything. I said nothing at all, in fact. I sat there and took it. My silence was not permission allowing this guy to say sexually aggressive things to me. In the heat of the moment, it was sheer shock and a whole lot mental denial.

This was followed by a whole lot of self-doubt.

And if it wasn't for a stroke of luck starting with one person who thought a whole lot better of me than I felt about myself in that weak moment, I still would have said nothing at all, and that photographer would have kept his job and done the same to God knows how many other girls.

So, here's one more for the pile:

We gotta watch out for one another, support one another, be aware for one another, and take care of one another.

Because you never know when You (yes, YOU) might make a difference and prevent a bad situation from getting worse.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to run away from the computer for a little while, because I'm having a Bad Day due to One Post that Set Me Off.

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