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I’m One of the Lucky Ones; Me Too, but…

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I’ve never been raped. I’m one of the lucky ones.

Violence from men towards women is at an alarming, disturbing high. It is extreme because we allow it. We dismiss, trivialize, ignore, and ridicule what happens to women. We laugh when woman talk about it.  We silence their voices. We do not hear their cries, and we don’t care. We traumatize women further. By “we” I mean men especially. I mean society. I mean the select groups of women – women who have bought into the abhorrent misogyny covertly embedded within patriarchy (a subject for another blog).  Bottom line: women are treated like they are expendable commodities. Feminists call this rape culture, and it must end.

I consider myself lucky – lucky that my virginity was not taken at sixteen when I was almost raped in high school by a stranger who should not have been on the track field, lucky that I was not left on the bottom of the Hudson river in New York City when I was almost raped when I was twenty-three; lucky that I was not raped on a date to dinner and a movie in Los Angeles when I was twenty.

I’m the Lucky One

I will tell you why I am so lucky:

Because the hired construction worker, who was a friend of the family, touched my tiny nipples right after I had hit puberty at age eleven. But, I wasn’t raped.

Because my mother fired the gardener when she caught him eyeing me from head to toe several times instead of pruning the roses. I was twelve. She did not tell my father. I wasn’t raped.

Because I was visiting Tijuana, Mexico, with my family one summer, and walking down the street, a stranger touched my butt. I was nine or ten.

Because I lost count how many times men have told me to smile throughout my lifetime, as if I exist just to please them.

Because I lost count of how many times men “accidentally” get too close and their hands end up feeling my ass on a crowded bus, subway or street.

Because the jerk at the bar did not leave me alone after I told him I was not interested (Or, is it “jerks?”)

The many times when I outright lied: “I have a boyfriend.”

Because I’ve lost count of how many men from all over this world EXPECTED me to pay attention to them no matter what I was doing.

Because of the cruel and grotesque comments from men on my social media because I was standing up for myself or standing up for oppression (of any sort).

Because I lost count of the whistles, howls, obscene comments and gestures uttered as I walked down the street minding my own business.

Because of the two high school boys behind me who yelled, “Let’s get her!” when as a middle-schooler, I was walking my bike home up the steep hill (I dropped my bike and started running towards home like a bat out of hell; they then yelled, “We were kidding – it’s okay!” Fuck them.).

Because at cross country practice in high school when I was running with my teammates, an overweight man drives by and yells, “Go on a diet!” (NONE of us were fat, not that THAT should matter).

Because my ex-husband expected sex whenever he wanted it. Didn’t matter how I felt.

Because of the nonstop, intrusive chat messages sent on social media AFTER you tell men you are not looking for a relationship, a hookup, a boyfriend, a husband, or to even shoot the breeze.

Because women are called cunts, bitches, sluts, whores, you name it, and “just a woman” (as I was once told by a man from Iran).

Because of the many times I was thankful to be out with a boyfriend because I knew other men would then leave me alone.

Because I was sexually harassed by a male boss at a former job.

Because of the many times I was expected to play stupid so I did not embarrass (or anger) a man.

Because I was followed to the bathroom at an outdoor concert by a stoned, long-haired, sixties-freak hippie who would not leave me alone.

Because everything I mentioned above happens everywhere.

Because I can go on for pages and pages for myself and for every women. I am the lucky one.

Rape. Date rape. Spousal rape. Partner rape. Gang rape. Serial Rape. Friend rape. College-campus rape. Child rape. Prison rape.  Transgender rape. Rape just because. (Did I miss any? By the way, I know men get raped, but guess what? Most rapists are MEN).

Rape culture.

I have never been raped. I am one of the lucky ones.

Me, Too, but…

But, I have gained so much by what I experienced! I have learned to forgive, to release it, to NOT give it any more power. I am no longer a victim. You read that correctly: I AM NO LONGER A VICTIM.

But, I have learned to accept myself as I am, with or without makeup, with or without sexy clothes, with or without high heels and perfect hair.

But, I have learned that I don’t need to smile if I don’t want to.

But, I have learned it is okay to tell the truth: “Thank you, but I am not interested.”

But, I have discovered it is okay to not respond; it doesn’t mean I am a bitch or a cunt.

But, I have discovered I don’t have to have the perfect body for a man to love me.

But, I have learned it is okay to walk away. It’s okay to be me. It’s okay to be emotional. It’s okay to be smart.

But, I have learned that I am a human being first, then a woman. I breathe. I am a human being!

But, I have learned I don’t exist for MAN. I live for ME.

I have found my voice.

I am.

#metoo

I’m one of the lucky ones

I am one of the lucky ones who will spend the rest of her breathing days empowering a new paradigm where women are treated like human beings, like human beings, like human beings, like human beings…

I am one of the lucky ones who will spend the rest of her breathing days standing up for equal rights for women.

I am one of the lucky ones who will teach the younger generations of women that they are just as deserving in every aspect of their lives as men.

I am one of the lucky ones who will help to end the abuse and misogyny of women worldwide.

I am the lucky one who thanks the world over that there are men out there who treat me like a human being and not like a woman. Because they are the real men.

I am a survivor.

I’m one of the lucky ones.

© 2017, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com


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Want to Know What is Truly Creepy on Halloween?

It’s that time of year when all the goblins and ghosts and scary monsters come out of their holes. Some are utterly frightening and some are mildly irritating. It’s all pretty creepy, if you ask me. But, what monsters am I referring to? Creepy men (yes, this blog is about creepy men, but stay with me here). Creepy men who demean, stalk and harass women. That is what is truly creepy. So, on this day we call Halloween and the last day of October, Domestic Violence Month, I will deal with an important and often misunderstood topic related to domestic violence and abuse: Harassment.

Street Harassment, HollaBack

Harassment is defined as the act of “systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group; or, the act or an instance of disturbing, pestering, or troubling repeatedly.” There are many types of harassment such as (but not limited to): psychological, sexual, gender, workplace, religious, cultural, racial and street. I will discuss street harassment by men towards women in this blog.

I came across the following video of an actress hired by a nonprofit called Hollaback, an organization who is working to end street harassment. She was hired to walk the streets of New York City as an experiment. Please watch this short clip before reading on.

The real motive of street harassment is intimidation. It is to make the target scared or uncomfortable and to make the harasser feel powerful. With worldwide local activists, Hollaback’s goal and mission is to better understand street harassment, to ignite public conversations, and to develop innovative strategies to ensure equal access to public spaces. Their vision is a world where street harassment is not tolerated and everyone enjoys access to public areas without intimidation.

According to HollaBack,

  • If you’ve been harassed, you’re not alone.
  • Street harassment is used to exert control over others by making them feel scared or uncomfortable. It is much more than individuals just acting inappropriately.
  • There are street harassment “hotspots” in most cities often centered around high pedestrian traffic areas.

If a woman walking down the street does not want to be spoken to or bothered, it is her right. If I am walking down the street minding my own business, I am not looking to meet men, say hello to everyone, smile at everyone, or have a conversation. I am only focused on getting from point A to point B. If I were looking for a conversation or had the desire to talk to a man, I would go to a bar, a place where people socialize or a join an online dating service. Cat calls, stupid remarks, telling me I have a nice ass, staring me down, whistling, making a disparaging comment, and/or following me is harassment. It is harassment because it is behavior that is NOT wanted and is degrading. If it is not wanted and continues, it is not only harassment, it is creepy.

The above video is only an example of what happens to women worldwide. Women are harassed in malls, on the subway, at work, at home, at the doctor’s office, at the coffee shop, at the grocery store, on the bus, at the airport, at the post office, and the list goes on!  Why does this happen? It happens because it is allowed, and it is not only accepted behavior by both men and women, but it is also ignored and made light of (I am sure some of you reading this are thinking I am going overboard with this). It is the result of patriarchy: the belief that woman is created for man and is or is to be the possession of man. Street harassment of women also occurs because of a lack of healthy boundaries and respect for one’s self and others. Men who harass cannot see the woman as a “person;” they only see another “chick” to be conquered. Until this mentality and behavior changes, nothing will improve for women and society in general.

As a woman, it is sometimes frightening for me to walk down the street in broad daylight (much less in the evening), alone, without having to be on guard every moment. I have to have eyes on the back of my head (How is that for Halloween-ish?) and make sure no one follows me, sneaks up behind me, knows where my car is, tries to attack me or rob me. If a man talks to me, he could be my rapist. This is how I have to think based on past experience, and as is demonstrated by this video above. This is how most women have to think when walking alone in order to best protect themselves. I do not live in constant fear of men, but I have learned to be weary of them when out alone and feel that I need to always be on guard. So, when men approach women who are waking on the street (no matter what they say to them), it feels creepy. And, if a man should follow a woman and/or keep bothering her, it is especially frightening.

So, on this Halloween, I challenge you to think about what is truly “creepy.” If you are a man, I encourage you to see women as human beings and not as your entitlement, someone to conquer, or a piece of meat. Women DO NOT have to talk to you, smile at you, give you the time of day, acknowledge your statements (especially if demeaning), smiles or gestures if they do not wish to do so. As a matter of fact, no one is obligated to respond to anyone. We all have the freedom NOT to respond. If you are a man reading this, I encourage you to think about what you were programmed, taught or indoctrinated to think with regard to women. I challenge you to look at yourself and alter your behavior (if harassing) to make this world a kinder and gentler place. I challenge you to stop cat-calling women or viewing them as objects. The next time you see a woman walking alone on a busy or empty street, please remember this blog and act accordingly.

As a woman, I have been “creeped-out” in one way or another, by men, in various circumstances throughout my life. If you have a daughter, a wife, a girlfriend, a mother or a sister, I can guarantee that they, too, have been “creeped out” at some point in their lives.  As a woman who has had to deal with this type of harassment my entire life, this blog was very hard for me to write. My intention is not to disparage men; it is to bring this topic into the open in hopes of shedding some light into how it feels for women in a man’s world and to inspire respectful behavior from men. Please take it as that.

The creepiness, whether on Halloween or not, must end.

To learn more about street harassment or to get involved in ending the violence, please visit iHollaback.org.

Vilma Reynoso, www.vilmareynoso.com, Inspiration for Creative Health. Abundant Life.

Copyright, 2014, Vilma Reynoso