It's Not About Me
by Madeline Anscombe
Growing up with boobs seemed to be an invitation, men would follow me home or touch me without my consent.
Losing my virginity wasn’t romantic, it was rape.
A few months later it happened again.
About a month ago, someone who called me his “best friend” showed me that he had other intentions.
A few weeks ago, a man shoved his hand down my pants at a bar and grabbed my butt. I yelled and asked him why he felt entitled enough to do that. He told me someone “dared him”.
It has taken a lifetime of cat calls and abusive behaviors to realize what should have been right in front of me; that the experiences my body has endured have absolutely nothing to do with me or my worth. They have nothing to do with the content of my character or even the length of my skirt. Instead, they have everything to do with the people that saw me as secondary to their desires.
In the aftermath of these experiences I sought out those who could understand the world that I felt so chillingly isolated in. I started Not On My Campus, an organization which aims to give voices and support to those who also want to say “me too”. It has been overwhelming, and in the three years since we started I have received hundreds of messages of support for our cause as well as those seeking out a friend or an ally in their time of need. We have shared stories, both laughing and crying over one of the most harrowing and intimate experiences imaginable. In these people I have gotten to know my classmates, friends, idols and teachers. I truly cannot express my gratitude enough for all of these incredible people, nor the bond that ties us all together. I have since realized that all too many of us can also say “me too.” It has never been about any of them either. It is about the people that genuinely believe that their wants are more important than someone else’s safety.
If I drink too much at a bar, I should be more worried about spending too much money than I am about someone taking advantage of me. The fact that I am is on him though, Not on me.
The “he” I am talking about has no name, or truly even gender.
He is my friend, cousin, classmate, boyfriend, sister, mother, father, teacher and brother. He is everywhere and nowhere at the same time, he is a rape culture that is more concerned with Brock Turner’s livelihood than a young woman’s safety.
He is every person that tells you they love you but fails to understand that you don’t hurt the people you love.
I see him every time I walk home and a man pulls over to the side of the road and tells me that I am “too sexy to be walking alone”. He doesn’t leave until after ignoring him for a while, he gets bored and decides to move on to the next girl he sees.
She is present when one of our friends gets too inebriated and we leave her because she isn’t fun to take care of, and when something happens, she is who tells us we shouldn’t have had so much to drink.
He is your friend who believes in the friendzone and makes even the most subtle of jokes demoting femininity.
He is the father that sets a different curfew for his daughters than his sons. He demands to meet her boyfriends because he too was a young man once.
He is anyone who conflates masculinity with power and femininity with frailty.
They are the legislators who continue to get elected despite claiming that a woman cannot get pregnant from “legitimate rape.”
She is our friend who defends a man’s actions because she likes his fraternity letters.
He is anyone who has sent you pictures without asking or taken and posted pictures without asking.
He is the reason that when a guy comes up to you at a bar you know your best bet is to tell him “I have a boyfriend” regardless of if it’s true or not.
When he uses his words, he tells us that our shorts were too short and that since our experience doesn’t fit the archaic model of “man jumping out of the bushes” it is therefore invalid.
He is the man who restricts sexual violence to being between a man and a woman.
When you enter a relationship, he is the promise of protection, cognizant of the fact that men are dangerous while remaining unaware of your capabilities. He does not think that maybe instead of looking out for us, that he could do something bigger and look towards himself and his friends for a change in behavior.
He validates you because you are a daughter, a girlfriend, a friend’s sister but when you are devoid of a male figure you are stripped of any importance.
He is anyone who believes “body count” serves as any indication of worth.
His power is consuming, and because of him, we are forced to pinpoint ourselves when we say “me too”. We are forced to talk about our experiences and make them our identifiers just so he can,maybe, realize the violence in his own actions.
He is the voice inside my head that is making me feel guilty for writing this, telling me that I am being selfish talking about the experiences that have so largely shaped my life.
If you are reading this, my “me too” post is probably not explicitly about you.
It is, however, about each and all of our behavior.
It is about the culture of “him” that so desperately needs to change.
I hope that one day, individual narratives will not be necessary for people to be cognizant of their own behaviors.
I hope that this campaign and the bravery seen across Hollywood, athletics and social media shed light on the issue and embolden survivors.
But it shouldn’t have to take a social media campaign to see that sexual assault is all around us. Survivors should not have to speak out about an experience that is still so largely stigmatized and difficult to talk about in order to turn the lens the other way. While I feel empowered by the survivors around me, the issue is not about us. It is about him, and he is every individual who continues to turn a blind eye to a problem right in front of them.