Ruined

*harassment *rape *misogyny

It wasn’t the bad men that made me this way.

I always knew there were bad men in the world. No question of that. Rapists, child molesters and homosexuals. Drunkards and promiscuous jocks. Lots of bad men in the world. They didn’t scare me. There were other men who kept me safe. They made sure I didn’t carry myself too loosely, show too much skin. They let me know if I was out of line, putting myself in danger. They helped me guard my heart and my body so that I would be ready when the right man found me. They kept me safe from bad men.

The men in my life worked hard. They took care of their families. Made the money. And the decisions. And the advances. And the assumptions.

 Men have always been really good to me, actually. My mantra in my twenties. I haven’t been raped, after all. Someone always stops to change my tire. And if I am careful enough in how I carry myself, I’m not that likely to be harassed, usually. Except sometimes when I’m walking to the grocery store. Or strolling on the trail. Or walking my dog. But those are the bad men. And I always knew there were bad men in the world.

I mean, sure. When I took my car in to get repaired the mechanic wouldn’t acknowledge me, instead addressing every inquiry and explanation to my random male friend. But you know, men assume women don’t know about cars. I get it.

I mean, sure. The pastors assumed I would step aside in ministry leadership as soon as we found a man for the job. And the other church re-baptisted all our kids because they had been baptised by a woman, so it didn’t count. But there is that one verse in the Bible about women in leadership… I get it.

I mean, sure. I got lectured for walking too fast, getting to the door first, and opening it for myself. But guys like to be gentlemen, and that’s hard when I don’t let them. I can walk slower. I get it.

I knew my fair share of bad men, I assure you. The man who shoved me against a wall, all smiles and eye contact and power, until I was so scared I couldn’t breathe. The man who grabbed my thigh in the back seat of a friend’s car, and wouldn’t stop when I pushed him away, then years later started stalking me on Facebook. The man who nicely offered to overlook my underarm hair as long as my pussy was “maintained.” Obviously, bad men.

But it wasn’t the bad men who made me this way. It was the good men who ruined me.

These men didn’t manifest by holding open a door for me. They came to me with open minds, and asked me about my experience of the world.

These men didn’t helpfully pull me aside to let me know the shapes of my nipples were visible through my sweater. They looked at me, in whatever state of dress or undress I chose, and asked me, “How do you like to be treated? What are you hoping for?”

These men didn’t remind me to smile because  “You look so much prettier when you smile.” They saw when I was sad and asked, “Do you want to talk about it?” and “Is there anything I can do?”

These good men ruined everything.

I have been valued as an equal; I can no longer view asserted protection of my presumed delicacy as good.

I have been spoken to as a partner; I can no longer settle for being “granted” a seat at the table of my “superiors.”

I have been respected as sole voice in my own sexuality; I can no longer settle for not getting assaulted.

I have been seen for my strengths, experiences, insights; I can no longer pace myself by the man ahead of me.

I can’t feel ashamed when I have big feelings, feel flattered when I am cat called, feel valued by gestures that reinforce my role as  the weaker sex.

It is not gentlemanly to decide my proper relationship to the world, to a busy street, to sex, to family life, to cars and power tools. It is not respectful to help me keep my virginity, to flatter my delicate emotions, or lie to keep me feeling good about myself.

I’m not bitter because of bad men.

I’m not cynical because I’ve been burned.

I’m not angry because of, well, anything. I’m not angry.

I am elated! There are spaces in this world where I am seen without being accosted, heard without being patronized, where I lead without slowing, and calculate my own damn risks. There are men who are gentle.

The good men ruined me for the status quo.

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