December 28, 2017 Blog

Me Too, But What Else Is New

It seems like yesterday.

I was a college student and had done poorly on a test. I made an appointment with my professor to find out what went wrong. The meeting began normally — the professor sat at his desk, and I sat facing him from one of two chairs on the other side. While we talked, tears began to well in my eyes. I was disappointed in myself for having performed poorly, and asked how I could improve.

The professor stood up, walked around the desk and sat in the other chair. He moved it closer to mine. He patted my leg and said it would be okay.

And then, as I was crying, he leaned in and kissed me.

I froze.

What should I do? What could I do?

He was 40 years my senior. He was my professor. I was reaching out in a vulnerable moment to this teacher, who was in a position of power and trust, and he violated both by making an unwanted sexual advance.

I mumbled something and raced out of his office. Going back to my dorm, I kept asking myself whether it was something I had done, something I had said, to make him do that.

There had been rumors about this professor. In fact, I had seen him touch the shoulders of other young women in the class as he passed their desks during lectures. After what he did to me, I figured he had taken advantage of other students as well. I reported the “incident” — which wasn’t just an incident to me, but a personal violation — to another faculty member who took me seriously.

There was an investigation. I had not been the only one, and the professor was fired.

Victory.

Except it wasn’t, really. Because now, 35 years later, women who are not in positions of power are still being groped, manhandled, and forcibly kissed by men who are. Women like me are reliving memories that remain seared in our minds and in our souls.

Women are still forced to pass their days at school, at work, and on the street in protective mode. “Don’t walk alone after dark.” “Don’t jog alone in a park.” “Look under your car before getting in.” “Look inside your car before getting in.” “Test your drink.” “Keep the office door open.” Be Afraid.

It is all on us. This isn’t to say that society hasn’t changed in the past 35 years. It has. But there is much to be done.

The fact that so many women have responded to the stories we are hearing of harassment and assault with not only “Me Too,” but “What Else Is New?” demonstrates that our culture won’t truly change until more women are in places of power — in academics, in Hollywood, in the corporate boardroom, and in the halls of Congress.

Even though we constitute half of the people in this country, women constitute only 20 percent of our representatives in Congress. In the 6th District, where I am running for Congress, there has never has been a female Congressional representative — even though more than half of the district is comprised of women.

We need more women in Congress, just like we need more women in all decision-making roles. In this diverse nation and representative democracy, it is hard for all of us to feel truly represented and as having a voice in important decisions when the faces of our leaders look so strikingly alike.

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