Thinking Out Loud.
There was still a section of the gym for the guys who were only there to push their muscles to develop muscles of their own, a free weight room that was cordoned off but not walled off, and the aerobics floor and resistance machines were in full view of the guys who headed straight for the free weights and wouldn't dare consider taking a cardio-drive class.
My job was basically that of a low-paid intern. I worked in the child care center most of the time, but I was also a janitor, tinkerer, and when no one else was available, I escorted prospective members around and showed them all the amenities. Toward the end of my employment there, I had been trained to train new members on the resistance equipment.
Because I was all over that gym, working six days a week, I was exposed to a hell of a lot of people. There were the jerks (one manager who called me "Thunder Thighs" because it was apparently hysterical) and the clueless (another employee who seriously was not All There and liked to hug. A Lot.) and the talk was often crude. Granted, never Trump Crude--his version of locker room talk would not have flown there--but still 12-year-old-boy crude.
I had my ass slapped while being told I'd done a good job, I witnessed one male employee grab his crotch while mocking another female, I was called "sweetheart," "Babe," and God knows what else. It was suggested more than once that I could use a good fucking, and Not All There Guy once draped his hand over my shoulder, his fingers deliberately brushing my chest.
Not once did I think I had been abused or attacked. It was just the way things were. I learned to dish it right back out, and Not All There Guy got an elbow to his ribs. I didn't report it. He learned the hard way.
If any of those things happened today, any single one of them would be reason to complain--and I would. It was poor behavior then, no doubt, but it was also accepted behavior. Anyone running to HR because the trainer called them a name, or made a comment about their figure or looks, or even touched them inappropriately would have been laughed out of the office.
These were guys who had been raised to think it was okay. If we'd spoken up then, they probably would have at least considered the way they were treating the women around them at work, but we didn't, so neither did they.
It really didn't seem worth getting upset over. Not then.
If I were the same kid in the same gym today? Not All There Guy would have backed up with broken fingers. Thunder Thighs manager would have had a complaint lodged against him, for no reason other than to leave a paper trail. The names would be met with resistance and a warning--I'm not your sweetheart, I'm not your babe, and you couldn't fuck your way out of an orgy with someone else's dick.
It's not nostalgic to say that times were different then--they were. And with all the accusations against public figures being made now, calling them out for things they did years ago, I keep thinking that we need to take a collective breath and remember that we truly are looking into the past through lenses created to look to the future.
Our standards are vastly different now. They're significantly better; I think most of us coming into adulthood 40 years ago made an effort to raise our children with equality in mind. Those kids are in turn raising theirs to be more open and accepting of others and how they feel, and how their own actions can impact someone. Not just in the moment, but forever.
Yes...every single person being called out needs to take a damned hard look at why they're being accused. And every single person who has not been accused needs to stop and consider if their past actions fall into the realm of behavior that was once acceptable but not is not, and then cut that crap out.
Yes, the women coming forward should be believed. Believing when they say they were harassed, molested, or emotionally scarred is not the same thing as believing the men they're naming are guilty. It's believing that they FEEL harassed and molested. There needs to be accountability, legal or otherwise.
And those who are crying rape? Yeah, they have nothing to gain and a lot to lose by coming forward. Believe them.
But why did they wait so long? It's simple: they had no power. They would have been speaking out against men who held a tremendous amount of power, and even if believed, their claims would have been dismissed because power + money = you lose the game. They're coming out in droves now because there's safety in numbers, and people are finally listening.
When Bill Cosby was accused, people turned a blind eye to it. So many women came forward, but were waved off; surely they were riding on coat tails, just trying to get something from him. It was Bill-fucking-Cosby, straight up all around Nice Guy, right? He would NEVER. Whatever you're thinking, just NEVER.
Yeah, but he did. And he's getting away with it, because those womens' voices were shouted down.
And stop for a moment and consider the landslide that is still gaining momentum: it began when a man stepped forward and said that another had molested him. If Anthony Rapp had not outed Kevin Spacey, the names would not be exploding around us like popcorn kernels.
Women have been complaining for years, and it took a man speaking out for them to be taken seriously.
So yes, believe them.
But also admit that not every woman coming forward will be honest. People lie for attention, even when there's nothing to be gained. Just look at what happened to Emmet Till all those years ago, when Carol Bryant lied about what he had said, and then done, to her. He was a kid with a stutter who sometimes whistled to calm himself in order to get the words out, and died because his only real crime was being black in 1950's Mississippi.
At some point, someone will cry rape and will be lying about it (and this is where I wish I could find the screen cap I recently saw on Reddit; it was from a woman's IG account, saying that she always asked guys to go rough the first time they had sex, so that if she regretted it later, she could claim rape. Seriously, there are people like this out there.) There are some truly selfish, horrible people out there, who wouldn't care about what their claims did to someone else.
Believe, but allow yourself some healthy skepticism when the dominoes don't all line up right. Listen carefully. #MeToo was more than a hashtag (and I admit, I initially thought it was stupid); it's millions of women crying out because until now, they had no voice.
Yes, we're looking back with a critical eye honed to today's standards. No, I wouldn't try to hold former co-workers to today's standards. BUT...yes, I hope they understand that they way they behaved really was immature and hindsight makes them look like tiny little pricks.
There's only one person I would ever hold to serious accountability for what was done to me in the past, but the son of a bitch is dead, so at least I have that.
So yeah, #MeToo, but life goes on, and I'm winning.