A Lifelong Feminist

Articles about feminism, #MeToo, and women’s anger are everywhere. I’ve been avoiding the topic. After all, this is a blog about historical fiction. However, given the events of the past week, I can’t remain silent any longer. As a lifelong feminist, I owe it to myself and to others to share a few thoughts.

Thankfully, my story isn’t nearly as horrible as those that have captured widespread attention such as Christine Blasey Ford, Gretchen Carlson, Rosanna Arquette, and Stormy Daniels. Nonetheless, each incident remains vivid in my memory.

When I was eight or nine, my family spent several weeks of the summer sharing a cottage with another family. The fathers came up on the weekend while the mothers managed a brood of five children who were delighted to swim, invent games, and generally hang out without much supervision. No helicopter parents in those days. Ruth and I liked to wander along the dirt road that led to the cottage collecting wildflowers or bullrushes or whatever else caught our attention. One day, we stopped in front of a small ramshackle house set back from the road and noticed a man sitting on the porch.

He was a bit scruffy – although I doubt that concerned us – and he looked old to me. Of course, anyone over 30 would have looked old. He asked us if we wanted a glass of coke. We were thirsty. Coke was a treat. Ruth and I didn’t hesitate to accept the offer and followed the man inside. We sat together on a couch that had seen better days and sipped our drinks.

I don’t remember any conversation – perhaps I chattered away, perhaps I was tongue tied. But I do remember feeling shocked, when he undid his fly and pulled out his penis. Ruth and I were old enough to know that such behaviour was unacceptable and quickly fled the premises. Consistent with others who don’t report such incidents, I never told my parents.

When I was fifteen with the still developing curves of that age, I was at a family gathering. I don’t remember the occasion but I do remember the great-uncle who fondled me in a corner while sipping his gin and tonic. The first time he touched me, I thought it must be a mistake. The second time he touched me, I politely – I was a girl after all – extricated myself from his presence. I didn’t report this incident either.

When I was about 34 and working for IBM, the department I was in had a party – a staff-only party so no spouses invited. We must have been celebrating something, perhaps a successful sales year, perhaps a new product launch. At any rate, food and drinks were served and there was music and dancing. My boss asked me to dance. He was a nice guy, a bit loud and full of himself, but basically a nice guy. I said yes not thinking about the fact that it was a slow dance. A few bars into the song, when he pressed against me and I could feel his hard-on, I walked away. Never said anything about that one.

A year or two later, I had an afternoon meeting with a client. In those days, I managed a sales team and this man was one of our biggest clients. I don’t remember what we were discussing but afterwards, he asked if I’d like to have a drink. He was an important client. I said yes. When he propositioned me in a dark corner of the bar, I told him in no uncertain terms that his behaviour was unacceptable. Did I tell my boss? No. Did I tell my husband? No. I felt stupid, so I didn’t tell anyone.

As a woman working in relatively senior roles often dominated by men, there were other issues to contend with: verbal innuendos, crude talk, personal slights, opinions ignored, ideas taken by male bosses with no credit given, being excluded from after-hours events. Over the years, it adds up.

All women experience incidents such as these. Let me emphasize that – all women. It makes me furious.

Fortunately, I’m blessed with resilience, a wonderfully supportive husband, two great children, a loving family, and a great group of friends.

Thanks for listening.

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

20 thoughts on “A Lifelong Feminist”

  1. You are correct. You are no different than any other woman. Each of us has had similar experiences. However, since that was also the cultural norm for men, I would find it difficult to destroy one man in order to pay for the sins of the rest and that is what my interpretation of this week’s news has meant. I have worked in politics. Please understand this is game to them. It is playbook politics. My fear is the women who have been touched by so much discussion of sexual encounters that it brings their own experiences to mind, as it seems to have done for you, think the politicians actually care about the subject. Trust me, they don’t. It is a subject that seems to stick with the public they are manipulating and therefore, they use it. If beating chickens worked just as well, then we would be surrounded by beaten chicken stories instead. Why can’t folks see through the rhetoric to the goal of the game?
    Thanks for the forum for my own comments even though it has nothing to with writing.

    1. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Linda. I think I’m a little more hopeful than you appear to be, although the notion of politics as a game certainly resonates for me. What would it be like if women dominated politics? I wonder …

      1. I have had the pleasure of working for a female leader. It was refreshing. “Fairness” became important and service delivery was a must. The politics of completely destroying someone publically for political gain was, gratefully, not a goal of hers. My heart breaks to see the public so manipulated these days. But don’t be fooled. At a national level, male or female, no one rises to that level by being nice, fair, or equal. Politics is a nasty game. “Nice” women are left on their local benches. That will only stop when the politics of public destruction are no longer rewarded by the voters and the media stop believing the professional activists, most of whom are well paid actors. As average citizens, we pay no attention to issues until the media calls to us with salacious headlines. Then we fool ourselves into believing they are reporting the truth and nothing but the truth. Since we try to lead honest, hard working lives, we tend to think others act from the same thinking. Don’t be shocked…but that is no longer true in our country. I am hopeful. I hope this latest circus has landed so squarely in everyone’s living rooms that it will create the same backlash as what happened with the Vietnam War. I have much hope that the American public has watched something so vile that they will be forever disgusted, and begin to pay closer attention to what our leaders are doing because, yes, it does affect each of us.
        Thank you, M. K., for speaking up and I thank you for allowing me a forum for my thoughts. I will be interested to watch how this time in history creeps into upcoming fiction. Only time will tell.

    2. I wouldn’t see this as punishing one man to pay for the sins of the rest. We have to start somewhere, and this particular case seems a very worthy one to take a stand on.

  2. Thank YOU. In one way or another, this is the life of every woman. We have been “good girls,” done what we were supposed to do, not rocked the boat. But now, when we have come forward, by the thousands, it becomes more clear than ever that we will still be silenced. That truth does not matter to men in power. I am sick at heart. But, with you, furious. More than furious. Enraged. No. More. Of. This.

  3. I’m sorry for what you’ve gone through. This is the first time I’ve seen someone make a list of the stuff that’s happened to her. I wrote one of my stories. It was published a few years ago at Six Hens. I called it “Boundaries.” hahaha. Yeah, as in none. But the idea of listing everything appeals to me because by writing about one, I feel as if I ignored the others. You mention other things, like crude language, etc. in that “other” category, I guess I can put something I never recognized as a male to female thing, but I think it was! That is when my male profs (in grad school) stole my work and put their names on it.

  4. Very good piece, Mary. And very telling that like most of us you told nobody. As well as “feeling stupid” I think a lot of us feel ashamed too – as if it was we who did something wrong not the men concerned.

  5. Thank you for speaking about this ‘pattern and practice’ of sexual harassment and abuse. It’s the morning after, the ‘fake’ FBI investigation results are not public, but the Senate subcommittee is reviewing the ‘one copy’ available. I’m deeply saddened by the politics, the seemingly inevitable confirmation, and the sense of helplessness about the results. After all as President Tweet has said, he worries about our sons and boys will be boys. Tell that to those of us who have suffered from every degree of harassment and abuse. In these days following the testimonies of Ford and Kavanaugh, five of my close friends have revealed devastating stories. None of us spoke up at the time. Yes, I’m tired of the political rhetoric, the nastiness of ‘tribal’ politics. My only defense now is anger and the very real commitment to VOTE in November.

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