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.
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, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.