Me, Too.

Recently, survivors of sexual assault united in posting the simple words “Me, too” to their social media platforms in order to raise awareness of just how widespread the issue of sexual violence really is.

I’ve read the statistics. I’ve listened to countless stories of survivors tell their stories. I’ve sat through numerous lectures on how to avoid rape, which, by my avoidance, turns another into a victim.

All indicators of the alarming likelihood that it will one day happen to me.

And it did. And then it did again. And again.

The first time, it was Halloween. I didn’t dress up that year. I wore jeans and a sweater, and went to a friend of four years’ to celebrate. The next morning, everything hurt, and I was groggy and disoriented. I passed out in my grandmother’s kitchen, where I was living at the time, falling into her frail arms. I reported him to the Sheriff’s office, tears streaming down my face as I retold the events that occurred on my favorite holiday, and the cops showed up at his work to interview him. But my friend of four years refused to speak to them, so there was “nothing they could do.” We haven’t talked since.

The next time, it was a Tinder date. He was charming, blonde hair, blue-eyed, big muscles. We went to Fuji Sushi and then saw The Revenant for our first date. The next time I saw him, he invited me to his place to watch a movie. I warned him that I was not open to anything physical, and after being assured that he would not try anything with me, I accepted his invitation. He mixed us each a drink in his kitchen while I flipped through a Cards Against Humanity deck placed on his coffee table in the living room. Hours later, I couldn’t move my limbs. “CONDOM,” I tried to bellow, his body forced on top of me, my toneless arms and legs dangling off the sides of the bed. It was 5 AM when I finally came to, and I tried to sneak out of his house without him waking. Just as I had my hand on the doorknob, I turned to find him behind me. He wanted to know why I wasn’t staying till the morning for breakfast.

Round three started with a young man I encountered at the mall. I was walking, by myself, in broad daylight, and he stopped me, grabbed my face, and kissed me. We were complete strangers, but I found it somewhat charming at the time. We started seeing each other regularly, and one day, he came over when my roommate was out of town. I exclaimed that he was hurting me, and after he was finished, he tapped me on the arm and said “sorry for abusing you there” and left.

And then there was the time at my formerly favorite night club. My roommate and I were there for a friend’s bachelorette party. We entered the dance floor, bopping to the rhythm, and found a group of girls to dance with. A man in perhaps his mid-twenties burst into our circle, grabbed me around the waist, and turned me around. My roommate motioned for us to leave the dance floor, but as I was trying, he lifted my skirt up and grabbed my ass. He then spun me to face him, put his arm around me tighter, and proceeded to kiss me. I couldn’t shake him off of me until he’d stopped kissing me, and by that time, my roommate had successfully exited the floor.

I’ve dealt with sexual harassment at work. I’ve had men catcall horrific things at me while walking around downtown, sometimes men double and even triple my age-their malicious stares looking my body up and down as they lick their lips in preparation to tell me what they’d like to do to me.

Ever since that first encounter, I’d received the message loud and clear: my body was not mine. The words “no” and “stop” and “you’re hurting me” were a waste of breath.

I’m not telling you all of this to compete with the numerous brave survivors who came forward to publicly share their stories. I’m not telling you all of this in pursuit of sympathy. The damage has been done, and I am coping with it the best I know how. No amount of sympathy can reverse it.

However, I am adding my story to the record in order to provide examples of behaviors that lead to assault, so that we as bystanders, or even potential perpetrators, can begin to recognize them, and intervene before someone’s body gets violated.

Sexual assault happens to all demographics, so this isn’t even a lecture at the men to pull their shit together. It will take a societal change to eliminate rape culture, and replace it with consent culture. But it starts with recognizing concerning behaviors, and then DOING SOMETHING about it.

No amount of “rape prevention tips” will prevent a rapist from raping. We as a society must stop tolerating non-consensual sexual behavior.

I am not entitled to anyone’s body, and NOBODY is entitled to mine.

Say it with me.

M.

 

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Grotesque

One day, I will greet my reflection with a gleaming grin of approval.

One day, I’ll be the girl with the energetic glow, whose happiness infests everyone who crosses my path.

One day, I won’t be so consumed with my own self-hatred that I will finally propel myself forward and become all that I am meant to be.

But that day is certainly not today.

Today, I will poke, punch, and grab at my body in the full-length mirror at the corner of my room.

Today, I will regret putting too much creamer in my coffee.

Today, I will force myself to study less-than-flattering photos of myself and feel the piercing pain of every imperfection.

Today, I will graciously accept compliments from strangers and friends alike, and question their genuineness, as well as my own perception.

Today, I will swear to change.

And tomorrow, I’ll swear it again.

 

M.

 

Dalliance

This is going to be one of those posts where I give advice that I shouldn’t have to give.

Piece of Advice #1: If you are not divorced, DO NOT TELL PEOPLE THAT YOU ARE DIVORCED.

I kid you not, I have had this happen to me twofold. And I get it, the incidence of divorce in my little corner of the world is extraordinarily high-MOST LIKELY because young twenty-somethings are advised from a very powerful organization that shall not be named to get married right after they exit high school (girls) or after they complete an honorable full-time mission (boys and girls if they want to).

So, they do it.

And so, 3-4 years later, a lot of them get divorced. It’s a sad, hard fact that I find rather discouraging, but so is life.

I have encountered two individuals whose reality this illustrates. And for the record, I have nothing against dating divorced men. I get it-we all have pasts and we’re all moving forward trying to find happiness for ourselves. But I DO have a lot of objections to dating a man who has not finalized his divorce, thus making him STILL MARRIED.

Guys, at the very least, I feel that if you’re going to start dating after you leave your marital relationship, you should at least be transparent about the status of the marriage so that your prospective future romantic interest can make an informed decision on whether or not to date you.

I thought that this was common sense, but apparently, I could not be more wrong.

Piece of Advice #2: DO NOT PLAY WITH PEOPLE’S BODIES, EMOTIONS, OR TIME.

The most recent not-divorced-liar-pants that I encountered played with all three.

You see, he and I have history. We liked each other in high school. But for some reason, or many, he didn’t do much about it, as I was “probably interested in someone else.”

Fast-forward a few years, and we reconnect. Thanks to Facebook, I knew that he’d been married. So I asked him point-blank about the status of his divorce, and he responded in the affirmative, that he was a single person. Nothing for me to worry about, or so I thought.

He took me on a handful of dates over the course of the past couple months, and we had a great time. He made out with me, brought me wine, took my hands in his, and told me that he wants me to be his future.

He said some rather frustrating things, too, such as “I don’t want you to wear leggings in public, because people will look at your butt” or “Be a good girl” when I was out with friends. Being possessive, as if we were in a relationship that he wasn’t willing to commit to.

He didn’t make time for me, and I didn’t pressure him to. I’m a “cool girl.”

I saw him once a week at first, and even less after that. But he’d send me gushy messages about how badly he misses me and wanted to “cuddle me for 27 hours” in addition to other pathetic nonsense. He always “wanted to see me super soon.”

So me, thinking that he and I were dating, would decline other offers from perfectly suitable gentlemen, and sit my ass on my couch, waiting patiently for him to show up, and sometimes, he never did.

But alas, the gushy text messages and rather suggestive Snapchats persisted, and my frustration multiplied.

Until yesterday, when I woke up to the realization that he had blocked my text messages, as well as my Snapchat account.

That’s right, folks. I have been ghosted.

Now, I can’t get a message through to him, thanks to his immature handling of the termination of our situationship, but I have some words to say, and they simply must get out, so here they are:

Dear Non-divorced Bachelor,

I have spent most, if not all, of my dating life feeling like a toy. Feeling taken advantage of. I’ve been assaulted, exploited, lied to, and hurt more times than you can count on your fingers. And you have only added to that number. How is it that some people are capable of earning someone’s affection and then slapping them in the face with it shortly thereafter? It’s a level of cruelty and selfishness that I will never truly understand.

If you didn’t feel the things you said you felt for me, then why did you say them?

If you did feel the things you felt for me, but then stopped, why didn’t you tell me?

It’s not fair to leave me to guess what it was that made you cut me off. Because I take the things that I say and feel, and the things that others say and feel, seriously. I foolishly trusted you.

But, thanks to you, I am left to speculate.

Was I too clingy? Was I not attractive? Did you get what you wanted from me, and now I have nothing left to offer? Were you just bored with the game you started with me, and are seeking out a new opponent?

Because that’s the way I see dating relationships now-they’re nothing but a game. You can’t trust the one you’re up against; don’t get too close, don’t give too much away. Make sure you’re always the one who cares less, or triumph will never belong to you.

And, in the case that you get bored, just go find yourself a new one. There are plenty of opponents eager to play.

But as for me? I’m done playing now.

 

M.

 

 

Progression

According to WordPress, I’ve been at this blogging thing for 3 years now.

But the “I” who started this blog hardly even remotely resembles the “I” who sits behind the keyboard now.

DownWithTheNorm was founded by an 18-year-old girl during the spark of her *formal* feminist awakening. That girl was fiery, angry, confused, and determined to fix the world. Misogyny was her only foe, and she was vigilant and determined to take him down, and took every opportunity to bare her teeth in the face of opposition.

But, as with all sparks, hers was extinguished.

Gradually, she let her inquiring mind guide her as she learned more and more about the world; how it probably works, and how it most likely doesn’t. She developed an air of cynicism, and became understandably tired of fighting the good fight. Others grew tired, bored, annoyed, or a combination of the three of her persistent, yet non-refreshing wordy posts on social media that accomplished nothing but a temporary emotional relief for our young author.

She did her best to keep her mind open, while simultaneously drawing her own independent conclusions. Especially in the context of her religion.

She spent a short duration as a walking contradiction; trying to force her newly acquired world views into a mold that simply would not fit. She wanted to be the change from within, but that resulted in her being pushed out.  She lost friends, but she gained an identity that she felt comfortable in. An authentic lifestyle was drawing nearer and nearer, but exponentially more solitary.

This girl was anxious-so much so that she couldn’t bare to even hold still even for a minute. Sleep was just a five-letter word. She had to be the fastest, the best, the smartest, and the skinniest always. And she was failing miserably at all of it.

But, breaking down turns into breaking through, if you let it.

The girl behind the keyboard is an enhanced version of the girl from 3 years ago.

I’ve had so many experiences that have shaped me into who I am now, whether that be for the better or not. I’m not the girl with the eating disorder anymore. I’m the girl who maybe spends too much time thinking about food and not enough time about breathing, and probably uses her bathroom scale more often than the average joe. And binges on breakfast cereal once in a blue moon. Oh, and HATES going to the gym.

I’m not the Mormon Feminist Anomaly anymore. I’m simply the feminist woman-person who believes that whether or not there is an afterlife is irrelevant. What really matters is that there are plenty of opportunities for me to develop and enhance as many interpersonal relationships as I possibly can during the time that I am allotted here. I believe that this life isn’t a test at all. Rather, it’s an opportunity to develop oneself to the fullest extent possible, and perhaps find an individualistic sense of happiness while we’re at it; whatever that looks like.

And for all of you looking to slap a label on me (because that’s what people do-no judgment), you can call me an Agnostic. Like I said, I’m not looking to shut out any possibilities completely.

I love tattoos, science, coffee, wine, and angry heathen misogyny-laden rap music. And I let myself love these things, because this is MY human experience. And what I choose to drink, put on my body, or listen to, does NOT make me a bad person, contrary to what I was led to believe growing up with religion

I’m not anxious anymore. Through the process of extensive trial and error, I’ve finally settled on a path that suits me. I got a job that makes me excited to wake up in the morning. I have a degree of self-sustainability that I never have had before. I feel liberated and powerful and in control. Rather than planning for my future, I’m actively taking steps toward living it, and I’m doing it calmly, mindfully, and relatively maturely.

As far as interpersonal relationships go, I’ve made strides toward getting out of my own way. I’m still a bit more self-isolating than I’d like to be, but baby steps are the name of the game. I can let loose now, and go out with friends once or twice a week. Hell, sometimes even on a school night! Because, as I mentioned beforehand, in the grand scheme of things, people are what matter. Yeah, going to bed early so I can bring my A game to school and work is important, but so is making time for those I care about. It’s all about balance.

I breathe easy, sleep easy, and am patient and engaged in every moment, which is much more than I could have ever said 3 years ago. I know I’m no sage of wisdom, and that I have much more developing, improvement, and revision to do, but I genuinely like the direction I’m heading.

Documenting my experiences over the past 3 years has been truly enriching for me, and hopefully at least mildly entertaining for you! I genuinely appreciate anyone who has ever and will ever take the time to read anything that I write.

Here’s to 3 more years!

M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Love

I run the risk of making myself out to be a bitter, petty spectacle, but hey-that beats dealing with feelings in a self-destructive manner. If this doesn’t work, my plan B is to consume a lot of cadbury eggs and then poke at my chubby self in the mirror for an hour.

(side note: Easter has way better candy options than Valentine’s day. Mini Cadbury Eggs > those Sweetheart candies.)

(side note to the side note: the aforementioned side note is not a plug for one holiday over another. All holidays are created equal. But the ones that feature Cadbury Mini Eggs are slightly more equal.)

Contrary to popular belief, I actually love Valentine’s Day, despite my lack of a “significant other.” I hate when people are like “We shouldn’t need holidays to make sure our loved ones feel loved! We should make them feel that way every day!” Frankly, we (I’m speaking for the general public) don’t have time or the funds EVERY DAY to wake our loved ones to heart-shaped pancakes and present them with thoughtful cards that we totally didn’t just barely scribble on in the car before thrusting it in our loved one’s face. We knew it was a Special Day, okay? Our handwriting is always that shaky and illegible. You know what? I’ll just read it to you.

My point is, Valentine’s Day is fun. It’s a day we can plan ahead for (but probably won’t) and take time out of our hellish schedules to really connect with our significant others and remind them that we love them even though we are so busy and so tired all of the time from being adults 24/7. It’s unifying and comforting-knowing that millions of couples are displaying their affection for their loved ones at the same time because there’s always room for more affection. It’s beautiful and cheesy and mushy and gushy and pathetic and I LOVE IT.

No, I’ve never had a “Valentine.” I’ve just coincidentally never been in a relationship on February 14th over the past 22 years of my life. What of it?

And no, I’m not even the slightest bit sad, bitter, or petty about it. I’M NOT, STOP GIVING ME THAT LOOK.

I mean, I’ll admit-I did my share of comparing my single life to the coupled individuals roaming the mall, arm-in-arm, as I loitered around solitarily, hoping to find a little something to treat mah-self today. Luckily for my wallet, I didn’t find anything. I must admit, for just a moment, I felt a bit sad-recognizing that all these couples were compiled of individuals that have found somebody that (presumably) understands them and loves them and is willing to work through each others’ problems and differences and I applaud that! Because it’s not easy to do. My record of tolerating a boyfriend is like 6 months sooooo I’m not saying I’m a quitter, but if the shoe fits?

Anyway, I’m not one of those bitterly single people who are going to spend their evening wallowing with a bottle of wine and a chick flick tonight. (But if you are-more power to ya! You be the best wallower you can be. Wallowing feels GOOD.) I’m really comfortable with being by myself. And I acknowledge that human relationships just haven’t been a priority for me up to this point in my life. I have so many priorities that I can’t possibly squeeze any more in! And for that, I must suffer the consequences-which include a lame Valentine’s Day.

Reading back through this post, I have no idea what my point was, and you probably don’t either. All I know is that I was feeling a little melancholy on my way home from the mall earlier but that is no longer the case. I’m off to eat some Mini Cadbury Eggs.

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all.

M.

 

 

 

 

Irascibility

I thought I was over my self-proclaimed “angry feminist” phase. Boy was I wrong.

I am a sucker for a good podcast, and I scrolled upon one this morning featuring the topic of feminism, which naturally peaked my interest. The discussion participants included a male host, and a male political science professor at a notoriously problematic university (I won’t name names, but this particular university can’t make it into the Big 12 due to their some fundamental, problematic issues in the way they run their institution). You can listen to this podcast for yourself here.

Anywho, I was expecting this professor to advocate for feminism, and to support the progression of gender equality within society. You can probably guess from the title of this post that this was not the case. This political science professor spent his allotted interview time defending traditional gender roles. The take-away message he presented was that perhaps some of the things that feminists have (and will) accomplish are categorically good things, but come at a devastating cost to society.

Professor Bigot’s argument was that yes, women should obtain Bachelor’s degrees, in agreement with the counsel provided by the leaders of his church. However, if women choose to continue on to develop themselves academically, they are delaying childbirth, and neglecting to fulfill their divine roles in the home, even if they have no desire to become a housewife. He feels that a woman should spend the “prime of her life” reproducing and raising the resulting offspring. Ring, ring, the 1950’s called. They want their societal norms back.

He then later in the interview expressed that if it were his daughter that had a more “brainy” predisposition, he would support her in cultivating her fullest potential(presumably after she’d taken full advantage of her child-baring years).

This professor, full of contradictions, argued that one of the many problems with feminism is that feminists view women who choose to be housewives as inferior, and this makes housewives feel unfulfilled and consequently unhappy with their decision to become housewives in the first place. To the contrary, the feminism that I’ve come to advocates a woman’s right to choose for herself what her life will look like, whether that be a life of motherhood and domesticity, or that of scholarly study and professional development, or anything in between.

Because this man obviously knows what the female experience is like, he explained that women who devote their prime years to academia and professional spheres tend to experience a crisis at age 30 because they did not devote themselves to motherhood when they had the chance.

However, I have plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that perhaps it’s the ones who did not pursue their interests because they felt obligated to give up what they really wanted out of their lives to set aside their desires and dreams to adhere to traditional gender roles. Multiple women that I know personally have shared with me that once they become empty nesters, they feel a sort of crisis in which their primary role as a mother has been fulfilled, and she is presented with this newfound free time in which she begins to contemplate the “what if’s” and feel remorse for not choosing an alternate path.

That, my friends, is my worst nightmare.

Now, let me make one thing VERY clear. I have no objections to a woman who willingly chooses to abide by traditional gender roles, so long as it is a conscious choice, made after years of serious contemplation. Additionally, I am the biggest advocate of education for all genders. This is an issue that I am extremely passionate about, perhaps due in part to growing up in a community where traditionalism was emphasized, and nonconformity was regarded as disobedience.

I have not been this upset in well over a year about the issue of gender roles, but this podcast tore open some wounds that I thought I’d partially mended.

I guess what it comes down to is the issue of control and power. I refuse to allow anyone, especially men, impose their myopic worldviews and values on the lives of women. Men of this type seem to think that they are entitled to control the opposite sex, and that their opinion on what women should be doing with their lives is somehow significant.

If you think about it, societal norms were implemented by men, and for men. I’m no history expert, but I am not aware of an active form of consent to traditional gender roles by women. Nobody asked us what we want for ourselves, they told us. And that makes me physically ill.

I will not be controlled by anything or anyone. The only thing dictating my life is my own cognitions. Women, what you want out of your life matters. In fact, what you want out of life should be your priority. We only get one shot at life, and there is simply no time for regret.

My views on feminism can be summed in one simple statement: Everyone deserves to live authentically and everyone else should mind their own damn business.

Enough with the pressure to conform to some silly, arbitrary role. This burning anger I’m experiencing this morning has revamped my drive for accomplishing my academic and career goals, none of which include any kind of adherence to a “predisposed” role that some have decided is a one-size-fits-all, but in reality has no consideration for individual differences.

I typed this entire post with shaking hands and burning cheeks, and my first draft had a much more colorful vocabulary, which I have censored for the children.

I know I’ve beat a dead horse here, but until society eases up on dictating peoples’ life decisions, I will not be at peace.

Down With The Norm, indeed.

M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feline

“No Scrubs” by TLC came out 17 years ago, and boys are still hanging out the passenger side of his best friend’s ride, trying to holler at me.

In the past three days, I have noticed an upsurge in the frequency at which this phenomenon has been occurring. Whether I be trotting into my apartment from a night out with friends, into the grocery store to buy ingredients that I will attempt to use later in a meal that will certainly not turn out as planned, or simply embarking on a leisurely stroll, dudes with muscle cars feel the need to “holler” at me.

Rap music blaring, base bumping, and the unmistakable vibrato of a young adult male simultaneously make me jump and look over my shoulder on a too-frequent basis.

I shared my frustration with this cat-calling nonsense on Facebook the other day, as mature twenty-somethings do, and was even more annoyed by the responses I received.

The direct status I posted reads:

“Dear men,

Whenever you’re faced with the decision of whether or not to yell “nice ass” out your car window at a human woman, pick no. Every time.”

Sassy, a bit condescending, and moderately funny. My typical flavor.

And also a direct reaction to an experience I had just previously had, late at night, when I was walking from the sidewalk to my apartment, by myself.

One commenter pleaded, “But what if she has a nice ass?”

Great question, sir! And I thank you for asking. If she does indeed have a nice ass, notice! Glance at it as you drive by. We as humans are sexual beings. You can even fantasize about her ass in your mind if you want to! But for goodness sake, do NOT slow your speed, roll down your window, and shout at her when she is in a solitary state in the caliginous night. You will undoubtedly frighten her and leave residual paranoia until the sun rises the next morning.

Another (male) commenter asked, “Can I yell it at guy?”

This is a toughie. I am obviously not a guy, so I don’t feel qualified to offer a legitimate answer to this question. From my perspective, being shouted at, even if it is a “compliment” can be startling, if unexpected. In fact, I have lived my adult life with a tiny pink bottle of mace in my purse, just waiting to be used in the inevitable situation in which I no longer feel safe. But I don’t think guys typically emerge from their homes with a constant fear instilled in them by their parents that they could be assaulted while innocently walking the streets at any time.

Well, white, cisgender, straight guys, anyway.

In sum, I’d say don’t do it, regardless of the sex of the person you are hypothetically “hollering” at, just to stay on the safe side.

And my favorite comment, also made by a dude: “I would be flattered.”

Flattered, you say? In the exact context in which I experienced it? Late, late at night, as a 110-pound woman with next to no muscle mass, no company, and no mechanism of defense? As you’re walking maybe a few yards’ distance from your car to your residence with the intention of coming home and going to bed without being involuntarily degraded, objectified, and sexualized by a stranger driving by in his vehicle? You would be flattered?

“Nice ass!”

Flattered.

I can assure you, being cat-called summons a whirlwind of emotions within my little body, but “flattered” is certainly not one of them.

What do you guys get out of doing this? Is it to impress your buddies in the passenger seat? Is it because you feel like you’ll get something out of it? Get a rise out of us? Get our number? What? WHAT IS IT?

Sigh.

I have been fuming over this for the past few days, and my therapist has advised me to write out my feelings so that I can stop dwelling on them. I’ve done that, taken my Melatonin supplements, and now my nice ass will drift into a dreamy slumber.

Goodnight,

 

M.