This is not okay*

I had something happen this morning that has bothered me more than I care to admit.

I don’t typically share my political views online at all. There are a whole host of reasons why I don’t, but it’s just something I tend to avoid. Once in a while though, I will read an article or opinion piece that I find interesting, and I’ll share it on Facebook. Sometimes I’ll add my two cents in, sometimes I won’t. But I share them hoping to engage in interesting, respectful discussion around both sides to an issue. Most of the time, that’s what happens and I walk away feeling like I’ve learned something. Sometimes my opinion is widened or changed, sometimes it isn’t. But it helps me see other perspectives and viewpoints and I can always appreciate that.

If you have been anywhere near the news or social media the past little while, then you will probably have heard the names Christine Blasey Ford or Brett Kavanaugh. You can look up the exact details of the case, but in a nutshell: Kavanaugh is up for a supreme court nomination and Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers. There are so many more layers to what is happening here, but that’s not what I’m getting at today. I’ve been following along with the news, though I’ve mostly kept my feelings about what is happening to myself, as I typically do.

This morning when I woke up, I picked up my phone. I saw an article that my friend had shared, and the premise in the title was interesting to me. I read the article, then went back and read it again. It was another perspective that I hadn’t considered, and while there was bias in the article, I thought others on my friends list might also find it interesting, regardless of their views on the case.

So I shared it. I didn’t include any of my own thoughts, I simply shared the article and hoped to have a bit of a discussion around it as I was still forming my own opinion.

(That’s how I work. I rarely form an immediate opinion on anything, I prefer to stew and ponder and discuss before arriving at my own conclusions.)

I saw that two friends had liked it before I left to take the kids to school, and when I returned I saw there was a comment from someone on my friends list. As I read it, I literally started trembling because it was so upsetting. I read it again to make sure I wasn’t misinterpreting the meaning of the comment, then felt waves of anger and frustration wash over me. I had posted the article because I felt it was thought provoking and might be worth discussing. The comment I received felt like a personal attack, at one point asking if I was insane for sharing it. I quickly realized that this comment was not meant to help me see another perspective, it was to make me feel small.

It worked.

I began typing out a response, which I edited 300 times before I posted it. I made sure that I was fair and respectful, but also clear with my feelings that the comment left was neither of those things. Then I posted it.

Two minutes later I deleted the entire post.

After  I wrote out my response and agonized over it, I realized that really, there was no point. There was no way I was going to change this person’s mind, and in continuing to engage with them, I was continuing to give them power to make me feel small. And on this topic, I don’t want to feel small anymore.

I’ve had my own Me Too moment. Several of them, in fact. The most life altering one for me was one I shared with you several years ago, when I was harassed and followed home by three men from a shopping plaza. It has fundamentally changed how I interact with men I don’t know in public places, and I am still nervous when I go into that plaza alone, even in daylight. Aside from being called insane, one of the things that bothered me most in the comment left was implications of something that ties into a larger question being asked about Ford: if she can’t remember all the details of the event, and no one else remembers it happening either, does it mean it didn’t really happen? Or is it irrelevant?

When I was pursued and followed home by three unknown men and was too afraid to tell anyone it was happening, does that make it irrelevant because “nothing really happened”? I saw loads of people as it was happening. Cashiers at the grocery store, people eating at Tim Hortons, other people out shopping enjoying a perfectly normal day in the plaza. Does the fact that no one else remembers it because they weren’t involved make it any less real for me?

No.

As light as I tried to keep that post sharing the details of that experience, it has affected me more deeply than most people know. I suck it up and I hide it well. I don’t believe all men are bad, or that most men are “out to get me”. But I walk with my phone in my hand whenever I’m out. I look at each person’s face I pass, trying to remember details of what they looked like in case I’d ever need to remember them. I make sure I have my keys in my hand before I leave anywhere so I am never fumbling for them beside my locked vehicle. I check all the back seats in my van before I get in it, and I lock the doors behind me immediately, before even starting it. Whenever I’m leaving anywhere, I text M and let him know I’m coming so he’ll know when to expect me. When I am home alone, I keep my doors locked. This is how I live. This is what makes me feel safe and prepared.

Maybe it’s extreme. I probably don’t need to do all the things I do.

But for me, it’s what I need. I laugh it off sometimes and call them my “quirks”. Other times I’m so incredibly frustrated and just want to yell that THIS IS NOT OKAY. It’s not. And I’m tired.

So I felt small today… and I didn’t like it. The comment stung more deeply than I wanted it to. It’s really made me think hard about why I’m on Facebook in the first place… it has changed so much since I joined over a decade ago. I went “dark” and was off it for all of August, and maybe it’s time to go dark again.

I’ll come back on Hallowe’en for the cute costume photos… and I’ll leave the rest alone.

Sorry for the rant, I just wanted to stop feeling small for just a minute.

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