Preschool I was called over to the corner of the playground where the teachers couldn’t see. Two slightly older boys took turns flashing me. I was shocked and frozen to the spot until a teacher came and dragged us all away. Junior high • A male teacher asked if I was going to join the running club, and said I should because I had “nice, long legs.” High school • A story came out the newspaper about how a prominent football player at the school had been accused of raping a girl. I knew him, and had been classmates with his younger brother at the private school where we’d all attended junior high. I watched boys joke around and laugh with the younger brother about the incident. I also watched numerous employees and families from my old school and church defend the older brother and say things like, “It’s not true. He didn’t do it.” They never mentioned the girl at all, but were victim-blaming by being rape-apologists. It was the first time I’d witnessed this, and it certainly affected my thoughts regarding rape, the Christian community, athletes and their privilege, and later, the act coming forward as a rape victim. • I was talking to my friend at her locker when a boy we knew came up behind me and mimed humping me. • In biology, a boy passed me a note suggesting we play the question game. I said okay. His questions were things like, “What size is your bra?” and “How far have you gone with a guy?” There was nothing I really wanted to ask him, but I answered his questions anyway. • My chemistry teacher was the cross country coach, very young and fit and pretty. Once a week was Lecture Day, and she’d spend the entire period at the front of class talking. I sat in the back row next a boy who would always masturbate during Lecture Day. I made eye contact with him once while he was doing it, and he just looked at me like, “What’s the big deal??” I felt embarrassed, but even more so for my teacher, who never knew it was going on. Since then, I have become a teacher myself, and this incident continues to haunt me. • I had French class with this one boy and since our previous classes were near each other, we often walked together. Once, walking through a crowded hallway, he put his fingers down the back of my pants. He said he was just trying to hold on to me so he wouldn’t lose me. I was shaken and don’t remember anything about my next classes except frantically biting my fingernails. It happened again in the following days, until finally I grabbed his arm, yanking his fingers out of my pants, and I pushed him away. He acted as though he didn’t know what he’d done wrong and I had no reason to be upset. • My high school boyfriend would sometimes whip his penis out in stairwells at school or on the school bus, expecting me to give him a hand-job. I did, because I thought I had to since I was his girlfriend. I didn’t like doing it in public though. • When I was a junior, a couple of senior guys catcalled me on the way to class and I ignored them. They treated me like I was uptight and cruel for the rest of the semester. • Once, during class, a couple of guys told me I had “DSL.” When I asked what that was, they said, “Dick-sucking lips.” • At lunch one time, I added a packet of flavor powder to my water bottle and began to shake it. My lunch table, all boys, erupted into laughter. One of the boys, my boyfriend, told me that the way I was shaking the bottle looked like I was giving a hand-job. I didn’t know any other way to shake a bottle. • At homecoming, I was approached by a boy who asked to dance with me. I started grinding on him, because that’s how everyone was dancing. I could feel him getting a hard-on and he groped me while we danced. I didn’t make a big deal about it because I figured that was what would happen when you danced like that. • Once, while talking to my crush, a couple of his friends who were sitting nearby started talking about my breasts and looking through a water bottle at them, to magnify my cleavage, I guess. I heard, “You can always see them.” It made me feel embarrassed because I was very obviously within earshot. My crush didn’t make any indication that he’d heard or cared. • The summer after high school, I lost my virginity when I was raped by a guy with whom I’d been on a date and was friends. Afterwards he told me not to tell anyone. A few days later, I saw on Facebook that he’d started dating another girl. I was in denial about what happened and victim-blamed myself; it took me awhile to understand that I’d actually been raped. The next several months were very traumatic for me, characterized by feelings of guilt, anxiety, depression, disordered eating, insomnia, and even self-harm. Later I found out that I wasn’t the only one he’d raped or sexually assaulted. I talked to his high school girlfriend, and she encouraged me to go to the police like she had. Unfortunately, we both went too late for rape kits to be collected, and they only had our testimonies. I didn’t think we stood a chance if it came to our word against his, especially since he’d been a football player in high school and was known in the community. I didn’t want to endure the strain of a trial, and I didn’t want my family to have to either—especially because I didn’t tell them about what happened. They still don’t know. University • Told by an athlete, “Let’s see you smile!” as I was walking to class. • A group of fraternity guys were tabling outside the Student Union and shouted at me to ask if I wanted to buy tickets to some function. I ignored them, so they continued to shout at me, saying things like, “Are you depressed? Why are you so sad?” while laughing. • At a bar near campus, a guy approached me and said something about how I was pretty but he wanted to see me smile. He placed his hand on my thigh as he said so. I told him firmly, “Don’t touch me.” He put his hand on my thigh again as he leaned in to ask, “Sorry, what did you say?” I repeated myself even more forcefully: “Don’t touch me.” He pulled a face and threw up him hands in an exaggerated “my bad” gesture and walked away, like he was the injured party and I was humorless and uptight. • When I was studying abroad in Madrid, I went out one night to a nightclub with my friends. We got separated, so I decided to walk home alone, even though I was terribly drunk and had already been sick in the bathroom. As I was walking down the sidewalk, I was approached by an older man. He grabbed my butt as he passed me and whispered “guapa” in my ear. I kept going and tried not to think about it, but he must’ve circled around the block, because I saw him again and he repeated his previous actions. I didn’t like that it happened (not to mention twice), but I was relieved that I got home safely and nothing more had occurred. I told myself that it could’ve been much worse. • In my Masters program (for secondary education), we were having group discussions. A question was posed: “Are boys and girls educated differently?” I was in a group with 3 men—2 of whom specialized in STEM subjects—and after I gave my opinion, they admitted that they’d never considered that girls might be educated differently. They were like, “Huh.” At least they started thinking about this before becoming licensed teachers. In the Church • As a member of a non-denominational youth group at a church in the Bible Belt, I once sat through a horribly sexist sermon. The pastor put items on a table at the front; among them were nail polish, a football helmet, an iron, and a Barbie doll. He invited two volunteers—a boy and a girl—to come up and divide the items into the categories of “boy” and “girl,” while the audience was allowed to shout out their suggestions. Of course, the football helmet went to the “boy” side of the table, and the nail polish, the Barbie, and the iron went to the “girl” side. That was the first time I started having second thoughts about the Church. • As a senior in high school, I went to my church’s fall retreat. Prior to the trip, we girls were made aware of the unofficial dress code by female youth leaders. We couldn’t wear “those kind of shorts that show your underwear” (they were referring to Nike running shorts, which have liners); we’d have to wear leggings or long spandex shorts under any short shorts we wanted to wear. Bathing suits had to be one-pieces or tankinis, and if we wore bikinis, we’d have to wear non-white shirts over them. It was so weirdly specific. We were told that classic church cliche, that we had to protect the boys’ hearts and minds. “The retreat is for them too,” one youth leader said. But not for us girls? I thought. We don’t get to relax. Instead we have to be on guard 24/7. A lot of the time, this is what it’s like to be a woman or girl in the Church. You come in second to the men and boys. While biking • I was with a friend and we saw a two male cyclists riding towards us on the trail. My friend was about to greet them (as she does with everyone when she’s biking) when they wolf-whistled at us. So instead, we flipped them off. • Another time, while biking with the same friend, she was almost run off the road when two male cyclists rode towards us. One was in our lane and refused to move over, even though there was no way he didn’t see us. We both stopped, because she was stunned; I was mad, though. “Dude, what the heck,” I yelled, while raising my arms in confusion. Both male cyclists ignored me and kept riding. • I was making my way home after a ride when an older man sitting on his porch shouted sexual comments about my body (specifically my butt and legs) at me. It left me embarrassed, scared, and angry—enough to diminish all my feelings of accomplishment following a 20-mile ride. At work • In college I worked at a fast food restaurant. Men (much older than me) who worked in the kitchen would make disgusting sexual and sexist comments about me. Often I and/or my managers were within earshot. I could’ve complained or called HR, but I knew that because of the industry I was in, my complaints would’ve been futile. • I worked for a salsa company for a short time and occasionally served samples at my local Whole Foods. Once, while sampling a cranberry-orange salsa, I got mansplained by a guy who asked, “Is this really a salsa though? I feel like at a certain point it’s just a fruit spread.” Here, I felt stuck because the first rule of retail is The Customer Is Always Right, but I also wanted to defend the product. So I said politely, “Well, the first ingredient listed is tomatoes, and it also contains chili powder, red peppers, and jalapenos.” He responded, “Yeah, but is it really a salsa?” I told him, “It says ‘salsa’ on the label…” He said, “Yeah, but I feel like there’s only so many ways to make salsa,” before walking away. I should point out that this guy was a gringo—white. And I’m part Mexican. I know salsa. At the gynecologist • I’d heard the “born-again virgin” message plenty from the Church, and while I didn’t necessarily love the Christian ideology behind it, I liked that the concept was shared in other circles and communities. It seemed very feminist and empowering, for women and survivors of all genders, not to have to claim their rape as a meaningful part of their sex life or history. I liked the fact that it didn’t have to matter. Except it does, as I found out the first time I went to the gynecologist and had to fill out forms, listing the number of sexual partners I’d had and the age at which I’d become sexually active. As much as you might like to, you can’t ever really forget, or deny, the non-consensual sex to which you were subjected. You’re forced to remember and acknowledge it, and if you’ve been trying to forget it, you’re made to feel like you bought into a lie. • I’m queer and have sex with men and women. The last time I was at the gyno, the (female) doctor asked me, “When was the last time you had sex?” After a moment of hesitation from both of us, she followed with, “Or rather, the last time you were penetrated with a penis?” It was very blunt and it felt like an insult to who I am and to queer woman/folks everywhere, as though the ways we have sex aren’t valid. Double discrimination • I stopped telling people I was “bi” because all too often it resulted in men assuming things about me or thinking far too much about my sex life. Once, my then-boyfriend told one of his friends that I was bi. The friend just looked at me for a moment before exclaiming, “What are you doing with him then?!” I felt like responding that the definition of “bi” implies that I can be with a man or woman, but I didn’t say anything. A lot of people think that bisexual women are promiscuous, or they idealize us and imagine that we’re constantly having sex with really hot women (our friends) or having threesomes (two women, one man, of course). That’s how it’s portrayed in shows and movies and porn, anyway. I didn’t like constantly having to explain my sexual orientation or, when I was in a relationship, justifying my choice of partner. If I have a partner, I’m loyal to them. Does anything else really matter? Should anything about our relationship matter to anyone besides us? No. • When I was at a party in college, I started kissing this girl I liked. These frat guys came over and saw us, and they started hooting and shouting and trying to film us on their phones. I flipped them off, because it wasn’t a show for them. • Once, I was at a pool party and this guy I didn’t know kept trying to hit on me and put his arm around me. There were some girls (who I knew were gay) on the other side of the pool, so I swam over to them, hoping the guy would get the hint. Later, when I was kissing one of the girls, he came over and said, “Ugh, can you guys stop being so hot?” The girl I was with replied, “Nope!” • I was at a bar with a guy friend and we were waiting to order. The bartender was a really gorgeous Asian girl and I mentioned to my friend, “She’s really pretty!” My friend thought I was hinting at him (I wasn’t) and said, “Chinky girls don’t do it for me.” I was appalled; for one, because of his use of a slur, and for two, because I am part Filipino. I told him, “I’m Asian,” and he responded, “No, you’re not.” I was even more shocked, and we argued like this (“Yes, I am.” “No, you’re not.”) for maybe 30 seconds. Finally he said, “You’re cute, but I’m just not into chinky girls.” I was insulted and angered. It’s not “just a preference” when it’s racist, and telling a woman that she doesn’t know her own ethnicity and culture is mansplaining at its worst. • I speak Spanish and French—it’s part of my heritage. Usually when guys discover this, though, they’re like, “Ooh, you should teach me [Spanish/French]” or “We should hang out so I can practice with you.” Like, no, I’m not here so you can profit from my culture. Tinder • In Spain, a guy messaged me, “Hola, te apetece un poco de sexo conmigo?” Right off the bat. • A guy messaged me on Facebook, saying that he saw me on Tinder and was messaging me on Facebook on the off chance that we didn’t match. Dude. If we don’t match, that should tell you something. • A guy messaged me a Harry Potter pickup line. I responded with, “Harry Potter’s the way to my heart tbh.” He replied, “So let’s fuck.” I sent back, “*disapparates*”. (One of my better comebacks.) • A guy messaged me with the pickup line, “Hey, I’ll treat you like a Christmas snowstorm, I’ll give you 7 and a half inches and make it mildly inconvenient for you to move in the morning.” Um, ouch. • A guy messaged me, “You’re bi? I asked, “What does it matter?” He said, “It doesn’t.” (…So why ask then?) • A guy messaged me, “Although you have a cat in your pic I’m willing to look past that if you’re willing to look past the fact that I don’t like cats.” I didn’t reply, and a day later he said, “So I’m gonna be honest… I swiped right cause I want someone to practice Spanish w/ and I’m down to learn french [sic].” • I had in my bio (among other sentences perhaps too articulate for Tinder), “I speak Spanish and French.” So many guys messaged me to ask, “So do you speak English too?” Like, clearly I’m smart, so they have to dumb me down a little bit. • Once, my bio said something like, “Only here for free beer.” A guy messaged me to say, “I can give you free gum.” I replied, “I have gum.” So he sent back, “I can give you a hard dick and cheerios.” • I added a guy from Tinder on Snapchat. We didn’t live in the same country and hadn’t even spoken on either app in ages. One day I got a snap from him and opened it to see a picture of his penis ejaculating. I blocked him immediately, but still felt gross and violated afterward. Tumblr • I posted a picture of myself in a bra on my blog. A guy I knew in real life happened to be following me and took a screenshot, then posted it on his Twitter along with some sort of snarky comment. I heard about it from friends who saw the post. I wasn’t ashamed about the picture; I was ashamed because he’d done it without my knowledge or consent. • I posted a GIF of myself sticking out my tongue. A guy reblogged it with the comment, “I want to come in your mouth.” I blocked him, and deleted the GIF too. The whole thing made me feel disgusted and disgusting.
You patted me on the head, said I was cute, chucked me in the cleft of my chin, and patted my head again. We were standing in a church when you did this. Would it have been worse if it had been night and the church deserted? No, it was worse that it was 12:30 pm and the church was filled with people chatting away. You asked me how old I was, “22?” with your godawful smile of yellow teeth, and I could have said, “Excuse me?” and given you the look that frightened away the middle-schoolers at the playground two months ago. I could have said, “I’m 30,” and walked away with my face blank and proud. I could have said, “What a rude question. How old are you?” and waited to hear your sadly bewildered answer. I could have said what I’ve taught my son to say when he does not like something: “No, thank you.” But I betrayed myself, my son, my daughters who have yet to be born, my religion, and my gender because I laughed stupidly and said, “No. No.” I smiled a smile disgusting in its obsequiousness and shook my head. I glanced around at the people nearby. Not one of them came to my rescue. You introduced me to your daughter who was there talking with friends. She smiled at me but I want there to have been a nausea beneath the smile: ‘Oh, my father; he is such a pervert.’ You said, “All these young girls, and they’re all so pretty!” I lied and told you that my son, who had said nothing, had asked for his daddy, and I walked back to the other end of the church, to my husband’s side, where you would never speak to me in that way. Why was I paralyzed and why do I blame myself? Is it because you and my son share the same name? Is it because I am a friendly young evangelical woman who looks ripe for the picking, who would never make a fuss if untoward words were said? That’s not how we behave in church, dear; that’s not the way we conduct ourselves. It is because you are an elder in the church? Or is that why you acted so boldly, approaching a group of women who were not speaking to you but to each other, while our husbands were on the other side of the church? My worst betrayal has not yet happened. It is that I will not leave this church. I will probably attend for as long as we live here. It would take a small rockslide of wrongs to make me consider leaving, and that is my greatest shame.
In a student church discussion about dating and relationships, girls were told to be careful what they wear to church so not to distract the boys during worship?! Women were told to cover up and think about how much make up they wore on Sunday so to “honour your brothers and sisters in faith”. It was told to 200+ students by a female student leader so disappointing- especially hearing many male students agreeing with her! Surely the point to make is why are guys checking out girls during worship, rather than focusing on God?! Also why must females honour but no emphasis on males honouring women? Forever blaming women 🙁
The pastor at my church told me to “Let the boys handle that, it’s too heavy for you” when I tried to carry something after mass.
Being a christian who doesn’t believe in the “women were put on earth to be submissive and quiet to their husbands” idea, and who is surrounded by people who do believe in it, I’ve heard a variety of sad things from both men and women in the church about women. – One preacher said that Eve was the one destined to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil instead of Adam because “women are easier to deceive than men”. – Another preacher preached an hour long sermon about women’s needing to dress more appropriately and said “None of you men in here can deny that when a woman walks into the church in a short skirt, you don’t gawk at her.” – Yet another preacher made the statement during a sermon that boys should go to college when they finish high school but girls should stay with their father until they marry because girls shouldn’t be out in the world to be tempted. – A preacher’s wife was praised by many women on Facebook after she made a post about how she was going to stop paying attention to politics and trust in her husband to guide them towards the correct candidate to elect for president. – Another girl I know wrote a blog post about embracing the differences between men and women instead of shunning them. Okay, good for you. But then some of her differences to embrace was that she was emotional and felt deeply and he was good at keeping his emotions in check and being unwaveringly strong. Why should we embrace men being emotionless??? – I have heard the phrase a million different times that the husband is liken to God and the wife is liken to the church. Like, what? No??? My husband is not a god. I have heard so many sermons preached about how men should not compare themselves to God or act as gods, but then they turn right around and use this analogy for marriage? – I read an article on how to be a submissive wife. Some of the ways included: Encouraging your husband to pursue his dreams, not rubbing it in his face when he was wrong about something, never treating him as an inferior or insulting him, dressing sexy to have sex with him and even sometimes initiating the sex. I feel so sorry for this woman because she literally thinks this is her role in marriage as a woman, but she doesn’t seem to realize that this is the role any person, male or female, should have in a marriage. If your husband thinks encouragement, basic human kindness, and wanting to have sex with him is your duty and he doesn’t owe you the same . . . there is a problem. What is his duty then? To protect you? Tell you who to vote for for president? Keep you from going to college so you don’t get tempted? I love my church, I love my God . . . but sometimes the people really bother me.
I find that in my church, every time we mention men and women, men is said prior to men. More sadly, there are only religious clothes for men. I don’t have any. We can only stand aside and watch them participate in the ceremony. I don’t necessarily like those clothes. I also think these traditions are beautiful. People are so so so nice to me. But at the same time I feel enormously uncomfortable by the exclusion of women, and the secondary status of women in this religion.
When I was 16, just 3 years ago. My female Youth Pastor pulled me aside at a youth retreat in which we were about to go play games in the gym upstairs. She told me to change out of my yoga pants because they were inappropriate and showed off too much of my butt. I told her it was my body and I didn’t really mind. She then yelled at me and continued to explain that the boys would come to her and tell her that when the girls dressed in this manner it made them have sinful thoughts. That I was the distraction. That I was causing the boys to sin. I told her they need to control their thoughts then. She said no. She said that boys naturally have these thoughts. That this is normal for boys to do and we need to help them by covering our bodies. In which my Aunt promptly agrees with her statements. They made me question my budding feminist beliefs at the age. They made me think maybe they were right. That maybe boys couldn’t control these thoughts. They made me feel so ashamed of myself that I went and changed. To this day the memory will just pop up into my head and it makes me feel disgusted.
I am tired of the misogyny in church. I was told by a saint of God (Mother in TPM church) not to wear half-sleeve shirts (sleeve more than 5 inches down my shoulder), as they show my hands!! From my elbow to fingers. Apparently, we girls, who are only good for reproduction and doing chores, should take care to not be a temptation to boys. Well, teach them not to be tempted. By our hands.
I was helping out at the local food pantry stuffing boxes of food for people who couldn’t afford to buy enough food for a Thanksgiving dinner. Anyway, one of the jobs is to unload the cans of vegetables and whatnot from the trucks. I have always preferred to do the more “gritty” work – I suppose that’s what you’d call it – like setting out tables and chairs or moving bags of dirt around. I’ve never really liked decorating tables and “making things pretty.” So as I was helping to unload the many boxes of canned yams and corn and green beans, an older lady told me to stop. She said that I should “let the men do the heavy lifting” and asked me to help put bows on all the boxes instead. I immediately was offended. Of course I didn’t say anything because I thought well this lady is from a different generation – her views on women’s role in society is different. But it’s always bothered me to this day and it’s been about 3 years since it happened.
Often our church office administrator will receive phone calls from someone asking to speak to the pastor. When the call is forwarded to me, the pastor, the person calling sometimes says, “oh. May I speak with the Senior Pastor,” implying that as a woman I couldn’t possibly be the senior pastor. I experience this as well when meeting someone for the first time and answering the question, “what do you do for a living?” Even though I answer, “I’m a pastor,” the person will assume I mean children’s pastor and will ask me questions about the children’s ministry of the church.