I don’t know when I started to consider myself a feminist; it seemed like it just happened out of blue. Maybe it was when the boys in my class started to notice my chest. When none of the other girls seemed to have one quite like mine, and everyone seemed to notice. When I couldn’t get through a single day without my chest being poked and prodded. When they would “accidentally” brush their hands across my chest and go back to laugh with the guys. When my boobs replaced who I was, because no one seemed to bother to get to know the girl they were attached to.
Maybe it was when I felt like I had a chance to get the guy I really liked for the first time. When we stayed up texting into late hours of the night and did a flirty dance around each other when we passed in the halls at school. When after months of feeling smitten, he told me he didn’t want a relationship and I felt my heart break for the first time. When the next thing he said was “We can have sex tho,” and I realized that he never saw me as anything more than a body.
Maybe it was when I asked my lifetime friend to the junior prom. When he got a girlfriend two weeks before, but I didn’t mind because we were friends and nothing more. But I guess everyone else did, because as I sat in the chair, getting my hair pinned up, the hairstylist told me I was “the talk of the day,” because how dare a take a boy with a girlfriend to prom.
Maybe it was during my first month of college, when a guy told me he liked me, and I was foolish enough to believe he wanted to date me. We started “hanging out,” and he kissed me for the first time. But he wanted more, and I wanted to stop, so when he asked, I said no. Then he dropped me like yesterday’s trash, because he just wanted to know how far I’d let him go.
Maybe it was when I went out for a walk in the dark. When there were three of us girls, so it didn’t seem unsafe. But we were no match for the two cars that circled us again and again. When we tried to laugh it off, but none of us could ignore the feeling of dread that wouldn’t go away, as they drove by over and over. When our fear overcame us, and we ran to hide in a yard covered by shadow, as they slowed down and shown their lights, trying to catch a glimpse of us. When as soon as they were far enough away, we ran home, glancing over our shoulders at every sound.
Maybe it was when I sat at a table in school, trying to read book before a workout. When the four football players at the next table started talking about my body until I became so uncomfortable, I got up to leave. But it didn’t stop there, because they saw it as an invitation to follow me. I walked all the way down the hall with them at my heels, saying things like “Look at that ass playing hard to get,” and trying to decide which one could have me. When I walked out the door, thinking they’d stop, but found myself being followed out to the parking lot. When I found myself cornered at my car, all four of them surrounding me and knowing that there was nothing I could do to stop them if they decided to hurt me. When I clenched my teeth and smiled real pretty, hoping they would just leave me alone if I played nice. When I reported this to the coach, hoping something would be done, but all I got was the rest of the team’s attention. When I spent a whole year having players harassing me whenever they saw me in the halls, to the point of just seeing one sent me into a panic.
When that same night they followed me out, I went to the one person who made me feel safe. He held me in his arms and made me feel better until he started to push and I didn’t want to, but maybe I owed him that much. So, I took off my clothes but then changed my mind and I told him I didn’t want to. When he got angry and shoved me to the floor, and I sat there in silence, as he threw my clothes and turned to the wall. When I ran out of the room out to my car, sat inside and cried until my knees didn’t sting anymore.
When I went back to the very same guy because I felt like I wasn’t worth anything better, and he numbed the pain for just a little while. But it kept getting worse instead of better, until I had to stop before he destroyed me. When nothing seemed to work, and I just wanted it to stop, so I filed a paper that said he couldn’t talk to me. When I finally felt safe, but it cost me some friends. When my motives were questioned so many times, my head started to spin and nothing made sense and I couldn’t remember why I thought it was the right thing.
Maybe it was when I went out to the bar, and I lost my friends because they were guys who just don’t understand. When I pushed through the crowd, just wanting to leave but I guess someone got the wrong idea. When a stranger grabbed me by the waist and pushed his face into my chest. When no one did anything, I had to force his hands away, but he just grabbed my wrist and told me to smile. When I fought back the panic and tears as I ran to my car, desperate to be home where I knew I was safe. When I woke up the next morning, with welts on my ribs from his fingers had dug in.
Maybe it was all those times boys yelled at me from their cars as I walked down the street. All the times men stood far too close when I was just trying to do my job at work. Maybe it was all the times I was told “That’s too heavy for you to lift,” or “You should smile more.” Maybe it was all the times men poked at me and stared me without my consent. Maybe it was when a man older than my dad was recording me on his phone at the bar when I was trying to dance. Maybe it was all the times I heard “She was asking for it,” “She shouldn’t dress like that,” and “What did she expect going out like that?” Or maybe, just maybe it was the second I was born into a world that has never stopped reminding me that I will never be worth as much as a man.
That’s why when I see it all over my newsfeed and on the T.V. When I see it from celebrities and girls I know. When I see it in a magazine or walking past in a march on a street. When I see the two words that cut me deep, I get tears in my eyes and an ache in my heart, I find there’s nothing left to do but whisper to myself, “Me too.”