Never have two words instantly connected more people. As I watch the stream of “Me Too” posts flood my Facebook and Twitter feeds I have never felt such an odd mixture of sadness and empowerment. Sadness because so many of us have suffered alone in silence. And empowerment because our collective voice is finally being heard and will hopefully create change.
I got my professional start in sports PR. I actually started by working as a student assistant in the Sports Information Office at the University of Iowa. This was in the late 90’s, before you saw a lot of women working in sports. It was before people like Erin Andrews were doing sideline reporting and there were few women with a seat at the sports anchor desk.
Working in Sports Information was fun and awesome. I got to hone my writing and PR skills and be in the thick of Big 10 college athletics. I even got to register for classes early with the student athletes so I got the best times and days. Sure I was around student athletes who occasionally smacked my butt as I walked by them at practice or on the field, but I figured it came with the territory.
More than once I would hear things like “check out her knockers” as I was walking on the sidelines. One football player even grabbed his crotch and said, “why don’t you write about this, sweetheart.” It didn’t matter that I was usually dressed in a giant men’s sized Hawkeye Athletics polo shirt (this was before they finally decided to make sports apparel in women’s cuts) bloused over khakis. Sexy outfit, I know.
Did I feel uncomfortable? Absolutely! Did I ever say anything to an authority figure about it or even my friends? No.
Instead, I tried to laugh it off and chalked it up to being a part of being a female working in sports. After graduation I took a job doing sport PR on the East Coast. For a new college grad, it was an incredible opportunity. I traveled all over the country and got to be on the sidelines of a myriad of high profile sporting events. I met some amazing people whom I still keep in close touch with today.
However, I also encountered other individuals I’d like to forget. The incident burned in my mind took place at a national championship. I was a media relations volunteer and so incredibly grateful for the opportunity. I was living my dream working amongst the excitement of collegiate sports.
We were wrapping up a long second day of the championship when one of the higher ups invited me to a party in one of the suites at the hotel where we were all staying. I was 23 and always up for a party. He told me all of the staffers would be there and he’d walk me there.
Have I ever mentioned that one of my biggest faults is that I’m too trusting and take what people say at face value.
When we walked into the hotel suite I noticed no one else was there. In a split second this person had me pinned to the wall. I could smell the stale beer on his breath and wanted to vomit. Suddenly my fight or flight instinct kicked in. I shoved him as hard as I could and took off running like a bat out of hell. When I got to my hotel room I dead bolted the door and sobbed.
The next day I told another volunteer about it and her response was, “What did you expect? You knew what he wanted when you went to his room with him.” That was the response from another female!
I was stunned and embarrassed for being so naive…and I never told the story to another person.
As the mom of two little girls I have made it my mission to make sure my daughters know they always have a voice. And they need to use it not just for themselves, but to speak up and help others.
My daughters attended a phenomenal daycare center. From early on, they taught the kids to communicate with each other using three simple, but powerful, statements.
- I do not like that.
- Do not touch my body.
- Walk away.
I credit a lot of their confidence to stand up for themselves to these lessons instilled in them at daycare. When another child pushed my daughter on the playground, she immediately said, “I do not like that and do not touch my body.” I have never been more proud. My girls are not shy about expressing themselves and standing up for each other.
The only time I didn’t appreciate this type of confidence was when I told my younger daughter to turn off the Kindle and go to bed. Her response was “Walk away, momma.” You can probably guess how well that went for her. Or when I picked her up off the floor at the grocery store when she was having a meltdown and she yelled, “Do not touch my body!”
Ok, so there might need to be some work on exactly when to use those statements, but the fact that my girls are confident enough to use their voices makes my heart swell. I count that as a parenting win!
I never want my daughters to have to say the words “Me Too.”
By speaking up and supporting each other we can turn a ripple of change into a tidal wave of empowerment. We are stronger together and it is up to use to pave the way for the next generation.
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi