For many women, and me #metoo brought up memories we thought we had pushed away or healed. Only to discover that all of us (with the exception of Mayim Bialik and maybe a few others) have suffered. So many women. Not only do we have our own stories but also we relive ours with each telling and realize these men are not held accountable. If fact, a certain demographic elected a predator as the leader of our country.
I’m from rural Texas where patriarchy has reigned for decades, and I see this demographic in every day life. Patriarchy is marked by the idea that men have the power by virtue of their gender and that women are passive breeders. Property.
Then there is also a passive voice about the predation. “She was raped” instead of, “He raped her.”
As a result, many rural women tend to apologize as if it’s their fault. It’s a reaction to anything that’s not perfect. We want to be unthreatening. It’s part of how we keep ourselves safe.
I’m very attracted to masculine men and still catch my breath when a hardworking cowboy tips his hat at me, or waves as he drives by with a trailer full of cattle. Cowboys were supposed to be the “prince charming” of the world I grew up in. I was meant to grow up and marry one. I dreamt of the safety provided by a man.
It took me lots of experiences to discover that I didn't "belong" in my small town and to be okay with that. But the old attraction is still there, even though, now I know better than to act on it.
My dad was a cowboy and my mom came from a century old Texas ranching family. A babysitter used to come out to the ranch to watch my brother and me. He wasn't a cowboy but (to not use the passive voice here) he molested us. Not "we were molested". He molested us. He did this to us. Sexualized us as children. That is where is began.
As I got older I realized my grandfather was also a predator. I saw him corner women at parties and heard people talk about his “girlfriends”. Once when I was a teenager and going fishing with him, I put on a bathing suit to get some sun. We were fishing at a round pond and I remember many slow laps made around that tank, trying to stay one step ahead of him as he casually advanced on me, telling me how pretty I looked and what a good figure I had.
My parents didn't keep me safe. When my mom found out about the babysitter, she got rid of him but never had a conversation about what he did to me. I was molested (passive voice) I carried that. I identified with it. At 5 I didn't have the emotional maturity to know I wasn't to blame and to use the active voice, “he molested me”. I didn’t know I was a victim and how to come back from that.
We joked about my grandfather. Once at a wedding, I walked into the bathroom to find my older cousin at the mirror, reapplying lipstick. "What are you doing?” "Putting more lipstick on. Papa sucked it off." And we laughed. But not really.
My parents both starting working long hours during my pre-teen and teenage years. My job was to do all of the housework but I was an efficient worker and often finished in time to sneak off with friends while my parents were still out.
I started skipping school with a senior girl who had a Trans Am and one day she took me to the oilrig where her boyfriend worked. We rode around, me in the backseat with a much older, bigger guy who kissed me and tried to feel me up, telling me I "sure was well developed for a sixteen year old". It was exciting, I guess. He was a bad boy in a black cowboy hat. And my rebel game was strong.
The first clue I had for what I was in for was when I grabbed the steering wheel one day and pulled it a little as a joke about his reflexes. He slapped me so hard on the leg that his hand left a red imprint.
Because my rebel game is strong, and my early abuse was never healed by being valued and taught proper boundaries, I dated him anyway.
The whole thing was illicit. I snuck around to see him for six months and my parents were too busy to notice. I was the last girl in my circle to lose my virginity. A month later I was pregnant.
The well-pressed cowboys may not hit their wives but they're probably much like my sons' father who thinks if a woman isn't attractive and obedient, she has no value.
I was attractive enough to draw serious jealousy, but I never was obedient. I didn’t see myself as a battered wife. I saw myself as very strong woman married to a deeply troubled man.
My rebellion against being obedient got me slapped, knocked out, dragged and raped. Even after I escaped and divorced him he still stalked and hurt me.
The abuse was decades ago and I had a lot of therapy and have since built my confidence by making better decisions and finding out just how capable I am on my own, but it feels like the abuse took up more of my life than it did. Because it still takes up time in my head and this abuser is still the father of my children.
And because my rebel game is strong, I learned to fight back. In two separate work situations, one in Austin with my boss and then a co-worker in Alaska grabbed my ass at the office. In both cases I turned around, reflexively, without thinking, punched the predators. I found my power and I haven't looked back.
I look at my attraction to the clean-cut cowboys with amusement now. Although sometimes I’m tempted to date them, they come from the same culture as my grandfather, who was a clean cut cowboy (and a predator) and my father who after I was almost beaten to death said, "her rosebud must have gotten warm" as an excuse to my husband; meaning I was attracted to the wedding party partner I was asked to dance with (for which I was beaten and knocked unconscious).
More recently a horse trainer I dated posted "funny" memes on social media making fun of women’s appearance. I broke up with him because of that but also because I recognized other patriarchal themes to our relationship. I tried dating a younger cowboy, thinking he might be more evolved, but instead of being curious about the world and thinking about new ideas, he swallowed the culture he grew up with. It may take me a while to create a boundary (which is the outcome of early victimization/sexualization of young girls) but I’m getting better.
My litmus test finally had to be whether potential male friends and lovers are feminists. It’s not enough to not beat their wives or corner women sexually and grab them, but they have to be colleagues in this fight against patriarchy and fear we suffer. Just like the acts of predators can't be in the passive voice, neither can the acts of evolved men who strive to live in a place of healthy masculinity. We need the active voice of support.
What does that look like? I was Danny Glover's massage therapist on two movies. I would sometimes take a massage chair to set and work on other cast and crew members while he was working. One day a grip asked loudly in front of a group of people that if he got a massage would I rub my tits on him. My #metoo sisters know the mortification I felt and the familiar lump in my throat and tight chest. I angrily said, "No, of course not." I locked eyes with an angel of a man named Tony Brubaker who was Danny's stunt double. He quietly walked away. Soon a ripple went through the crew. The grip was escorted off set and fired. Tony had gone to the producers and I don't know what he said but the reaction was swift. I still cried later when I was alone, but also felt that I was valued and that my comfort and safety were important.
There is a movement of #ihave and #itwasme from evolved men. If I choose to be with a man, that he have this self awareness is my dream of a TRUE cowboy in a white hat. Despite my experiences at the hands of some men, there’s still softness in me. I am still finding my way forward, and that lets me know that I have retained some innocence and vulnerability. As long as I am able to connect with that and not get hard about all men, I know my feminine softer side has survived. What I realize now is that I don’t need for a man to save me, but if men want healthy feminine energy in their lives it’s up to them to change the culture that puts us at risk. We want to be strong women with our softer sides intact. Protecting us in THAT way is masculine and very attractive, whether you're a real cowboy or not.