40: #UsToo

A mere week before Hollywood and the internet exploded in a cacophony of strong female voices echoing #metoo, we participated in the Slut Walk in Los Angeles. A safe space where women told us the meaning of the infamous word in their lives. We can only hope these movements are creating a continuous sea change. We had yet to share our #metoo stories, and as we continue to work to uplift the voices of others, here are our own.

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LINDSAY:

Many have said "why haven't women spoken up sooner, or I am shocked by all the stories." The reasons why women don't speak are many. One, it's painful to bring up these stories, but the flood gates have been opened, and there is no doubt every woman you know remembered all her stories this past week. All the stories likely opened a wound she possibly thought she had healed. My stories are not long. Instead they are a brief collection of a handful of memories that I try to forget, but never will. 

There was the kid in high school who would pick me up every time I tried to get into my car at high school speech and debate tournaments. He would lift me above his head. Me in a skirt suit (required debate attire). Underwear exposed. That was the moment I learned I could be physically helpless against the strength of a man. #metoo

The numerous men I've dated who loved to call me a "slut," never caring to ask my opinion of the word. #metoo

The first guy I loved who threw me up against a wall in public and left bruises multiple places, sent me home in a cab, and told me I was pretty when I cried... and then the cab driver who told me I was too pretty to cry. #metoo

The man I dated who put me in a chokehold in bed without asking permission. #metoo

The set full of men who laughed with the financier who told me, the writer and co-producer, to give the director a blow job. The set full of men who laughed with the financier who would always ask me, the writer and co-producer, if I was on my period. The director who yelled at me to get out of his cutting room after asking me, the writer, for my opinion. The headshot photographer who offered me alcohol and a massage to loosen me up because I was too uptight to photograph. #metoo

Me too. All of us. It's not your fault. We see you, we hear you, and hopefully we don't have to go this battle alone. Hopefully, the sea change is coming. In the meantime, we will do our best to keep uplifting your voices. Sending love. 

ANGELA:

I keep brushing off my own experiences of sexual harassment, because I've been incredibly lucky. I've never been raped. My experiences have been manageable and my trauma very, very minimal. Far too many of my friends have been through life-altering traumas, and I've made it to 30 relatively unscathed. But these instances are all symptoms of the same cultural sickness. And I'm done accepting this shit as a natural consequence of womanhood. It's harassment, and it's wrong. So, here's just some of my #metoo.

1. When I first moved to LA, I was nannying for a wealthy, divorced man twice my age who had three adorable children. It paid fine, and the kids were smart, and it started as a standard survival job. He only had his kids half the time, though, so it wasn't enough to keep me afloat. But eventually, he mentioned that he might have some Administrative/Personal Assistant work for me to do. Great, I thought. I could use the extra cash.

He took me out on what I assumed was a business meeting over dinner to fancy place on Melrose. He knew I had a boyfriend and hadn't hit on me up until this point so I assumed boundaries would stay in tact. (I'm still angry that it isn't safe for me to assume the best of people, because I like to assume the best of people and it doesn't seem like a lot to ask to just be a decent person but I guess vaginas can be super distracting so shame on me for having one I guess) Of course, they didn't. Drink after drink was sent my way, and soon, instead of a traditional, legal, appropriate job offer, my boss was not-so-discretely offering me the following:

- A diet coach (my personality was great, he said, but if I wanted to work in Hollywood, I should definitely loose 15 pounds immediately. But don't worry, he would buy me a gym membership and a trainer so it would be easy.)

- A stylist and wardrobe makeover (a reward for the weight loss, perhaps?)

- Unlimited access to one of his many high end cars

- Introductions to his "Hollywood Producer Friends" who would jumpstart my career

In return, I would:

- Accompany him to Vegas and other party destinations for long weekends

- Have sex with him, on his terms (so fun to note that I was too fat to work in Hollywood, but not too fat to be fucked by him)

- Continue to nanny his children and clean his house.

I spent the night awkwardly placating him and warding off his advances with a smile. I had allowed him to pick me up (trying not to victim-blame myself, here, but it's hard not to), and I suppose I could have taken a cab home, but I was so out of my element and didn't know how to make that happen without potentially angering him. Also, I hate conflict, and I shut down in situations like this. As a woman, I've been trained by society to put everyone's comfort before my own, so my 25-year-old self was doing just that. 

Thankfully, the guy was a creep, but not a rapist. He tried to kiss me multiple times, but stopped when I said no and (after driving to his house to try and get me high and fuck me) brought me home. 

I quit over email that night and never heard from him again. I lost the income and entered treatment for an eating disorder not too long after.

2. A valet in his mid-50s had the habit of calling me "beautiful" and "baby" every time I walked into work at a Silverlake restaurant. I brushed it off and even found it a bit charming for probably a year because: A. I was heading into work and didn't have the time/energy/desire to have a conversation or awkward encounter when I was just trying to get to my job B. I accepted it as a natural consequence of womanhood (again, I'm done with that shit) C. I wrote it off as a cultural thing (all human beings should respect women, it turns out). D He would often do nice things for me, like get my car late at night when I had parked far away so I wouldn't have to walk alone. So, some light flirting from him seemed pretty harmless.

One night, when he picked up my car for me, he drove it into a deserted alley. He had never done this before. I immediately felt that something wasn't right, but tried to play off the strangeness with a smile. He opened the door for me, put his hand on my low back, and kissed me on the mouth. He even opened his lips a little. I pulled back, my heart racing, and did what I always do when men make me uncomfortable. I tried to placate him. I thanked him for getting my car, said "no thanks" to the kiss, and shut the door as quickly as I could. It really shook me up. He was stronger than me, no one was around, and things could have gotten really bad really quickly.

Okay, that's all I have energy for. These experiences were distressing and gross and embarrassing and I've felt a lot of shame for "putting myself in that position". 

I'm glad we are having these conversations, but I'm so sick of women having to re-live trauma in order to be seen as full people. Let's do better.

And by that, I mean, MEN, DO BETTER.

Angela Gulner