“It’s your fault. Why did you wear that dress?”

Those were the words the Rebbetsin spoke to me as I sat in her office after a boy had ripped open my snap-button denim dress because I wasn’t done sharpening my pencil quick enough for him.

I was nine years old.

After the incident, which happened in front of the whole classroom, I was sent to the office of the Rabbi’s wife . As a girl, being sent to the “Rebbetsin” was the equivalent of being sent to the Principle’s office.  The boy who ripped open my dress wasn’t sent anywhere. In fact, he wasn’t reprimanded at all.

It was my fault. I wore the dress.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Not only was it always going to be my fault, but that turning to those in charge would do nothing. No one was going to help me.

  • A boy ripped your dress? Well, maybe you should have worn a different dress.
  • Your manager at McDonalds pushed you up against a wall and stuck his tongue in your mouth? Please, we all saw how chummy you two were, you clearly wanted it.
  • A co-worker keeps telling you that you have ‘child bearing hips’ and he would love to put a baby in you? You should be flattered because he’s hot.

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelation, women have been sharing their #MeToo stories. They have been heartbreaking to read, yet not shocking. Most of us have dealt with some form of harassment. And while there are many people out there chiding men for their bad behavior, the folks who were most cruel to me after I tried to speak up, were women.

It was the Rabbi’s wife who told me that I shouldn’t have worn the dress.

And it was a female co-worker at my old job at McDonalds, back in my senior year of High School, who told me that our manager had every right to shove me up against the wall, near the garbage dump, and stick his tongue down my throat because I was always smiling at him and laughing at his jokes – Of course he thought I wanted it.

It was an older, female, co-worker who told me I should be flattered by the married guy who kept telling me he wanted to put a baby in me and my “child bearing hips.”

Just the other day, while discussing the Weinstein situation, a female coworker told me that while what he did was horrifying, she blames the victims for everything that happened not only to them, but to the women this guy raped and harassed after them because they should have spoken up sooner.

Another woman blamed the victims saying that if they dressed like ‘skanks’ they deserve what they got.

Why are women (mostly older ones) so cruel to other women who were harassed, and who now are speaking out about it?

Donna Karan came to Weinstein’s defense, talking about what a difficult position HE was in and that, we should, instead, look at how these women present themselves.

Mayim Bialik (yes, “Blossom” or, “Amy Farrah Fowler,” if you prefer), in an OpEd she wrote for the New York Times, said that women who ‘dress modestly’ are less likely to encounter sexual harassment. Essentially, proving, that even women who think they are feminists, still don’t get the point.

How are women supposed to report instances, if the first question we often hear is “are you sure?” Followed quickly with “what were you wearing?”

And how are women supposed to feel safe to report instances of harassment, when more often than not, the people asking these questions, and casting doubts, are other women?

And should women start donning birkas? Maybe we should all dress Frum? Would that help? And why is the onus on us? And why do we ourselves put the onus on us?

And if men are so weak that they can’t control themselves at the sight of a woman’s natural hair, or her elbows, or her knees, then how the hell are we, who are clearly so powerful that a glimpse of our smiles can make a man lose all sense of right and wrong, not the ones in control of the narrative?

Oh that’s right, because we really are our own worst enemies.

Women are vicious to one another. We are catty. We are the worst at victim shaming, slut shaming and judging.  We have allowed our cultural norms, which were set by men a long time ago, to force us to be in constant competition with one another. We watch shows like “The Bachelor” and “The Real Housewives” for the soul purpose to watch women be evil to one another.

If this #metoo movement has shown me anything, it’s that this has happened to EVERY woman I know. Every. Single. One.

Imagine if we all decided ‘enough is enough’ and actually stood by one another? No more slut-shaming, no more cattiness, no more excuse making, no more jealousy because of another’s looks, luck, man… Stop feeding into this notion that women need to be bitches to one another – it’s how men like Weinstein, Trump, Ailes, O’Reilly, etc, managed to get away with their shit for as long as they have.

Change the narrative.

Stop making it about “what did you wear?” And ask the real question, “What did he do?”

Stop teaching girls that we need to hide, or that our lot in life is to be submissive, or that we in any way, shape, or form, are to blame when men are the ones who can’t seem to control their ‘urges.’

Teach boys from an early age that women aren’t ‘less than’ and that ‘no means no’ and that if they see another boy/man disrespecting a woman, that he should stand up for the girl.

There are men who want to be our allies in all of this. I commend them. I’ve read their responses to the #MeToo movement, calling for men to do better.  I am heartened by their words and genuine horror at what they are witnessing in the revelations coming from the women in their lives.

But before we can accept their help, we really need to start to help ourselves.

And to that I must say #MeToo.

 

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