This is going to come off wrong, but I don’t mean it to – I’ve never been into women’s movements. This doesn’t mean I don’t have compassion for victimized women, or that I don’t believe women deserve equal opportunities. Perhaps the reason I don’t identify with many of these self-proclaimed feminists is because I have experienced equal abuse and discrimination from both genders. For International Women’s Day, I thought I’d share my own #MeToo testimony. I hope this story inspires you to be open-minded when it comes to honoring women and (for women) realizing your true worth.
My first experience with objectification at age 14.
I grew up dancing in studios, for schools and local sports teams. I first experienced objectification as a freshman in high school. Until then, I had been bullied by guys and girls at school – I was very shy, kind of a loner and very naive. At 14, I was one of two freshman who made my high school dance team. Over-night, the same boys who made me cry were treating me like something to conquer. There was a time when I was invited to a game by a boy in my class (previously a bully); in front of me, he and his friends joked about how they had made a game out of which one could get me to go out with them first. Thankfully, none of them won this game.
I can’t remember a time throughout my schooldays where I wasn’t threatened by girls who thought of me as competition rather than a teammate – I quit dance for a year because of this – or others who didn’t want me dating a boy in their group – I received written notes and phone calls from girls detailing how they would either beat me up or get my boyfriend to cheat on me. It was like every cheesy high-school show on TV. This “dance team” status had suddenly made me significant to boys and a target to mean girls.
Tolerance for douchebags and body-shaming from women.
I experienced the standard harassment from stupid college boys, of which I was equally stupid to tolerate. After eye rolling through years of creepy drunks and douchey co-waiters, I had grown to realize that I was partially to blame for how I was treated. As a dancer, wearing booty-shorts and plunging sports bras while jumping and shaking doesn’t exactly say, “Don’t look at me.” At the same time, it doesn’t make it right for men to leave their social filter at home.
Ironically, college was more of a problem with women. I never felt I didn’t have equal opportunities with jobs or school. I never felt discriminated against as a student or employee. However, as a dancer, this was when I first experienced body shaming. The women, not the men, around me would tell me I was “bigger” than my teammates and should consider extra workouts or visiting a dietician – I was 19, 5’4″ and 125lbs. In addition to dealing with with body shaming from those who were supposed to lead me, sorority girls were lobbying to have me kicked out of frat parties, and crazy ex-girlfriends were throwing things at me at events.
The final straw & quitting dance.
Don’t get me wrong – I had a lot of positive experiences throughout my time in school and dance. However, by this time, I had grown pretty cold and hardened to every kind of relationship – guys, girls, co-workers, and teammates. The final straw lead me to retire from dance completely.
While participating in a promo event for a football team I danced for, one of the players was getting aggressive with the girls. I had approached my coach who was sitting with the football coach and pulled her aside to explained the situation. She told me, “He (the player) is more important to the organization than you are. If you say anything, you’ll likely be the one removed.” Needless to say my respect for the organization was lost and my dedication to the team reflected my feelings. The coach and I exchanged emails and parted ways. I was around 22-23 years old and haven’t danced for anyone since.
Finding God & understanding my worth.
At this time, I had become somewhat self-sabotaging. I pushed good people away, and allowed awful people treat me poorly. There was no depth to my day-to-day and, to put it plainly, I just didn’t care about anything or anyone – including myself. I was experiencing extreme anxiety and amid my disappointment, I started to ponder my purpose. I wanted to run away.
I came to the conclusion that everything around me was not as it should be and I needed to figure out what was missing. It was around this time that I met Ben, who was in a similar state of mind, and together we rediscovered our faith. I moved to Florida, began seeking relationships filled with joy and respect, and experiences that added to my life. I came to know God in a way they don’t teach in Sunday school, which ultimately revealed my true value.
As I said before, I hope my testimony inspires you to be more open-minded when it comes to honoring women, and yourself. The #MeToo movement has been primarily focused on how men treat women, but little is mentioned about how women treat women. Sadly women can be just as abusive as men in the workplace, at school and socially. Nothing has helped me to let go of these experiences like my relationship with God. Focusing on what He thinks of me has redefined my self-worth and helped me to remain strong when faced with harassment. Let me close with these words from Him about how valuable you are and how He will help you overcome your enemies.
Song of Solomon 4:1 NLT
You are beautiful, my darling, beautiful beyond words.
Isaiah 41:10-13 NIV
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. “All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.