Sexual harassment allegations against SEO and tech rockstars

For the past several days, I’ve been watching real-time evidence of a narcissistic culture in the SEO Industry.  These are the people who help your website draw in more visitors; one of the so-called “rockstars” is Joost de Valk, founder and CPO of Yoast (company which provides a popular Wordpress plugin while also educating website owners on and helping with SEO practices).  He has also just been appointed Marketing and Communications Lead for Wordpress.org.

I first heard of the story on the WP Tavern, a Wordpress blog, here: YoastCon Overshadowed by Twitter Storm: Joost de Valk, SEO Industry Leaders Called Out for Objectifying Women

From what I can gather, a few people have been posting and tweeting to bring attention to allegations against De Valk and other “rockstars” which they say have been ignored for years now.  The allegations include sexual harassment and treating women like sex objects.

They pulled out a few tweets that sound bad, but which the intended recipient says was not harassment.  The trouble is, however, that the whistleblowers are now being harassed online, called trolls, while in the WP Tavern comments, many people–mostly men–are scolding them and saying it’s not an issue.  One–a man–even wrote:

OMG…
Imagine a world where no men or women have any sex on their mind. One does not need to be a rocket engineer to conclude mankind would die off in about 40 years. And you beggars are programmers.

If there did not happen anything physical it is OK until anyone involved says it would be too much for her. Even if there happened anything physical is also OK until it was consensual.

So go and find a real issue please!

By the way there are women who hardly ever get noticed by men, i am absolutely sure that case hurts way more than being noticed.

UGH!  There are so many things wrong with the above quote.  First of all, the idea that it’s okay as long as it’s not physical–That reminds me of my ex-friend Richard saying that online harassment of me wasn’t “real” and I was being “ridiculous” because it upset me.  Then, basically saying that it’s worse to NOT be harassed because you’re not pretty enough.

UGH UGH UGH!

Along with this is a total disregard of the fact that the allegations go way beyond a few questionable tweets from years ago.  The independent news website The Overtake went more in-depth than the Tavern did, posting an article with the following:

The SEO-industry’s history is one steeped in gender prejudice, the objectification of women and sexual harassment.

One woman who was afraid of being identified said she had been ostracised and lost friends after calling out senior executives in SEO for inappropriate behaviour. Another described being pushed out of a company after refusing to visit strip clubs. The Overtake has also heard about incidents of alleged groping, sexual comments and other inappropriate behaviour, including rumours of a serious sexual assault in 2014 which was allegedly covered up.

A now-deleted review on job rating website Glassdoor mentioned an incident where a woman says a company CEO put her in a situation where she appeared semi-naked in front of colleagues against her will. The Overtake has seen the review but we have chosen not to reveal further details to protect the victim. –Giada Origlia and Katie Wells, Gaslighting–abuse–cover up–#Metoo is finally spilling out into tech

I’ve also been following the Twitter feeds of a couple of women in tech who are also speaking out about this, confirming that it’s not just something that a few guys made up to make the SEO “rockstars” look bad (an accusation which I’ve seen repeatedly).  The women are speaking of an atmosphere in which they’re passed over for promotions and their contributions minimized because they are women.

And on the Twitter feed of one of the male accusers, I found this thread.  On the feed of another accuser, I found this, linking to a Reddit post which read:

I have been at events in Germany where it’s happened. I’ve heard even worse reports from women at events in Germany where it’s happened – literally illegal, sexual assault stuff, and with no recourse and no followup. Until a few years ago, I was like you and would say “I haven’t seen that at all,” but when I started asking questions and paying deeper attention, I saw it everywhere. It’s heartbreaking. –Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz

A blog post from 2017 speaks of a “coding rockstar” who harassed and groped the writer.  She was told to report him, but like many women, did not feel comfortable doing so.  So then in 2017 she heard him say in a tech talk at a conference,

He started his talk with disparaging comments about women and their role in tech. He followed that up with a derogatory anecdote that his girlfriend’s job was to “do him.” He did not stop there, he went on to attack the group I work with, calling us whiny and making fun of our efforts to make websites more inclusive to people with disabilities. He mentioned (more than once) that he could care less about making his project more accessible to others. –Carie Fisher, There are Weinsteins lurking in every profession–including tech

After reading these posts online, the comments in the Tavern become especially egregious.  I see so much gaslighting and trying to shut down the conversation, trying to shut up the whistleblowers.  I’ve made a few comments myself, trying to alert them to how bad this looks to outsiders, but I’ve been completely ignored.  (Ignore the woman–You mean, like they’ve been doing to the women who are victims of this harassment?)

But no, in the Tavern and in comments to the whistleblowers on Twitter, men (and one or two women) have been, basically, calling it a big nothingburger.  While the whistleblowers and victims have been speaking out and saying it is indeed something and they won’t be ignored anymore.

And the allegations are hardly a revelation–The following was written in 2013, and I’ve seen videos of SEOktoberfest (now yanked from Youtube) proving this is true:

There is no doubt that the technology sector is more than averagely sexist. The reasons for this are multitude and too complex to explore in this blog post, but suffice to say that the technology sector – and the digital marketing sector, as a subset of the tech industry – is infused with a laddish attitude and enjoys pervasive and embedded sexism.

I find this rather unpalatable. I think the tech industry needs more women, and more participation from women. We shouldn’t abide by companies and conferences using objectified women as enticements and attention grabbers. We’re not stone age cavemen any more.

…Some conferences use booth babes – or even Playboy playmates – as enticements, and whenever you see such a prehistoric mentality on display you should strenuously avoid the conference and let the organisers know their backwards approach to marketing ensures you will never participate in their event. –Barry Adams, Fighting Sexism at Digital Conferences

Considering what I’ve seen on gaming forums online, I suppose it’s not so surprising: After all, when I was dipping my toe in such forums in the mid-00s, I saw lots of sexism, lots of “raep” jokes.  That’s where I got the harassment I described above, which Richard dismissed as “not real.”  That’s where you find a lot of techies, the ones who are likely to go into the industry.  And then they wonder why there are so few women gamers or techies….

 

 

 

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Repost from 2017: Realizing that past issues with men have been caused by #patriarchy ( #MeToo)

When I came across this post in the course of normal blog maintenance, it reminded me why it disturbed me so much to read on my ex’s fiancee’s Facebook that he is a “gentle giant,” sweet, wouldn’t hurt a fly, etc. etc.: Because the man I knew was very much a chauvinistic carryover from the olden days.  Only sweet when he wanted to entrap you, or make you change your mind when you’re so fed up that you want to leave.  So I’m reposting it:

Thanks to reading blogs (such as by Samantha Field and Libby Anne) and reflecting and writing over the years, I can finally pinpoint what caused the behavior of all sorts of boys/guys/men in my past (and present).  Makes me wish I could go back in time with newfound confidence and set them straight.

Part of it was often narcissism and abuse, yes.  But that’s not the big driver.  It’s quite simple: Patriarchy explains where they got the idea that it was their place to lecture me on how to act, what to wear, whether to put on makeup, how to do my hair.  That they got to decide what we would do, not me.  If I wanted to do something, I was a slut; if they wanted to do something and I didn’t, they kept pushing.  They could have all sorts of complaints about me, including ones with no basis in reality, but I wasn’t allowed to object, or to complain about them.

Part of the problem was when–friend or lover–they thought they got to call the shots in the relationship, and I did as well.

To see that this is a real issue, note, for example, the episode “Betty, Girl Engineer” from Father Knows Best.  I reviewed it here.  When Betty decides she should be an engineer, everybody begins to tell her that it’s ridiculous for a girl to be an engineer.  As I wrote,

She signs up for a work-study position surveying, but is shamed out of it by the supervisor. However, instead of telling everyone where they can stick it, and following her dreams, she succumbs to the brainwashing, puts on a dress, and the chauvinist pig supervisor becomes the latest in her long string of boyfriends. Father even encourages the chauvinist pig to lecture Betty out of her silly dreams (since apparently girls need to be taught by men what to think). She ditches her silly whim of being an engineer, and becomes a Proper Girl (TM).

This is a blatant demonstration of men having the idea that they can lecture women on what to think, that women can’t do it themselves, and society encouraging it.

(Now please, before I get hate e-mail, I am NOT a man-hater, nor do I see every man as an abuser/harasser/chauvinist.  But this is a very real problem women have been dealing with for millennia.  MOST of the men I’ve known have NOT behaved badly toward me.  And yes, many women are horrible people as well.  Many of my friends are men who are perfectly respectful.  But for the ones who have behaved badly, long-ingrained patriarchy–only now being torn down in society–is to blame.  One need only look at today’s politics and various realities inside churches to see that such patriarchy is still alive and well, despite years of fighting it.  “It’s just locker room talk” leads to presidency; wives told to submit to abusers.)

My #Metoo post helped drive the point home for me.  It was a repost of things I wrote years ago; as I reviewed it, and read responses to the #Metoo movement, I got a new insight into what was in the minds of my harassers and others.  For example:

–Sexual harassment from guys in elementary and high school who apparently thought they had the privilege to do whatever they liked, even in the middle of class.

–Guys making catcalls to me as I walked down the street, when I just wanted to get from here to there, not deal with their crap.  What made them think they could do this?  I never heard girls yelling out of their cars at guys.  Even girls sometimes harassed me on the street!

–Even a teacher religiously and sexually harassing me–in the middle of class, with witnesses.  What gave him the idea he could do this?

–Guys telling me to “smile” when I’m just walking down the street or sitting in church or whatever.  One time, I was sitting in the car waiting for my husband, quietly musing and listening to music, minding my own business, when some man came along and actually started berating me for not smiling!  What the f***?  What gives them the idea they can do this?

–In college, Shawn kept pushing me to various forms of petting and sexual activity, even when I kept saying I didn’t want to go that far, telling me it wasn’t sinful.  When I began to change my mind and give in, even want it, now I was the slut letting him sin.  Whatever I did, was wrong.

And to explain why he would do these things but refused me the dignity of being my boyfriend, he kept lecturing me on how I didn’t act the way he liked (I was an introvert), that I should put on makeup, that I should show more skin like my friend did (I wasn’t comfortable doing that), that I should wear jeans (I hate how rough they feel), that I should change my hair.

When my friends gave me a makeover, he said I looked like a different person–and made it sound like I should do that from now on.  Okay, so apparently I have to look like a different person and not myself to please you?  Some people actually think I’m fine as I am.  See there, this idea that he should tell me how to dress, how to act, how to look!

He also told me other people said bad things about me.  He told me all sorts of things about me that weren’t even true, according to all of my friends (even the blunt one), and yet these were his reasons not to date me.  He also never bothered to get to know the real me, just kept his concept of me.  And then, finally, he decided we shouldn’t be friends anymore because I “let” him do these things, and he was disgusted by me.

It’s from reading blogs by people such as Samantha Field and Libby Anne that I now see how Shawn’s behavior was driven by Christian patriarchy and the Purity Culture, how this has been screwing up the heads of women everywhere for years, making them feel like sluts no matter who did what, making them feel like they’re responsible for the behavior of someone else.

–Phil, who thought I should be an obedient wife, always doing whatever he said without complaint, no matter if my needs were ignored, no matter if what he wanted was degrading, disgusting, painful.  And when I wasn’t like this, used shame, anger, withholding normal sexual relations, even telling his friends I was abusive, to punish me.

–Then Phil’s friend, after the breakup, telling me I was going to be an “old maid,” that I was the only girl he felt the need to say this to, that every other girl knew instinctively what he was about to tell me.  Then he proceeded to lecture me on how I should dress, how I should act, my morality, and even what career path I should follow.  Because obviously I needed a man to tell me these things and couldn’t figure it out for myself.  Because obviously my own wants are not important, and all that matters is if I please men with what I do.

And what’s up with “old maid” anyway?  See there, this guy who pretended to be a forward-thinking man, yet kept to the old-fashioned idea that a girl who doesn’t marry should be called the pejorative “old maid,” while a man who doesn’t marry is a respectable “bachelor.”  The very concept of an “old maid” is that no man wanted you, so you’ve been tossed aside.  But a bachelor chooses to be a bachelor.

–Then there was the guy, a friend of my now-husband, cornering me one day and telling me I need to be more “lively,” whatever the heck that means.  Apparently, yet again, my natural temperament and behavior was not good enough.

–My “best friend” Richard lecturing me–yet again–on how my natural temperament and behavior not only were not good enough, but were actually supremely offensive to his wife.  (Here’s a case of a woman having a patriarchal attitude, because she, too, tried to tell me how I should act, what I should think, etc.)

He scolded me on what I believed, whenever it didn’t match up with what HE thought it should be.  He scolded me for my politics.  He scolded me for not acting the way HE thought I should in various cases.  Such as, he scolded and shamed me for saving letters and e-mails to and from friends.

He scolded me for having an equal marriage instead of one where the husband was in charge.  He scolded me for thinking ecumenism was a good idea.  (His wife even scolded me for believing in evolution.)  He scolded me for not liking gory movies.

He said he wanted to “strangle” me because I–despite all his past scolding–insisted on believing that I have NVLD.  Because obviously–despite my years of research into it–he knew better than me, being a man and all.  (A mutual friend, Todd, also says–by the way–that Richard bullied HIM with psychology as well.)

Basically, Richard was very narcissistic, yes, and also very much of the idea that he got to tell me what to do!

And then when one of his friends sexually harassed me in an online chat room, not only did his wife invite that friend to their house, but a year later, when they invited this guy to their house AGAIN, Richard actually scolded me and called me “ridiculous” for still being upset over what the guy did.  He said it wasn’t harassment because it was online and that isn’t “real.”

So–a man gets to tell me when I’m being sexually harassed now?  And if I disagree, and refuse to forgive someone who never repented of his actions, I’m being ridiculous?

And what gave his friend the idea in the first place that he could harass me, that he could decide whether women should shave intimate areas, that he could then say that he only dates women who do, as if I even cared at all what he thought, considering that I’m married and have zero interest in dating him?

(And no, I never told him whether I did or didn’t, because it was none of his freakin’ business.  This crap came out of nowhere with no encouragement or engagement from me.)

What gave another guy in the chat room the idea that he could tell me to post pictures, and then complain to Richard’s wife when I didn’t?  What got Richard’s wife to say “You know how [they] are” instead of telling him off for being a pig?  What got another woman in that chat room to join in on the harassment?

What got the original harasser to then ban me from the channel when I hadn’t done a thing wrong, and in fact had sat there quietly through most of this, afraid to say anything, appalled?

Years later, when I told an old college friend what happened, she kept saying, “What the hell?” and she, too, pegged Richard as a narcissist.  Seems that she, too, has had experience with narcs.

–And, of course, there are the situations, apparently common to women everywhere, of not feeling they can bring up complaints, because even wonderful, feminist husbands get offended.  Of husbands leaving their stuff lying around on the floor, so wives try to give them a chance to be a big boy and pick the stuff up, but days later, the wives finally pick it up themselves.  I always thought this was just a Mars-Venus, male-female difference, but this blog post blames it on ingrained patriarchal attitudes that are tough to shake.  This is one of the blog posts that shocked my thinking.

Now I want to go back in time, find Shawn, find all of them, and tell them, “Who are you to tell me what to think/feel/do?  I can decide those things for myself!  You don’t get to do it just because you’re male.”

Of course, at the time I may have been too timid, too intimidated, to say anything.  Like many have said recently, women often keep quiet so as not to rock the boat, bring more trouble on themselves.

I recently read a letter to an advice columnist (I think it was Dear Prudence) by someone who had been sexually assaulted, but felt the #Metoo trend was shaming her for not speaking out.

Not only is #Metoo NOT obligatory, but some of the comments I found underneath the column were disturbing.  I got the impression that some people thought #Metoo was exploitative.  So, first we are shamed into silence.  Finally, we get the courage to speak out and speak up about what happened–and, yet again, we’re shamed for doing so?

Just as I was shamed for speaking up years ago about abuse I’d experienced, my motives questioned, told to be quiet.

Not only should a victim NOT be shamed for NOT speaking up, but a victim should also NOT be shamed FOR speaking up.

When I was young, despite decades of feminism, we still kept hearing how we should do things to please men, rather than being more assertive.  It wasn’t just back in the 50s, with Kitty on Father Knows Best being told that she had to stop being a tomboy, and start wearing dresses and being manipulative, if she wanted to get a boyfriend.

No, still in the 80s and 90s, we heard things like, If you want to get a guy’s attention, do this or that to get him to notice you and ask you out.  If he doesn’t ask you out, he’s not that in to you anyway, so forget it.  Let him say “I love you” first lest you freak him out.  And polls still showed that guys wanted to do the pursuing.

Also, until recently, I didn’t realize just how widely this reaches until I saw this post which was widely shared on social media three years ago.  There were things I didn’t even realize were part of the system of power and control, because I had always just believed “that’s how it is.”

There are still many women in churches being taught that men have to dominate over them/the churches.

This is still a problem.  We’re not imagining it.  Time to stop being surprised that it happens, and start stopping it.

I could keep going, but dang, my word count is getting high.  I’ll post now….

(Please comment on the original post.)

 

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Realizing that past issues with men have been caused by patriarchy

Thanks to reading blogs (such as by Samantha Field and Libby Anne) and reflecting and writing over the years, I can finally pinpoint what caused the behavior of all sorts of boys/guys/men in my past (and present).  Makes me wish I could go back in time with newfound confidence and set them straight.

Part of it was often narcissism and abuse, yes.  But that’s not the big driver.  It’s quite simple: Patriarchy explains where they got the idea that it was their place to lecture me on how to act, what to wear, whether to put on makeup, how to do my hair.  That they got to decide what we would do, not me.  If I wanted to do something, I was a slut; if they wanted to do something and I didn’t, they kept pushing.  They could have all sorts of complaints about me, including ones with no basis in reality, but I wasn’t allowed to object, or to complain about them.

Part of the problem was when–friend or lover–they thought they got to call the shots in the relationship, and I did as well.

To see that this is a real issue, note, for example, the episode “Betty, Girl Engineer” from Father Knows Best.  I reviewed it here.  When Betty decides she should be an engineer, everybody begins to tell her that it’s ridiculous for a girl to be an engineer.  As I wrote,

She signs up for a work-study position surveying, but is shamed out of it by the supervisor. However, instead of telling everyone where they can stick it, and following her dreams, she succumbs to the brainwashing, puts on a dress, and the chauvinist pig supervisor becomes the latest in her long string of boyfriends. Father even encourages the chauvinist pig to lecture Betty out of her silly dreams (since apparently girls need to be taught by men what to think). She ditches her silly whim of being an engineer, and becomes a Proper Girl (TM).

This is a blatant demonstration of men having the idea that they can lecture women on what to think, that women can’t do it themselves, and society encouraging it.

(Now please, before I get hate e-mail, I am NOT a man-hater, nor do I see every man as an abuser/harasser/chauvinist.  But this is a very real problem women have been dealing with for millennia.  MOST of the men I’ve known have NOT behaved badly toward me.  And yes, many women are horrible people as well.  Many of my friends are men who are perfectly respectful.  But for the ones who have behaved badly, long-ingrained patriarchy–only now being torn down in society–is to blame.  One need only look at today’s politics and various realities inside churches to see that such patriarchy is still alive and well, despite years of fighting it.  “It’s just locker room talk” leads to presidency; wives told to submit to abusers.)

My #Metoo post helped drive the point home for me.  It was a repost of things I wrote years ago; as I reviewed it, and read responses to the #Metoo movement, I got a new insight into what was in the minds of my harassers and others.  For example:

–Sexual harassment from guys in elementary and high school who apparently thought they had the privilege to do whatever they liked, even in the middle of class.

–Guys making catcalls to me as I walked down the street, when I just wanted to get from here to there, not deal with their crap.  What made them think they could do this?  I never heard girls yelling out of their cars at guys.  Even girls sometimes harassed me on the street!

–Even a teacher religiously and sexually harassing me–in the middle of class, with witnesses.  What gave him the idea he could do this?

–Guys telling me to “smile” when I’m just walking down the street or sitting in church or whatever.  One time, I was sitting in the car waiting for my husband, quietly musing and listening to music, minding my own business, when some man came along and actually started berating me for not smiling!  What the f***?  What gives them the idea they can do this?

–In college, Shawn kept pushing me to various forms of petting and sexual activity, even when I kept saying I didn’t want to go that far, telling me it wasn’t sinful.  When I began to change my mind and give in, even want it, now I was the slut letting him sin.  Whatever I did, was wrong.

And to explain why he would do these things but refused me the dignity of being my boyfriend, he kept lecturing me on how I didn’t act the way he liked (I was an introvert), that I should put on makeup, that I should show more skin like my friend did (I wasn’t comfortable doing that), that I should wear jeans (I hate how rough they feel), that I should change my hair.

When my friends gave me a makeover, he said I looked like a different person–and made it sound like I should do that from now on.  Okay, so apparently I have to look like a different person and not myself to please you?  Some people actually think I’m fine as I am.  See there, this idea that he should tell me how to dress, how to act, how to look!

He also told me other people said bad things about me.  He told me all sorts of things about me that weren’t even true, according to all of my friends (even the blunt one), and yet these were his reasons not to date me.  He also never bothered to get to know the real me, just kept his concept of me.  And then, finally, he decided we shouldn’t be friends anymore because I “let” him do these things, and he was disgusted by me.

It’s from reading blogs by people such as Samantha Field and Libby Anne that I now see how Shawn’s behavior was driven by Christian patriarchy and the Purity Culture, how this has been screwing up the heads of women everywhere for years, making them feel like sluts no matter who did what, making them feel like they’re responsible for the behavior of someone else.

–Phil, who thought I should be an obedient wife, always doing whatever he said without complaint, no matter if my needs were ignored, no matter if what he wanted was degrading, disgusting, painful.  And when I wasn’t like this, used shame, anger, withholding normal sexual relations, even telling his friends I was abusive, to punish me.

–Then Phil’s friend, after the breakup, telling me I was going to be an “old maid,” that I was the only girl he felt the need to say this to, that every other girl knew instinctively what he was about to tell me.  Then he proceeded to lecture me on how I should dress, how I should act, my morality, and even what career path I should follow.  Because obviously I needed a man to tell me these things and couldn’t figure it out for myself.  Because obviously my own wants are not important, and all that matters is if I please men with what I do.

And what’s up with “old maid” anyway?  See there, this guy who pretended to be a forward-thinking man, yet kept to the old-fashioned idea that a girl who doesn’t marry should be called the pejorative “old maid,” while a man who doesn’t marry is a respectable “bachelor.”  The very concept of an “old maid” is that no man wanted you, so you’ve been tossed aside.  But a bachelor chooses to be a bachelor.

–Then there was the guy, a friend of my now-husband, cornering me one day and telling me I need to be more “lively,” whatever the heck that means.  Apparently, yet again, my natural temperament and behavior was not good enough.

–My “best friend” Richard lecturing me–yet again–on how my natural temperament and behavior not only were not good enough, but were actually supremely offensive to his wife.  (Here’s a case of a woman having a patriarchal attitude, because she, too, tried to tell me how I should act, what I should think, etc.)

He scolded me on what I believed, whenever it didn’t match up with what HE thought it should be.  He scolded me for my politics.  He scolded me for not acting the way HE thought I should in various cases.  Such as, he scolded and shamed me for saving letters and e-mails to and from friends.

He scolded me for having an equal marriage instead of one where the husband was in charge.  He scolded me for thinking ecumenism was a good idea.  (His wife even scolded me for believing in evolution.)  He scolded me for not liking gory movies.

He said he wanted to “strangle” me because I–despite all his past scolding–insisted on believing that I have NVLD.  Because obviously–despite my years of research into it–he knew better than me, being a man and all.  (A mutual friend, Todd, also says–by the way–that Richard bullied HIM with psychology as well.)

Basically, Richard was very narcissistic, yes, and also very much of the idea that he got to tell me what to do!

And then when one of his friends sexually harassed me in an online chat room, not only did his wife invite that friend to their house, but a year later, when they invited this guy to their house AGAIN, Richard actually scolded me and called me “ridiculous” for still being upset over what the guy did.  He said it wasn’t harassment because it was online and that isn’t “real.”

So–a man gets to tell me when I’m being sexually harassed now?  And if I disagree, and refuse to forgive someone who never repented of his actions, I’m being ridiculous?

And what gave his friend the idea in the first place that he could harass me, that he could decide whether women should shave intimate areas, that he could then say that he only dates women who do, as if I even cared at all what he thought, considering that I’m married and have zero interest in dating him?

(And no, I never told him whether I did or didn’t, because it was none of his freakin’ business.  This crap came out of nowhere with no encouragement or engagement from me.)

What gave another guy in the chat room the idea that he could tell me to post pictures, and then complain to Richard’s wife when I didn’t?  What got Richard’s wife to say “You know how [they] are” instead of telling him off for being a pig?  What got another woman in that chat room to join in on the harassment?

What got the original harasser to then ban me from the channel when I hadn’t done a thing wrong, and in fact had sat there quietly through most of this, afraid to say anything, appalled?

Years later, when I told an old college friend what happened, she kept saying, “What the hell?” and she, too, pegged Richard as a narcissist.  Seems that she, too, has had experience with narcs.

–And, of course, there are the situations, apparently common to women everywhere, of not feeling they can bring up complaints, because even wonderful, feminist husbands get offended.  Of husbands leaving their stuff lying around on the floor, so wives try to give them a chance to be a big boy and pick the stuff up, but days later, the wives finally pick it up themselves.  I always thought this was just a Mars-Venus, male-female difference, but this blog post blames it on ingrained patriarchal attitudes that are tough to shake.  This is one of the blog posts that shocked my thinking.

Now I want to go back in time, find Shawn, find all of them, and tell them, “Who are you to tell me what to think/feel/do?  I can decide those things for myself!  You don’t get to do it just because you’re male.”

Of course, at the time I may have been too timid, too intimidated, to say anything.  Like many have said recently, women often keep quiet so as not to rock the boat, bring more trouble on themselves.

I recently read a letter to an advice columnist (I think it was Dear Prudence) by someone who had been sexually assaulted, but felt the #Metoo trend was shaming her for not speaking out.

Not only is #Metoo NOT obligatory, but some of the comments I found underneath the column were disturbing.  I got the impression that some people thought #Metoo was exploitative.  So, first we are shamed into silence.  Finally, we get the courage to speak out and speak up about what happened–and, yet again, we’re shamed for doing so?

Just as I was shamed for speaking up years ago about abuse I’d experienced, my motives questioned, told to be quiet.

Not only should a victim NOT be shamed for NOT speaking up, but a victim should also NOT be shamed FOR speaking up.

When I was young, despite decades of feminism, we still kept hearing how we should do things to please men, rather than being more assertive.  It wasn’t just back in the 50s, with Kitty on Father Knows Best being told that she had to stop being a tomboy, and start wearing dresses and being manipulative, if she wanted to get a boyfriend.

No, still in the 80s and 90s, we heard things like, If you want to get a guy’s attention, do this or that to get him to notice you and ask you out.  If he doesn’t ask you out, he’s not that in to you anyway, so forget it.  Let him say “I love you” first lest you freak him out.  And polls still showed that guys wanted to do the pursuing.

Also, until recently, I didn’t realize just how widely this reaches until I saw this post which was widely shared on social media three years ago.  There were things I didn’t even realize were part of the system of power and control, because I had always just believed “that’s how it is.”

There are still many women in churches being taught that men have to dominate over them/the churches.

This is still a problem.  We’re not imagining it.  Time to stop being surprised that it happens, and start stopping it.

I could keep going, but dang, my word count is getting high.  I’ll post now….

 

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#MeToo: Sexual harassment/abuse/assault stories

Once again, a year after the last such Twitter trend (that time about handsy Trump), it’s time to Tweet about sexual harassment/abuse/assault again.  I’m reposting what I posted last year, now adding it to the #MeToo trend:

See juslikagrzly’s It has happened to me.  It has happened to you.  She writes about the pervasive problem of sexual harassment, by simply posting the stories of many women reacting to Trump’s banter on sexual assault.  She says,

It’s happened to me many, many times.  It’s happened to you many, many times — and Donald Trump’s vile and disgusting admission of sexual assault has brought the memories roaring back into my awareness.  It feels like being dragged down into a vortex of the shame, embarrassment, disgust, fear, and utter helplessness women experience when men have treated us like sexual meat.

One of the anonymous stories:

Watching the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings and wondering why she continued to work for him, all the while KNOWING EXACTLY WHY SHE CONTINUED TO WORK WITH HIM.  Feeling ashamed and embarrassed for her, myself, and all women who grit their teeth and put up with vile, disgusting behavior.

The stories have a common refrain: “I never told anyone.”  I didn’t talk about it, either.  I didn’t tell teachers.  I didn’t tell cafeteria monitors, even though friends told me to.  I didn’t tell my parents.  I didn’t change seats.  I just stayed silent, letting it eat away at my stomach until I had to get Pepcid for the stomach ulcer and medicine for the headaches and a splint for the TMJ.

I thought maybe it was the NVLD or selective mutism or shyness keeping me silent, but here I find plenty of other teenage girls who also said nothing, just put up with it.

Then, many years later, it happened again, online this time.  After many years of silence, I told my best friend, a man, what had happened back in high school–but now he turned around and told me the online stuff “wasn’t real” and I should “get over it.”

People say things are better for women and there is no rape culture.  But here’s Trump and Giuliani saying this is just “locker room talk” that men do all the time.  Trump’s apology was fake, as anyone who’s known a narcissist can tell you.  First he says he’s sorry, but then he turns right around and minimizes what he did, then deflects attention onto somebody else’s shortcomings.

Well, here are my stories, and I’m not silent about it anymore:

Elementary School

As a little girl, I loved wearing dresses.  I preferred them to pants.

Then one day in Kindergarten, as I walked to school, a couple of little boys cornered me and started lifting up my skirt.  I finally got away from them, but the damage was done: I never told my mom why I suddenly hated dresses and insisted on wearing pants all the time (except to church).

High School Sexual Harassment 

My freshman year in high school, I was sexually harassed by three guys, two of them together.

One of them kept making sexual comments to me at lunch, and once even put his penis on the table next to me.  I refused to look, but know he did it, because of the reactions of the guys around him.

I couldn’t stand the school’s chicken sandwiches after that because that’s what I was eating at the time, and it reminded me of it.

Now I know that I could’ve switched tables to get away from them, but at the time I felt trapped into sitting at that one table because that’s where I sat at the beginning of the year.  I didn’t realize that I could sit at a different table with other kids.

I’m not sure why I felt that I had to sit at that table, but it could have been an NVLD thing: “You can’t change the pattern you’ve already set!”

After lunch we would all stand by the door and wait for the bell; I can remember this guy doing or saying something while we stood in line, so much that I crouched down as if to protect myself.  But I just don’t remember what exactly he was doing.

The two other guys, who sat at the table behind mine in Biology class second semester, would spend the class period making sexual comments to me.  Once, one spoke so loudly to me during the lecture that the teacher stopped and scolded them.

I don’t know why I didn’t tell the teachers what was happening; a friend told me to do so about the lunch period bully, but something kept me quiet.  In fact, in general I was a passive recipient of bullying.  I just didn’t fight back.

Then there was the guy who called me up one day.  We were having a nice little conversation until he said he was playing with his d***.  I said something I now forget and hung up.  I never did find out who it was.  It sounded like he knew one of my classmates.

Then, of course, there were the catcalls, starting in middle school when my curves began to form, going on for years, sometimes at recess, sometimes while walking home from school.  Even a girl in my neighborhood made a sexual comment to me one day on my way home from school!

Religious and Sexual Harassment by a Teacher 

Meanwhile, my Photography teacher made at least one such comment as well.  (I don’t know why all this happened the same year.)

All first semester he’d been harassing me for being a Christian and having conservative values, even though I don’t recall saying a whole lot about them in class or much of anything, really, unless spoken to.

Other kids in Photography class joined in on the religious harassment, including a witch who told me her coven killed my cat (all I said was he went missing on Halloween and never came back), and one day started yelling at me that maybe God is the liar and the Devil is telling the truth–until a Jewish girl told her to quit it and leave me alone.

Then one day, during a work period, the teacher was sitting on a stool at a large table when I had to get around an obstruction of some type.  I don’t remember the details now, what the obstruction was, or anything.  But I didn’t want to go behind him to get around, because there wasn’t enough room and I’d run into his butt.

Rather than leave me alone like any decent man would do, he ridiculed me and told me to go behind him.

I don’t know why on earth I did this like an idiot–probably because I had grown up with the mindset that you do whatever a teacher tells you–but I started going the other way to go behind him, like an obedient student.

He started humming or moaning, and a girl said to me with wide eyes, “Better not do that.”

The following semester, I ditched that class and switched to a class on life skills.  He was a major reason why, both from this and from his religious harassment.

That year or the next, a letter to the editor of the school newspaper complained about an unnamed teacher who would sexually harass students.  I always wondered if the girl who “rescued” me was the writer and if she meant my Photography teacher.  (I must have forgotten her name already.)

All these things happened freshman year, and that year I began to get an ulcer from the stress.  After every lunch period, my stomach was in a lot of pain.

My junior year, I developed headaches from TMJ in my jaw, another stress-related condition, even though the freshman year bullies had either graduated or were no longer in my classes.

College Sexual Abuse

For my stories on this, see my college memoirs here, and look for Shawn and Phil.  Shawn is…complicated, a guy who kept pushing my boundaries and then saying he wasn’t attracted to me, and blaming me for everything he did.  Phil used various forms of manipulation and even tried to force me into anal and oral sex.

Online Sexual Harassment 

In late May or early June of 2009, while I was in an IRC chatroom with my best friend Richard, two of the admins started sexually harassing and bullying me.  Several of the other members–including a woman!–egged them on.

I did nothing to bring this on, had said nothing for some time, and probably wasn’t even watching the screen at first, while doing other things online.  I sat there in silent disbelief when they started doing this.

Then the Creep, one of the admins, because my handle was a hobbit, began making cracks like, was I hairy all over.  His comments turned to my private parts.

I just sat there in disbelief, not responding at all, when he started going on and on about how awful it is for women to not shave that area, and how his girlfriend shaves.

And then one of the other Creeps, also an admin, started insisting I post pics of that area.  I said nothing to these guys to bring this on; I don’t think I said a word through much of this.

I thought Richard would stick up for me, but he said nothing, at least not publicly so I could see it.

Richard quickly went onto a channel I myself had made recently for personal friends, so I could get away from these people and still talk with him.

While this stuff was going on, his wife Tracy came in the main chatroom.  I expected that she had seen everything and was going to give these creeps a piece of her mind, complete with her usual cussing.

But instead, when one of the admins told her I was being a b**ch for refusing to show him a picture of my private parts, she just said, “You know how hobbits are,” and started joking around and chatting with them about having a get-together at her house.

I finally told the main harasser to bite me.  The other admin said that was a stupid thing to say.  Richard even typed that he was “biting” me, basically participating now.

Then they kicked me off the channel, and banned me for several days.  I kept checking to see if I could get in, but just for information’s sake: I intended to have nothing more to do with that channel and those jerks.

These filthy creeps were actually friends of Richard and Tracy!  Nearly a year later, I learned that Richard told them they were being jerks.  But he never made them apologize or anything.  And they knew I was his real-life close friend, but did this anyway.

I was shaken and upset for days, trying to watch movies on TV, but this was constantly on my mind.  It was disturbing, made me feel gross. 

For probably at least a year, even making love to my husband would bring it back to mind, because of how gross it made me feel. 

This was no joking around–This was sexual harassment!  And Richard and Tracy did absolutely NOTHING to stick up for me!

As I wrote in an e-mail to Richard on June 5, 2009,

I’ve been feeling this massive boredom and sadness the past few days because of so many things happening at once….

This strange feeling of not knowing if I want to be around people or just hide away even from my best friends, waiting and waiting to hear that something has changed or been resolved….

I try to be happy and it almost feels like I’m manufacturing it, it’s not really felt.

I try to ignore the [IRC] thing, try to act like it’s not a big deal, but it just isn’t working.

I have to be honest with myself.  I have to put my finger on the problem: Why should I be upset about being banned from a place with people I don’t even like?

If that’s all it is, then I’d feel like an idiot.  So it can’t just be that.  Is it pride because I’m not the sort of person who gets banned from *anywhere*?  It’s part of it, maybe, but not all.

Is it the crying out for justice?  Maybe that’s it.  I want somebody to get chewed out.  I want apologies.  I feel humiliated.

That’s part of it: The humiliation.  I’ve been in flame wars before; I recall once sticking up for my friends and getting ridiculed for it, until finally the sysop put a stop to the whole thing.  I learned how not to feed the trolls.

But in this case I wasn’t even feeding the trolls.  I was just bored and playing a little here and there to pass the time, not being mean or nasty to anybody.

The humiliation comes from, mostly, being verbally abused for no reason and the others standing by and letting it happen–heck, some even joining in, saying don’t let the door hit me in the a** etc. etc., even a *girl* playing along like it was funny.

I remember it was [The Creep], [a few others], and possibly one other though I don’t remember now.  You say you were chatting with [The Creep]; I want to hear that you told him to knock it off and that he’s being an a****** to a dear friend of yours and that he’d better be apologizing to me ASAP because his “joke” is not at all funny.

I wrote about the guys in high school.

When Tracy came in I thought she’d seen everything and was going to chew out [The Creep], especially after he said I’m being b*****y for not posting obscene pictures of myself, but instead she just says “that’s how hobbits are” and starts joking with him and arranging some get-together….

I don’t want these people anywhere near me if that’s how they treat women.  All I ever did was be nice; I thought being your friend would mean good treatment; in return I got sexually harassed and verbally abused and banned. As far as I’m concerned, these are not good people.  Even as a joke–That just isn’t funny.

I feel sick inside.  I know you were disgusted by the whole thing as well; I’m not blaming you for anything.  I just can’t keep bottling it up.

I thought he would distance himself from them, stop hanging out with them, because they were so horrible, because they would treat a woman like that, because they were sexual harassers.

But no, he still kept going into that channel, still kept talking to the worst offender on the phone.  He occasionally brought them up in conversation.  I couldn’t understand how he could do this.

But he only mentioned them once or twice over the next year, so I said nothing–until I heard he was going to have them all over to his house in 2010.

In March of 2010, when my husband came home from D&Ding with Richard and Tracy one Friday night, he told me we wouldn’t be able to D&D with them the following weekend: They were planning to have those jerks from the IRC channel come visit them.

Here in my town.

In their house.

?????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was irate, telling Jeff, “It’s disgusting!”

If I saw somebody sexually harass one of my closest friends, I’d have nothing to do with him!

How could Richard not cut these people out of his life for being so horrid to women, to one of his best and closest friends, to the one who helped him above and beyond what most people would do?

And how could he invite sexual harassers to his house?  Wasn’t he afraid of letting these people anywhere near his little girls?

I couldn’t quite bring myself to tell Jeff just what these people had said to me in the chat, but tried to make him understand that he would’ve wanted to punch them all out if he saw it.  It took quite a while before I could tell him just what went on.

I ranted about it to Jeff, wondered what I should do about it, what should I say?  We pondered the wisdom, or lack thereof, of an ultimatum.

Jeff told me I had to make a decision on what to do, whether to say that Richard should drop these friends.  He also picked up some brochures about a circle of respect, which he was going to “plant” at Richard’s house so the jerks would find it.

The party was cancelled, but I began to ponder the situation, what to do about it, how to handle it, whether it was my problem or his.

A week or two later, I had almost forgotten about it, when something brought it back to my mind again, making me feel dirty and gross with the memory of what the creeps had said to me.  So I knew this was important.

So I wrote an e-mail to Richard about it.  This was around April 1.  It took me some three hours, carefully crafting it so he wouldn’t feel like I blamed him or anything, and carefully leaving out any hint that he should drop these friends.

I used all the tips that counselors recommend for dealing with difficult conversations, without putting people on the defensive.

I kept out how I found it disgusting that he would invite these jerks to his house.  I restricted my request to him please refraining from mentioning the names of these people around me, to help me to get past this and move on.

After all, the time he spent with me was only a few hours every week or so, most of which were taken up with D&D, and he rarely talked about them around me in the first place.  So this shouldn’t be too much to ask.

He said no.  In fact, he wrote such a scathing e-mail–saying that he had actually written other drafts which he scrapped, which were even more scathing–that I thought here was proof that no, he didn’t care about me at all anymore.

I cried, and was so upset that it affected me physically.  I even had to ask a neighbor to take my son to school, because I just couldn’t handle it.

Instead of writing back, I called him up.  He told me I was being “ridiculous,” that I needed to get over it, that online sexual harassment isn’t “real” and he thought I knew that.  He said, “I love you like a sister, but you’re driving me crazy.”

He blamed me, treated me like there was something hysterical about getting upset over guys online making personal remarks about my genitals and ripping into me for getting mad at them and not showing them naked pictures.

He complained about “pampering” me.

He also talked like there was something ridiculous about not wanting to hear the names of your sexual harassers spoken around you.

Yet even my husband feels the same way, cringing at the very name of someone who has abused or otherwise mistreated him.  My husband thought I was not being at all unreasonable, and did not like how Richard treated me over this.

I just couldn’t stand that he would call this “ridiculous” or tell me to just “get over it”–or that he and Tracy were still friends with the main harasser, the Creep, after this incident, that a year later he was talking with them about a get-together at their house and in my city.

I told Richard I didn’t want these guys to know what city I lived in, who I was, or anything.  But he said they already knew.

He said the Creep was actually shy and quiet in real life, not like his online persona at all–but that didn’t impress me, because you’re still a jerk even if you’re only a jerk online.  He said he did tell these guys they were being jerks to me, but now he so downplayed what they did, made it sound like I was just irrational and silly, that I couldn’t believe it.

He talked as if these guys were just behaving normally and did this to Richard’s other friends, but those friends would play along and be good sports about it.  It made me sound like a combination of prude and party pooper.

In August 2014, old college classmate Persephone shared this webpage on Facebook, Next Time Someone Says Women Aren’t Victims Of Harassment, Show Them This.

I then shared it myself, along with a short description of the above incidents.  My friends responded:

cyber bullying isn’t real bullying either then I suppose?  And cyber sex with minors isn’t real pedophilia is it??  The one who needs to get over it is the person who wants to diminish what your truth is.  If you feel like you were victimized then you were.” –(my old friend Mike)

what the h*?  Also, that his wife participated is equally disturbing but all too common.” –(Persephone)

I replied,

Oh yeah, he also told me he had other friends who would go in that particular chat room with him, and could handle that kind of ‘joking.’  Making me sound like I’m just too sensitive.  Yet for some time afterward, I felt dirty because of the things they said.

Persephone wrote,

ew, that SUCKS – and so much wth?  The ‘you’re being too sensitive’ is such a go-to from narcissists, usually when they’re enjoying your pain.  ?  “

 

 

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