By Kirstin Popper
So, when the whole Me Too thing started, I thought it was great. Good to get this stuff out there. Good to create change. Great to see women standing up for themselves. But, not about me. I mean sure, I could say “Me Too,” but because of small stuff, technicalities. Not the serious stuff that the movement is really about. No big deal.
Like that time in Beijing when this tiny old man walked up to me — 6-foot-tall me! — on the street and firmly grabbed my breast as I was walking by. Oh yeah, and then that same man did it again the next day (yes really, the same man, in a city of 21.5 million people. A city where few spoke English, and I didn’t know a word of Mandarin). The second time he held on tight as I kept walking. It was crazy. And embarrassing. And, well, frightening. But it was no big deal. I mean nothing really happened. I told my mom about it, and she laughed. She said he had probably never seen boobs as big as mine.
Then there was that time on the Paris Metro when a group of young men surrounded me, boxing me in and groping me. It was New Year’s Eve. The train was packed. I was sardined in, separated from my friends. Hands grabbing my breasts. Hands reaching up my skirt. Faces laughing. Mouths saying foul things. But then my friends saw what was happening and they yanked me off the train, doors closing tight, boys left behind. It was terrifying when it was happening, but nothing really happened. Just dumb kids. Probably nothing would have happened. And nothing did. So, no big deal.
And there was that time way back in college, right here in Atlanta (where I do speak the language); in my own house (where I should feel safe). That time when a guy, actually a nice guy, a guy I still know, a guy I still like, was at my house and we started kissing and he was kind of pinning me down. He’s a big guy — which isn’t his fault. But suddenly I was unsure of the dynamic. It felt like things were maybe not within my control. To be honest, I was freaking out a bit in my head. But then my roommate came home, and everything was fine. And that guy is a nice guy. I’m certain nothing was going to happen. Scary at the moment, sure. But, no big deal.
Or that other time in college – this time the guy was already accused of raping a friend of mine. He tried the exact same moves on me. I was wise to his BS. I did not cave to his intimidation tactics and I wasn’t scared. This time I was just mad. So, definitely no big deal.
Of course, there was that time back in Florida. I was just a kid. I was walking home from elementary school and a man waved me and my friend Sara over to give him directions. His pants were all the way down and he was masturbating. But we didn’t get in his car! So, no big deal. We knew that there had been a problem with a guy around there grabbing kids, so we were too smart for that. And we didn’t tell our parents, because we knew they would freak out. And probably we would get in trouble. And anyhow, nothing happened, so no big deal, right?
Or that time when a guy assumed that consent for one kind of sex meant consent for another. And plunged right in. No warning. No discussion. No warm up. No lube. But hey, he stopped as soon as I screamed. And my ass was only sore for a week. The bleeding stopped after just a few days. I guess that’s no big deal.
And there was the time just a few months ago when I was standing on Broad Street, surrounded by Georgia State University students and downtown office workers, waiting for my falafel wrap, and a little old man, half my size, squeezed my ass not once, but three times as he walked by. I froze in panic. It was like ice pouring through my veins. I knew I was younger than him, bigger than him, stronger than him, tougher than him – that he should be no threat. I’m a bold person. I stand up for myself. But I froze. A stranger in line ahead of me saw it all happen, ran down the street and confronted him – she was great. And really, I was just over reacting, right? I mean, like I said he was old and frail, much smaller than me. I could definitely take him in a fight. But still I felt that ice in my veins. Just like all the other times.
It might be a big deal.