Mark

Even after the election, what’s happening in our country continues to take a toll on our mental health, I think that’s one thing we the people can agree on. This election has brought to light many terrible, terrible realities that live within our borders. Realities like racism, homophobia, sexism and fear of those who are different. Realities that were wrongfully ignored in the shadows by too many of us. Every single day seems to become more outrageous than the previous one and I’m nervous about what will happen over the next four years.

There is a long list of reasons why it’s dangerous for Donald Trump to be President of the United States. But I’m going to talk about one specific reason – his misogyny.

I was eighteen and in a broadcasting program where I was one of very few female students. I am a natural introvert and walked into that program with steadfast determination of pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I wanted to be more open and outgoing. I was off to a promising start, I found a passion in media and enjoyed a confidence that had eluded me during my high school years. That all changed during my last semester, when a student transferred in from another program. I’ll just call him Mark.

Mark was boisterous. He needed to be the center of attention all the time. He didn’t listen to anyone. He was a constant interrupter and needed you to know why his, and only his, opinion was worth anything.

He was consistent with his eye-roll-inducing mansplaining and everything out of his mouth had a sexual undertone. One time, he announced to no one in particular that if he were a woman, he’d make himself orgasm over and over because “women don’t need the same recovery time as men so they can just go all day long, why wouldn’t you?” He thought he was being funny, but he made all of us uncomfortable. And while we all were disgusted by his quips, no one said anything to enlighten him to our revulsion.

One afternoon in the studio, Mark came over and grabbed my large over-the-ear headphones. He thought it appropriate to put them on like a thong, with one ear cup on his butt, the other over his man-parts and proceed to pretend that he was riding a bull or horse or something around the studio.

“You know you have a giant rack, right?” he said as he handed my headphones back to me, almost out of breath from his little show. He even gestured with his hands like he was grabbing his own imaginary breasts. “I mean, seriously, they are amazing,” he continued, laughing and going about his business as if what just happened was perfectly acceptable.

The other three people in the studio, all men, were stunned. One guy kind of snickered, uncomfortably, like he didn’t know what to do, and another actually told Mark that what he did “wasn’t cool, man.”

I was horrified. I left the studio and grabbed the two other women in my class and told them what I had just experienced. I was shaking with anger, with fear, with this paralyzing feeling of helplessness. With their encouragement, I walked with my head delicately held high into our teacher’s office and shut the door. I was ignoring every instinct in my gut to coil back and pretend it didn’t happen.

I fought back tears as I told my instructor about the incident and about Mark’s constant sexual commentary. I didn’t want to cry, I hated that Mark made me cry. I had done absolutely nothing wrong. My teacher asked me what I wanted him to do about it and I remember telling him I just wanted it to stop.

I returned to my studio and continued with putting together newscasts. Maybe fifteen minutes later, Mark bursted into the studio and asked to speak to me. There was a look of panic on his face. My stomach felt like it had completely deflated as I walked out into the hallway with him.

I don’t know what our teacher said to him. I wished he hadn’t talked to him while I was still there. His apology was almost as traumatizing as the original event.

“I had no idea I was being offensive,” he said, “I was just kidding around.” He had an accusatory tone.

Did he want me to tell him it was okay? Did he want me to apologize for saying something to our teacher? I don’t remember what I said to him. I only remember being uncomfortable and wanting him to leave me alone.

I was eighteen. I carried that experience with me, somewhat subconsciously, into my early career. I felt like I had fallen back into a pattern of hesitation where my self-confidence wavered. Mark’s action that day made me question the intentions of the majority of the men I encountered during my radio career and I know it held me back from pursuing my best professional self in those early years. Not all men in the industry are horrible, although a lot of them are (as are a lot of the women who contribute to that culture). Despite it all, I still reached my initial goals that I set as a teenager to be a radio professional. I produced a morning show and hosted a weekend show in a large market. Not a lot of my classmates can say that. Not a lot of my classmates ever set foot in a studio after school.

I went on to find a lot of success within other avenues of the media world, working side-by-side with incredible men and women. It took a lot of guts and strength to claw my way to where I am. Today, fifteen years into my career, I am part of a wonderful team. Yet, throughout it all, I’ve often dealt with people like Mark. When I take on a new project or a new job, I have to work twice as hard to gain the respect of the room, simply because I’m a woman. I see it happen to my female colleagues as well, from men talking over us in meetings to taking credit for our ideas. It’s a very real thing. It’s disheartening, it’s exhausting and it needs to change.

Donald Trump is no different than Mark. He’s a bully who only considers himself and he belongs no where near the White House. I am fortunate to know a lot of incredible women who also stand up against the Marks of the world. They have been valuable examples and I hope to someday be that example for a younger generation. I am also fortunate to know a lot of wonderful men, who would never dream of treating women this way. They were right there marching with us this past Saturday. They were there holding their young sons up on their shoulders, teaching them what it means to stand up for what’s right. Teaching them not to stay comfortable in their own privilege. Teaching them to care about the struggle of others, especially when it’s a struggle they don’t (and will never) share.

It’s time for all of us to take on the biggest “Mark” of them all. For your wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, aunts… please show up and stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. We need to keep Trump from taking us into a backwards spiral that we may never claw our way out of. This isn’t the time to throw our hands up in the air and lose faith. It’s time to come together and keep pushing forward.  This is about all of us.

Learn more about what you can do right now to help:  https://www.womensmarch.com/100/

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