WANTED Project Podcast: Episode 201 – Gunner – #MeToo
Nedra: Welcome to the WANTED Project Podcast. This is what I’m calling Episode 1 of Season 2. And I’m hoping that we can get some regular… I mean once a month…maybe we can get something out there so that we just are staying connected.
I do have a feature this week from Gunner and that will be coming up shortly, but I want to talk about who I think might want to submit, you know, a feature on whatever topic. Because on some level… yes the WANTED Project is about…or.. was started in the context of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival for women who were being seen outside of woman, in terms of being specifically women who were born female. In the context of the festival, which was specifically for females, still there were some of us who were being questioned. Almost, I mean, in the name of being inclusive. So not necessarily questioned, but assumed that perhaps we actually identified as something other than female. And in order to… and this is in a place where previously it was the one place women had for the week… one week a year where no one questioned or asked them what their pronoun preference was or suspected them of wrongdoing. You know… going into the wrong bathroom. All that kind of stuff you know. So Michigan was like a break from that cause if you saw somebody walk by with a beard… it was a woman. If you saw them walk by an a dress…. woman. You know…and that was a part that was a real meaningful experience for us to…and you know like me… I’m not I’m not even saying me specifically, because I haven’t had the ongoing always experience of being called “he” and whatever. I mean it happens, but not like some women go through so I’m not even claiming that had so much for myself. But just saying that you know that’s where we started this out from. It was trying to just remind women yes we are women among women. You know?
So thinking about that in terms of being women among women, it doesn’t make sense to me entirely that we think “Oh the WANTED Project is for butch women.” I feel like it’s for females and I know a lot of women who are not necessarily butch who identify with some aspect of being burdened by the expectations of what a female should look like. You know? I mean every woman. Every woman I know even if they want to look femme and whatever. Every woman I know is burdened with the expectations and the limitations forced on us because we’re females. And so I don’t, myself, think “oh I don’t want to hear from women who don’t identify as butch or stud” or whatever you call that thing. I want to hear women’s experience and I think it’s valuable to know that women who are not butch have some of the same experiences. It’s part of what, I think, you know some women don’t know… is that you know it’s not just those of us who don’t fit in who feel this stuff as a burden. You know? It’s those of us who fit in to society’s expectations of what a woman should look like that experience you know all of this stuff as a burden as well.
So for me I’d like to hear from more people. And you know… and I want to hear from women who identify as butch, women who are identified as butch no matter how they identify themselves. I want to hear from… you know… women and so you know reach out if you’re interested in sharing your story or sharing an aspect of your story. Because this is sort of the go-between not seeing you in the way we were seeing each other when we were at fest. The podcast is just another way to connect community. And then hopefully down the line maybe we’ll get together and have some more time for in person discussions and just having a good time.
So on to the next topic, which is Gunner…Gunner actually did a couple of #MeToo videos and she had a little technical difficulty, so I got the second one of the videos she did. And the other one… she says it’s better and I’ll take her word for it. We didn’t get it. In the meantime, I’m just gonna pass you on to Gunner.
Gunner: Okay Nedra…We’ve talked for a while about me doing a video about my career. And I made a video for you last week that I put on my phone and I can’t figure out how to send it to you. So I’m using my iPad tonight… see if I can figure out how to do that and I’m gonna combine a couple of topics tonight. And you can like split them up however you want or do whatever you need to do with it.
But first I’m gonna try to have…. I’m gonna try to add a little fun to this and start out by talking about that this is my Halloween costume that I’m wearing right now. So I’m gonna try to show it to you. And hopefully you can still hear me. I’ll talk loud. But I’m dressed as a police officer. Which would not be very cool but it’s cool, because my part-time job is the receptionist at a hair salon. And the hair salon is called the Hair Police. So when people walked into the salon today I was the one greeting them in this outfit. So the fancy glasses and the freshly done hair, which is other duties as assigned by the way. I mean when my boss says it’s time for me to get a haircut, I get a haircut. And that’s one of the reasons why I worked there I get free haircuts. And free products. I mean, who’s gonna complain about something like that? Ain’t nothing wrong with that. So anyway… I’m gonna stand up for a minute let you see that I have an official …This is officially a shirt and coat from a police officer that served in Fargo. I’m not joking. Fargo. And I got this fancy mag light hooked on this lovely belt. And you know some blue Dickies and some black boots. You know so it was fun. So I have a great part-time job. I do two work shifts a week. Even if I’m somehow lucky to make a lot of money someday I’m still gonna do that job, because it’s my break. It’s my break from the life or death. It’s my break from the otherwise challenging situations that I work with the rest of the time. ~electronic sound~ Sorry that’s my phone. Anyway um so there’s my light topic… is my part-time job and my Halloween costume for today.
But last week I made a video for Nedra and I want to go back to that topic for a minute. It was I don’t know how it’s probably been a couple two or three weeks now that someone started something on social media. A woman started something on social media where requesting that women update their status to say #MeToo. And the #MeToo.. if you haven’t heard about, it is in reference to whether or not you’ve ever been… I believe the wording was sexually… it wasn’t sexual assault… harassment that was the word. So if you’ve ever been sexually harassed to change your status to #MeToo. And it was rather overwhelming to see all the pretty much nearly everyone in my Facebook feed say #MeToo…to hear my co-workers talk about it at the salon. To just recognize. I mean I know…Like I don’t know… I don’t know any… I don’t know any female that hasn’t been harassed in some way shape or form. So but it still had a lot of weight to it that I don’t know that any of us really expected. So it’s difficult in that sense.
And also I think the couple of good things could come out of it or maybe did come out of it in the sense that if there’s women that don’t know… that they think they’re alone like…? Hopefully they don’t think they’re alone anymore. Because they’re certainly not. And also could be a wake-up call for some men to recognize that um…how deep this is and maybe maybe be motivated to do something different to confront their friends or their co-workers or their whoever.
But the reason why I thought that I needed to do video for the WANTED Project that was specifically related to the #MeToo whatever it was… social media thingy… is that it’s directly related to my….My experiences around being sexually assaulted are directly related to what I look like. I thought about you know maybe Nedra can can do a trigger warning or heads-up or whatever. I’m not going to go into detail so don’t stress about that, but you know just the topic in general is hard.
I can tell you right now that my first memorable experience, not just with sexual harassment, but an actual sexual, assault was at at the age of five. You know so there’s that to process. And like I can’t even count how many times I was sexually assaulted as a freshman in college. Like I think that’s probably one of the least safest places on the in the United States for a young female…. is college campuses. I mean I don’t even think… it’s not even a joke. Like I heard it literally that you know it’s like an extra game that the football team played on my campus for instance to see how many freshman girls they could… you know…
Anyway I’m sorry I have like a cat hair. I mean… how annoying is that?
Anyway yeah I’ve had a lot of sexual harassment and sexual assault. And I’ve hesitated to talk about it before. Like historically and I mean I haven’t really had that much reason to talk about it in the last decade or so . But I’ve hesitated to talk about it because of, you know, like weird stereotypes and or assumptions that people make about lesbians and whatever. Like I’m sure that people talk about that you know maybe all lesbians were sexually assaulted or whatever and that’s why we turned out lesbian. And I can assure you that is not why. But also that I think that that was one of the reasons why I hesitated to talk about anything over the years too. And so I don’t care anymore. #MeToo. #MeToo too many times to count.
And so like I’m just gonna try to cut to the chase here. One of the times was… I was still in college. I think I was a junior in college and you know… just for context, I still had mall bangs for God’s sakes. I still wore makeup. I still followed the rules that you’re supposed to follow as a female in this society. I still dress like a girl. And anyway I still passed if you will. And I didn’t really have a problem with that. I didn’t really have any reason to question that or to not do that at that point in my life. But I had gone on a specific road trip and I was driving back. And I remember it was a rainy cloudy gross cold… I think it was in the Fall day and I blew a tire on the interstate. And I was hours from where I lived and there was no cell phones. I mean that we didn’t… this was before any of that and so I’m just like stranded on the side of the road.
And you know here comes another stereotype… I know I look like I should be able to change my own tire, but I can’t. So I’m standing there mostly freaked out, mostly scared, mostly not knowing what I’m gonna do for sure and some dude pulls up in a van and parks behind me and gets out and offers to help. Now this guy… I made assumptions here too. This guy this was an older man. you know… And who knows age is weird right like I was young so anybody would have seemed old. Anybody over 30 would have seemed old. But for real, he had like gray hair and was you know… frail might be too harsh of a word, but he was older. Definitely older. And he got out and was helping me. He changed my tire and I was super grateful.
And I wanted to offer him money. I don’t remember if I had money at all if I tried to offer him money. I don’t think I had any, because I feel like I asked him for his address, because I wanted to send him a thank-you card and I was gonna send him a check and he just kept saying that he didn’t need anything. And he was super, you know, happy to help me. And that we were good. And, you know, so it was one of those, you know, things were it’s like it’s too good to be true kind of thing. And feeling good about like this good samaritan guy. And, you know, the next thing I know he shoved me up against the car and is ramming his tongue down my throat. And groping me all over the place.
And I don’t even remember what happened for sure. I might have kneed him. I don’t know for sure, but I definitely got him off of me… and pushed him away from me… and got back in my car and like took off. And this asshole followed me for like 45 minutes. And I was terrified you know. I didn’t want to… as I’m sitting here in a cop outfit for God’s sakes… I didn’t want to speed. I didn’t want to get pulled over. At the same time I didn’t know what to do.
I just kept driving. And eventually I lost him at some point. And, you know, drove another a couple of hours still back to my campus. And I was so upset and so you know it was just sort of the last straw. And even though you know I’ve had other assaults. I’ve had worse assaults since then. I’ve had rapes since then. I’ve had other things that have happened since then. But that was pivotal in my life for whatever reasons and it was the last straw for me in the sense that I decided in that moment…. moments whatever… I remember getting back to campus. I remember being in my dorm room. I remember the first class that I went back to and some of my classmates that were sitting around me and near me. Like I can just remember so much about that time frame – that little chunk of time in my life. But I remember distinctly making the decision that I was no longer going to be a pretty girl. I made up my mind.
I made up my mind that I wasn’t gonna play by the rules anymore. I made up my mind that I wasn’t gonna like wear makeup anymore. I made up my mind that I wasn’t gonna, you know wear, clothes that would in any way be revealing or… you know, it’s like this weird twisted like blaming the victim thing on my own self. It was all kinds of layers. But for real I made up my mind at that point in my life that I was no longer going to do what I was supposed to do to look like a girl. And it wasn’t out of rebellion. It sure as fuck wasn’t out of like wanting to look like a dude or you know any of the things that people assumed or put on us. You know and I say us, I mean maybe I’m the only one that made this decision for this reason, but I wasn’t trying to look like a lesbian. I wasn’t trying to look like a dude. I wasn’t trying to do anything, but stop being a target. So I thought that if I didn’t wear makeup and didn’t curl my hair anymore and wore a flannel shirt and a pair of jeans that men would stop harassing me.
And you know the joke is it didn’t really work. I mean it has worked. It’s evolved over time in the sense that I don’t get harassed in the same way as my you know high femme sisters. And you know, I don’t get harassed in the same way but it didn’t save me. Nothing really saves me. You know in some ways it’s shifted. I mean I’ve had experiences where you know men do read me as a lesbian immediately, but then their reaction or response is to want to like prove it to me that you know I just haven’t been with the right man yet or you know… stupid shit. Or they might not pick me first, but they’re gonna pick me too. If I’m in the wrong place you know…
Not that I’m putting myself in the wrong, but if they want to take advantage of me they’re still gonna try to do that. So my whole like plan of not being a pretty girl anymore didn’t really work. It’s decreased it. It’s shifted it. It’s changed it, but it doesn’t really save me.
It does work to some degree, you know like, I can fool them, if you will, for a little bit depending on the situation. So I can get away with it you know… Like my partner she can’t even mow… she can’t even mow her lawn without an average of three dudes in the fucking neighborhood that are trying to hit on her… coming up all asking… offering to mow her lawn for her. And so they’re really just hitting on her. They’re really just being obnoxious. So like I can mow her lawn and not get hit on. I can like get away with not getting hit on in certain situations up to a certain point. So it works in that sense, but it didn’t really work. I’m still at risk, because I still have a female body and males that are predators can still figure that out.
So just you know this #MeToo thing… you know it triggered a lot of memories for me. It was sad to witness a lot of my friends… even though I know and assume that most women have been assaulted, it was kind of harsh to like see it in reality. And like I said it triggered my stuff, but it also made me think about this a lot. And made me think about the WANTED Project and you know assumptions that… even good assumptions that people might assume about why I dress like I dress or why I look like I do, but you know, I just felt like it was important to put it out there that you know that the impetus…. the moment that I made the decision to not look like I’m supposed to look as a female in this society anymore came from, like, the last straw. Which wasn’t even close to the last one. So… I’m probably just repeating myself now.
So the whole WANTED Project is about allowing women to look however they want to look and dress however they want to dress and be whoever they are… Like if I’m doing it, it’s girly. If I’m doing it, it’s okay for a woman to do it. And the same is true for you. So shout out to all my little youngster friends out there that are figuring this stuff out. And shout out to all of my sisters that posted #MeToo and the ones that, you know, could post it, but couldn’t post it. You know what I’m saying. So mm-hmm…
I’m gonna put my sunglasses back on because you know… just for fun.
Nedra: Thank you for listening to and/or watching this episode of The WANTED Project Podcast. I want to thank Gunner for being her powerful, vulnerable self once again. And just remember… You are WANTED. You are loved. And we want you to know it.
~Mothers and daughters. Womyn born womyn
and we gather in light of the August Moon.
Amazon womyn and we’re out in the woods
and we heal in the light of the August Moon.
Deaf womyn… Hearing womyn…
dancing by the light of the August Moon.
Girls and womyn in the Michigan woods
and we love by the light of the August Moon.
First time I came to festival
learned I’d always been afraid.
To finally lay that burden down…
I could not believe the weight…~