Shaindel Beers: After Sharing my Story

Shaindel Beers: After Sharing my Story

Shaindel wrote this piece for the WYR Project after sharing her Story “Hundreds of Dollars” to describe what it’s like after coming forward.

The Follow-Up to Publishing “Hundreds of Dollars” at I Believe You/It’s Not Your Faultshaindel

My essay at IBY/INYF went live on September 26. I had sent it in July 29 and did one of those paranoid new-writer things that I warn students never to do. I emailed Lindy West, the publisher, “I’m having paranoia that my IBYINYF was horribly written… I’ve never written about it. If you are just behind or if you had any pointers for me on it, would you let me know?”
Of course, the project had just blown up on her. She was over one hundred submissions behind. The blog was publishing two accounts per day, and they were receiving many more than that each day. There are just so many stories and so many women feeling strong enough to tell them, and there are exponentially more stories that go untold. I know whenever the topic of IBY/INYF came up in circles of women writers, one of the first questions was, “Which time should I write about?” I think that’s what a lot of men don’t understand. That even though most people know these things happen, many people seem to be in denial they happen to many women multiple times. Enough times that you have to figure out which time to write about.

Everyone who read my story was incredibly supportive, even people I wasn’t sure about. I decided to share the post publicly on Facebook, and I let other people tag it. I hadn’t been sure about these details at first – if I would use my full name, if I would be alright with people tagging the post, if I would share it publicly, but as I saw other brave writers sharing their stories, I figured I should do the same. I wanted to reach and help as many people as possible. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Words attached to my essay and to me included, “powerhouse,” “heartbreaker,” “brave,” “kickass.”
The only response to the essay that was difficult for me was that some people thought my friend D.D. maybe knew the other guy (A.M.) was trying something, that maybe he was in on it. That was hard for me to wrap my mind around. I think that male allies are often in a tricky spot. What was he supposed to do? If he had told me that maybe I was drinking too much or maybe I should be careful around A.M., would I have listened? Would he have seemed patronizing, overly protective, anti-feminist? I think as someone who didn’t know A.M. even as well as I did, he didn’t do anything wrong. The reason that it seemed so obvious to him the next day, why he blurted out, “Oh my God. He raped you, didn’t he?” while we sat there in a fast food restaurant was because I was so not myself right then. Something had been taken from me, and I was a shell. I honestly couldn’t even focus on my surroundings. All that echoed in my head were the ugly manipulations that A.M. had kept saying to me. “You don’t even have a book out. We paid hundreds of dollars to bring you here. Didn’t you wonder about that? Don’t you think we could have paid for an author with a book?” I was sitting in a KFC in rural Illinois, hearing that over and over again, trying to figure out my self-worth. Who I was. If I even really still had a self.

The one lesson that I have taken from having this piece published is that we need better education for men. Rape and sexual harassment are not “women’s issues.” These issues hurt everyone. Men need to know what to do when they see a woman being disrespected. A lot of the rhetoric is troubling – Would you want someone to treat your mother that way? Or your sister? – because women should be valued not in relation to someone else but just as people. I don’t know how to get us there.

Another former student of mine recently messaged me about something writing-related and out of nowhere said, “oh and by the way, did you know that almost every single one of your male students want to bone you?” This is a student who (before this) I would have considered enlightened, a male feminist. When I asked what would possess him to say this, he said he thought it was a compliment. That I would want to know in addition to being intelligent that I am desirable. I know that as long as women are valued as objects more than they are as people, more as bodies than they are as minds, this will be considered a compliment, and I’m sure it’s confusing for men to navigate a world in which women are people. After all, it is a relatively new concept.

I’m not sure I have answers. I do try to get people to think about questions. I posted the above former student’s quote under, “From the December 6th edition of things not to say to your professors:” and started a dialogue about it. In general, women didn’t seem so surprised, but men did. And, that, I think, is part of the problem. Men need to know what other men do and do not know. Men need to help teach other men what is appropriate behavior towards a woman, and what is not. Because, sadly, a lot of men don’t respect women enough to truly listen to them.




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