It wasn't too many years later that a boy pointed at me and called me a dog. A poodle. I'd shed my long blond locks for short hair and my first eighties perm, and the playground resounded with his chants."It looks rabid!" he'd snarl. I hid inside my coat, eyes burning. It.
Later, when I started dating, it wasn't that the boys I met called me "it," but that occasionally they treated me like a thing. Sometimes, paying for dinner was an exchange for a kiss. Their needs or desires were often less about my mind or my humor, but about my waist or breasts or legs. They needed IT, not me. And this behavior continued well into adulthood, where dating became an even larger minefield.
I was lucky to marry a man raised by a strong woman who taught him about agency and equality and respect. Later, at twenty six, a sonographer said to us, "Congratulations, it's a girl" and I cried. I was scared for the culture in which she would be born, because I knew in my heart that she, too, would become "it" at some point. I knew that the outward sexism of the fifties and sixties workroom has given way to locker room talk, to conversations in men's space wherein women become a thing to be bantered about. I knew that there would be a day she'd be in a tight space or dark alley and catch her breath, fumble with her keys and wonder what sort of uninvited talk or touch she'd have to deal with.
We've armed her with agency and jujitsu. She carries herself with confidence, shoulders squared against catcalls. She knows what is okay and what is not okay. She knows how we should talk about each other and others.
And she knows that yesterday's clip of Trump speaking poorly of women in private, then stepping off a bus to charm his arm around a woman in public is only one of many pieces of evidence of how his public persona does not match his private mind. Today we are watching pundit after pundit talk about a person running to be leader of the United States needing to apologize for what he said.
But he's said it before. He'll say it again. What he said is merely an expression of how he feels. How he feels is how the boy on the playground felt when he said to me "It looks rabid." It's how every public groper feels when they just have to reach out and touch it. It's how the wealthy man who invites a female friend but books a single room thinking it wouldn't be a big deal feels. Women are an it to be used as they will. This isn't the case for all men, but it is certainly the case for this man. How he feels is a deeply internalized part of who he is.
And it is how he feels that we should all find irreconcilable with who we are.