When I first heard about the #me too movement, I thought, "Not me." I had never been raped nor sexually molested. When I thought about the subject in more depth, however, I realized I had experienced extremely hostile work environments and also two sexual attacks. But I had rationalized them and explained them away. If a card-carrying feminist like myself could do that, then I think it needs explaining to others.
In graduate school in New York, I suffered from a number of men exposing their erect penises to me -- on the subways and especially, in libraries. There was an "exhibitionist," the euphemistic term for this, in the Columbia Library stacks, a dark and scary location all by itself. Columbia's solution was to give every female researcher a whistle, so that we could blow it if he arrived. It's hard enough to do research without that handicap. When I told a dinner party of hetero couples about this, the men all laughed and said that they would love it if a woman exposed herself to them. I and the other women declared it was not about sex, but about power. They didn't get it. This would have been in the late '60s. I hope that times have changed....
During that era, my then husband and I had dinner with another couple at their house. When we went to leave, the husband helped me on with my coat and then put his hands on my breasts. We left and I told my husband. We decided to never see them again. But that's all we did.
A number of years later, in the 1980s, I had just moved in with a man. An old boy friend came to see me. As soon as he entered, he lunged at me, grabbed me and thrust his tongue in my mouth. I angrily pushed him away and he said, "You know you wanted it." I made him leave and told him I didn't want him in my life.
Finally, in the early 1990s, I became a member of the Graduate Faculty of the City University of New York, whose offices were on 5th Avenue and 34th Street. When I joined, a female colleague told me to never get on an elevator with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., the eminent biographer of FDR. Schlesinger was known for grabbing women's asses. I never did and as far as I know, he was never challenged much less stopped.
When I think about these experiences in contrast to Ernestine Rose's life, I'm struck by how much progress we have made. She hesitated to speak about either prostitution or divorce, although she eventually did about both, for fear of being accused of "free love," a blanket charge of dissipation aimed only at women. I hope that the Me Too movement, which has now gone world-wide, will continue to empower women and bring down male perpetrators, including our current president.