He Said.

While our brothers and boyfriends grew up watching Bob the Builder, we were nailed to the floor and held captive by American Girl dolls and societal expectations. While they grew up believing that they could fix anything and be whoever they wanted to be, we grew up being told who we were.

Girls wear dresses. Women don’t sit like that. Swearing isn’t very ladylike.

Why do males get to build their own lives, but we can’t? We are told that if we are to build, we are only to build up walls instead of bridges, surrounding ourselves because we are too weak to protect against the pain of others. That if we choose to not do this, we are at fault. That we mustn’t protest against the atrocities society normalizes for us. That we should isolate our thoughts and feelings and hurt for the sake of culture. Because it’s normal. It happens.

How am I supposed to learn how to build myself up when all I have ever been told is that I deserve to be taken down? 

 “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

“Cover your shoulders up.”

“Were you drunk?”

“It was your outfit.”

Hey slut. Hey whore. If we were to wear tank tops, we would get suspended. If we chose to go out and drink in a short skirt, we were begging for unconsensual sex.

So we grew up blaming ourselves. We grew up believing that our hearts will only ever always be broken. That even though we can try our best to be whole, we never will be. But not because he took a piece of us. Because we were already broken.

If a woman stands up for herself only to fall, does she make a sound? Or is she just to be buried underneath the notion that boys will be boys?

There are others like me. Others who have been told through the actions of someone else that they do not matter as human beings. That we are objects to be used for the gratification of someone else. That we are powerless, weak, and dirty. That our pain was warranted because we were “bad.” That we deserved what happened to us.

The truth is, we are victims. Not of the circumstance, but of choices made by others. We are warriors. Not of our own doing, but of the events others made us endure. We are survivors. Not because we chose to go through tough sh*t, but because some other individual felt the need to push themselves onto us.

We are humans--living in an age of the #MeToo movement. We are living in a world where, despite public outcry, we have still been silenced. By settlements, threats, and gifts. By excuses. By those who are more wealthy or powerful or well-known than us. By those who have told us that we are nothing and they are something. By men who believe that they are superior to us because of their gender.

I am not the only girl who grew up this way. Surrounded by others who saw our pain as weakness. Surrounded by others who never even thought to ask us why we were the way we were. Surrounded by others who realized that we didn’t quite fit in, and thus bullied us for it. Surrounded by others who misread our trauma as a choice. Surrounded by others who solidified our own belief that we were wrong to choose not to listen to culture.

We grew up believing that they were right and that we were wrong. We grew up in silence. We took late night showers and wore long sleeves to mask our cries and hide our  shame. It was as if nothing ever happened. If we don’t acknowledge it, it can never hurt us.

But we deserve to have a voice. We deserve to have a say. We deserve to make our own choices. We deserve to realize that we are destined for great things that we build on our own. We get to control our own future. We are allowed to feel whatever we feel, whenever we feel it--regardless of whatever He Said.

We stem from a root planted in the belief that what He Said was right. But He was wrong.

Maybe we broke. Maybe we have shattered pieces of ourselves scattered on the floor of despair. But these are only pieces that we will use as tools to build back up what we thought we had lost down below. Our lives will continue on. 

We weren’t given apologies, we were given shame and responsibility. But if we, as women and survivors, build each other up...we can have a voice. We can make a change. We can learn to be okay. But most importantly, one day, we will realize that They Were Wrong and We Are Strong.