Do we have to be Mean to protect ourselves?

Throughout the novel Mean by Myriam Gurba, Gurba shares very revealing experiences from her childhood. The most traumatic of her experiences which caught our attention was being raped her freshman year of college.

As many of us know sexual assault is seen and heard far too often in our world today. For many, sexual assault can be one of the hardest to recover from because it takes such an emotional toll on women’s bodies. I know this because I myself am a victim of sexual assault, and it took a lot to recover including therapy, support, and a lot of time. As hard as it is for me to admit this to all of my peers, I just told about 20 individuals, Myriam Gurba wrote a book about it and told millions. Myriam Gurba felt that being mean was the best way to protect herself, she felt as if it created a protective screen. Unfortunately, the art of being mean wasn’t able to protect her from rape. Gurba said “We act mean to defend ourselves from boredom and from those who would chop off our breasts. We act mean to defend our clubs and institutions. We act mean because we like to laugh. Being mean to boys is fun and a second-wave feminist duty. Being rude to men who deserve it is a holy mission. Sisterhood is powerful, but being a bitch is more exhilarating. Being a bitch is spectacular.” (17) Gurba see’s being mean as the best way to defend herself, she experienced so many harsh moments which lead her to feel that way. She found empowerment in being mean, giving her a step above.

One of the hardest things that can come from sexual assault is the after effects, how you feel after, reliving it, wondering if you had gone somewhere else that night if it wouldn’t have happened. PTSD is common with the effects of how women and men can feel after rape. Gurba said “When you have PTSD, things repeat themselves over and over and over” (116) and she’s right. So many women, including myself, re-live the night it happened over and over and over again. The PTSD women feel from the event can be the hardest to overcome and can last years. The thoughts in their head repeat over and over again, “should I have fought harder,” “should I have been mean,” “should I have cried louder for help.” These are thoughts the victims are having every day, and it is heart breaking that so many have to relive the event.

We see sexual harassment every day in so many forms, I’m sure most Cortland girls alone that go out to the bars have experienced men grabbing their waists just to get around them, all of which is very unnecessary. Sexual assaults happen all over college campuses every year, and at least 50% of the time victims of sexual assault on college campuses involve alcohol which makes it even harder for women to fight back. So many women in today’s society are afraid to declare rape because they are afraid they will be accused of lying, in fact 63% of rapes aren’t reported. To make matters worse, as of January 1stin New York State women who were drunk when they were raped are not allowed to report the rape incident. This has enraged many, and rightly so many are trying to overturn the bill. 

Myriam Gurba is one of millions who have been sexually assaulted, although she took her incident and used it to tell a story, opening up to everyone. She shows everyone how she doesn’t have to hide. Reading Myriam’s story, you can feel her sense of empowerment and how she took such negative events in her life and turned them into such an inspirational story for so many men and women to read.


  1. Do you know anyone that has been a victim of any form of sexual assault? If so, how did it impact them?
  2. Do you feel that sometimes you have to be mean to create a protective screen for yourself?

Works Cited:

Gurba, Myriam. Mean. Coffee House Press, 2017.

2 Replies to “Do we have to be Mean to protect ourselves?”

  1. Hi Taylor, I really liked reading your blog post and it is so amazing and brave of you to talk about your own experiences in it. To answer your first question, someone I am very close to is a victim of sexual assault so I am aware of the huge lifelong impacts that come along with going through it. I really liked the quote “When you have PTSD, things repeat themselves over and over and over” (116). This quote stood out to me because that is such a huge part of experiencing sexual assault; it’s not over just when it stops. Sexual assault victims have to carry it around with them every day, constantly having that memory in the back of their minds. It’s really impressive that Gurba took her story and shared it with millions, but it also makes you think about the thousands of sexual assault occurrences that no one even knows about. Sexual assault is becoming more and more prominent in today’s society and we need to do more to not only end it, but to reach out and help those who have already had to experience it.

  2. Hi Taylor! I would like to start by saying that I would never wish sexual assault on anyone, and I am extremely sorry that it happened to you. I, and the rest of the class are proud of you for opening up and I personally appreciate your honesty because it correlates with the topic in the book we are reading. Although we have awareness on campus, I definitely feel like there should be more. One of my closest friends from home has been sexually assaulted, and I can say firsthand that it did in-fact change her. She became less friendly, more aware, and more self-sufficient. She told me that she became so independent because she never wanted to put her trust and reliance in another person EVER AGAIN because she is scared to be hurt, which I completely understood. “When you have PTSD, things repeat themselves over and over and over” (116).

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