Be The Change: Speaking Up Against Harassment

Something disgusting just happened to me.

I was at Whole Foods shopping for dinner for tonight. I was backing out of my parking space, and was totally clear to exit, but as I was backing out, a blue SUV comes around the corner and doesn’t bother to stop. I catch a glimpse of him in my mirror, so I stop, and then I turn around to catch a glimpse of this guy’s face- I see he’s in his mid to late twenties with a beard, and I see that his mouth is open and he’s making cunnilingus movements at me with his tongue.

I decided to follow him as long as we were going the same way. Finally, we took different turns, and as he left, he honked and waved at me, as if we were old buddies. I obviously shot him the bird.

This is disgusting on so many levels. For one thing, I don’t appreciate random men making sexual gestures at me in public, and I have yet to meet a woman who actually enjoys such acts. They are not flattering, they make me feel like shit and they make the dude look like a douchebag. No one wins, except for the dude’s overblown ego I guess. This happens about 75% of the time that I venture out alone- not in this exact capacity, but I can usually count on being harassed when I’m in public by myself- which is why I rarely am.

Two, this was clearly a power move on his part, and that’s the most disgusting part. He took advantage of me (albeit in a small way) and a sexual gesture followed suit. This isn’t surprising. I think people make a mistake when they equate rape and sexual harassment to sex. These barbaric acts are not about a sexual desire- they are about power and control. To me, this says that this man has never learned to separate sex from power, and I pray this sort of nonsense is how far it goes with him. And I pray no other woman has had to deal with it.

I think we tend to overlook these small things because they are so small. I wasn’t raped, and he didn’t even actually say anything to me. The interaction between us lasted about 45 seconds, and we parted ways, hopefully never to come in contact again. But if we keep quiet about the little things, that’s almost like we’re excusing them. It’s almost like saying “it didn’t bother me” even if it did. If we talk about the small incidents, and bring awareness to them, perhaps it can open up a channel of communication about the bigger issues facing women today. Plus, if we bring awareness to the small things, the men who are respectful (of which I know there are many!) will be able to see them and stop them, too.

Another simple example: The other day, my fiancé came home from training and asked me if I knew that someone placing their hand on your upper thigh qualifies as sexual harassment. Yes, I replied. Girls were taught that in elementary school.

But how come the boys weren’t taught not to do it? The fact that this was considered sexual harassment was news to him, and that’s a problem. I’m not saying he’s guilty of this, but if he or someone like him wasn’t aware that this was harassment and did it, he could have unknowingly caused someone and himself a lot of problems.

Don’t get me wrong- I am not anti-men. I am anti-men-who-treat-women-as-objects. I’m calling out the bullshit. I’m writing this to bring awareness to a topic that we tend to be hushed about. Ladies, I want you to know that you are not alone, that we all, unfortunately, experience this. I want you to keep talking about the incidents that make you feel uncomfortable, and I don’t want you to stop until they do. Men, I want you to step up and put a stop to this when you see it. I want you to educate yourselves on what constitutes harassment, but above all, I want you to listen when a woman says she is uncomfortable. Admitting that takes courage.

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