Generally, I’m a nice person. Actually, I don’t know why I’m even prefacing this story with that–even if I were a complete jerk, it doesn’t justify sexual harassment. That’s right–even if a person is actually not that great, they don’t deserve to be verbally assaulted or touched inappropriately. But, for the sake of this story, I will remind all of you that I am a nice person.
I was in Target today looking at tuppleware (shut up, this is my life) when I started hearing these clicking sounds, not too different from the noise Craig & I make when we want our cats’ attention. The clicking quickly turned to “Hey…girl” and I caught a quick glimpse of who was making sounds in my direction–two dudes. I turned back around but they continued to click at me. When they started to realize that I was ignoring them and had no interest in giving them any attention, they walked past me and huffed with a resonating “Bitch.”
Now, I must remind everyone, that I am a nice person. But, that does not mean that I have to address any random man that desires my attention. I have the right to be shopping by myself in Target and not be called at like a damn animal. And if I ignore your idiocy, you do NOT have the right to call me a bitch. I’m not a bitch, I’m a human that just wants to be left alone for damn 5 minutes.
My story is not the worst or even most influential when it comes to public sexual harassment. Many women have tales similar and far worse than mine. Probably the worst I’ve experienced lately is that I was once solicited to perform a sexual act on a man…while I was driving my car. A man in a white van pulled up by my car in the next lane (on the highway) and made a vulgar gesture suggesting that I follow him to give him what he wanted. When I quickly averted my eyes, he started speeding up, getting in front of me, and hitting his breaks. I almost got in a car accident because I refused to follow a stranger to give him fellatio. THE NERVE OF ME. I MUST HAVE INSULTED HIS MANHOOD TO NO EXTENT. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME. I AM AN ABSOLUTE MONSTER.
No, I’m not. I can’t believe I have to repeat this twice in the same post–I am a human. I am a woman, a damn strong one, but I have my limits. When I hear my friends tell me stories so similar, and read the exhausting articles on various web sites how public sexual harassment is not even CLOSE to declining, I am just so angry. My self-worth does not depend on any man’s approval or desire, and I sure as hell do not owe that to any stranger.
I’m sure some of you are like “God, shut up. They just thought you were hot. I guess I can’t compliment any woman”. Well, you know what, whatever. Stop reading this blog. I wasn’t asking for their attention, and if you’re a victim blamer, you can get out. It doesn’t matter what I was wearing, what I was shopping for, or where I was. I could be in a mini-skirt, shopping for condoms in a sex shop, but that still doesn’t warrant ANY unwanted attention that makes me feel violated and less-than. Which is exactly what these men want–they want women to feel powerless, to feel like they have no option but to accept any advances from a man. By ignoring them, I was insulting them. Never mind that their clicking noises and not-so-subtle calls were insulting to me and my privacy.
I wish I had said something. I wish I had followed them around the store and embarrassed the shit out of them. I wish I had made weird animal noises, shouted vulgarities about their bodies, and then called them assholes when they ran away from me. But, I didn’t. I don’t know many women that would. Why?
Why was I so intimidated by making an example out of these punks? Why didn’t I report it immediately to an employee at Target so they could ask the men to leave?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I don’t like people know that they got to me. Maybe I didn’t want to give them the validation that I noticed them at all. Or maybe I was nervous about what would happen when I left the store and they could potentially be waiting for me outside.
I do know one thing–the dialogue needs to change. Parents need to start teaching their children RESPECT when it comes to meeting other humans. If you are genuinely interested in meeting someone, approach them calmly and kindly. Schools need to start teaching their students what public sexual harassment is, and that is unacceptable. The first time I can remember being sexually harassed was in 7th grade, when a guy complimented my boobs (um, I was 13). When I told a teacher, she told me that he probably just had a crush on me and to give him a chance.
What the hell are we teaching girls? That when a guy compliments you, you have to fawn over at his feet? That even if you don’t want the attention, you should appreciate it? “One day they’ll stop complimenting,” I remember a co-worker telling me one time after I had been harassed at work by a customer. She meant it to mean “appreciate your youth and hotness” but I took it as “one day you won’t be seen as a sex object, and will no longer be desirable, so you will no longer exist to the male species”. Both of these views are absolutely do not justify such idiotic behavior.
I’m asking all my readers to do the following–watch your actions. Watch what you’re saying. Watch your words. Just be kind. Treat women the way you want your sisters, your mothers, your loved ones treated. And if you see a woman being abused–verbally or physically–speak up. Tell the offenders to jump off a cliff, tell someone of an authority about the event, or just tell the receiver of the abuse that she is not alone, and that she is valued.
I can’t believe it’s 2013 and women still have to deal with this shit. That’s really all I can say to end this post.