A year ago today, I wrote a blog about harassment from men. Not harassment that I’ve dealt with through the years, just some that had happened in a two-day time span that left me shaken.
This morning Facebook reminded me of everything that happened today last year. Amidst all the heartbroken messages about 45 being elected president, there was this blog, I’m not an object. Neither is she. It was a fitting time to write it, knowing I was so shaken by these “seemingly” harmless harassments only because of 45. Knowing that it was the first day of four years where men would now (continue) to think it’s okay to treat women the way they do because 45 can.
It seems that every day that passes, something else happens. But also, stories from Hollywood are finally coming out. Progress. But while that is happening, the kids from Stranger Things are getting sexualized in the media. It’s like, despite the stories that arise, we never learn.
A few weeks ago, there was the #metoo campaign. If you aren’t aware of what that is, it’s when people who have been sexually harassed, abused or assaulted came to social media to write #metoo. Whether they shared their personal experience or not, it was to stand in solidarity with one another. There was an overwhelming response, which is devastating, yet unsurprising. This has been happening our entire lives. It’s the norm to treat women disrespectfully. Whether people are aware of it or not.
Women are raised in a way that tells them they should be ashamed of who they are. We should look and act a certain way. We should aspire to a certain career or no career at all. We should be mothers and if you don’t want children, then there must be something wrong with you. It’s your job to reproduce. But most of all, we are raised to fear men. While that may seem extreme, we have proof of validation. We’ve had the experiences that let our minds know that we should fear men.
There is so much shame around being a woman, that often it’s hard for us to dissect what is happening. It’s safe to say that every single woman has been disrespected and harassed in one way or another. Many times, she may think it’s what needs to happen to succeed, for one to like her, or that it must be the way the world works so she’ll just handle what comes. Worst of all, because we fear men, we may do what they want just to keep ourselves safe.
Worst of all, because we fear men, we may do what they want just to keep ourselves safe.
During this campaign, I shared a few stories of mine on Twitter, starting back in middle school. To this day, I’m still trying to decipher how to respect myself and my body, and how to stand up to those who do not. It shouldn’t be our job to educate grown men either, but most of the time it needs to happen. By doing so, I’ve learned to love who I am, but I’m not perfect. I’ve still gotten myself into uncomfortable situations, but the fact of the matter is, there shouldn’t have ever been a situation. It’s caused me to be hesitant to date or even go to places where men may be lurking around.
Recently, I went to the beach after work for some peace and quiet. When I arrived, the (always busy) beach was deserted aside from two trucks. There was a group of five men all hanging out. Honestly, they were, most likely, harmless. However, I analyzed them from my locked car for a few minutes, going through every scenario that could happen, before deciding that I was too scared to walk past them down to the beach. Because what if something did happen? No one would hear.
That shouldn’t have to happen. But it’s the case far too often.
We need to have these difficult, uncomfortable conversations. There should never be an expectation that someone will sleep with you. Or that anyone owes you anything. It’s something I always thought for a while. “Well, if he does this and this for me, that must mean that I have to do this” or “It’s the nice thing to do regardless of how I feel.” We also shouldn’t be our immediate response to fear a man before he’s proven himself.
Last year, a few days after the election, I went to New York City alone. This wasn’t the first time I went alone, but this was the scariest time. I made myself a pact that I would look each and every man in the eye that I passed on the street. One, to recognize their face in case something happened. Two, I didn’t want them to have power over me. At the end of the day, I was proud of myself for what I had accomplished. But why? Proud because I stood up to all men for not doing what they shouldn’t be doing in the first place?
It terrifies me to think of my nieces growing up in similar situations. And I’m sure it terrified my mother to think her daughters could ever have these experiences. But we have. Our sisters, mothers, daughters, friends, aunts, and grandmothers have all been treated disrespectfully in one regard or another. Men are included in these scenarios as well. Every day that 45 opens his mouth, it only gets worse.
When the one representing our country disrespects women, why would we expect men to act any different?
We are one step closer to changing this mindset. The campaign was a lot in itself. It had men asking questions and understanding more than they have in a while, (I believe). So if you’re a man reading this and not connecting with it, I urge you to look within yourself, look at your past relationships (romantic and platonic), and really see what you could do to fix the issues.
You may be frustrated, and that’s okay. It may seem like the blame is on you even if you aren’t doing anything wrong. And if you’re not, then great. Help other men be just like you. And if you’re questioning how you flirt or how you ask someone out, read the clues. If you’re getting one-word answers, she’s not comfortable. If she’s looking any direction other than you, she’s not comfortable. If she hasn’t said yes and you’re trying to proceed, she’s not comfortable. Believe me, women give off MANY signs. But if she isn’t outright avoiding you, but she’s not interested in you and it’s clear–it may be because she fears what you’d if she walked away.
If you’re worried about doing something wrong, ask the question. I’d rather someone ask me a million questions about what’s okay and what isn’t, then just assume what I’m comfortable with.
We all have to put in the work. I’ll work on sticking up for myself and those around me. And men? You work on being the best version of you that you can. And if you hear or see something? Do something about it.