I want to be clear about something before you start reading this. I am not some man-hating, raging feminist. I’m educated. I have an incredible family and an amazing father and brother. My husband is a dream. I have some good friends who are guys. But what I want to talk about is not about them. I do think they should all hear it though.
I have told my husband about some of the things that I’m going to talk about in this blog, and he couldn’t believe that guys really did this kind of stuff. I wish I was making it all up. But what I want men and women alike to get out of this is a glimpse into reality. Women are not viewed as equals by some men.
Men do not cat-call at women because we are dressed a certain way or because they see skin or because they just can’t help it. They don’t whistle at young girls who could be their daughters from their car windows because they think it’s going to get them a date. And they’re not yelling lewd things at us from a construction site or from across the road like cowards so that we will feel flattered or confident about ourselves. Men do these things because they can. It’s a (per)version of power that they get to have in that moment. Because what can we really do in response? Nothing. I’ve made the mistake of responding before, and it’s never gone over well.
One night I was walking with 2 of my girl friends to our cars after meeting for drinks downtown, when a truck full of guys our age slowly drove by yelling and cat calling at us. We didn’t acknowledge them. But as they passed I stuck my middle finger up. They got silent. stopped in the middle of the road, backed up, and one of them leaned out of this window and yelled in a terrifying serious voice “Bitch I will rape you in an alley.” We ran to our cars.
I guess we were supposed to be flattered.
I’ve never seen a woman blow a kiss back or walk over and have a friendly chat with the men who are doing these degrading things. So I’m asking…what are we supposed to do in these frightening, intimidating, uncomfortable, infuriating moments ? I want to tell these stories because I think they will shock you…and maybe help you see something that you haven’t before. Have these men forgotten that we are their sisters, mothers, daughters, nieces, and wives? We are not objects for entertainment or animals for taunting. We are not flattered. We are scared. We’re not honored to be noticed; we’re being bullied and cornered both physically and metaphorically. I realize that the type of man who antagonizes and harasses women would never take the time to read this blog, but I still think it’s important for guys to understand that this is happening to women you know. And no one is standing up for them. I want you to understand how these situations make us feel. I want women to know that we are all dealing with the same thing. This has been going on for 15 years of my life, and I’m only 28 years old. I want a solution, but I’m at a loss.
In 50% of the jobs that I have had in which I had a male supervisor, I have been sexually harassed in some form. I’m not over-exaggerating for affect. Creating a fuss about it would have been more embarrassment than it was worth to me. Here are just a couple snippets.
Before I was even 17 years old, I had worked in a couple jobs already. I really loved having some independence. A man I worked for who was 3 times my age complimented my eyes, my smile and “beauty” so much on a daily basis that I finally quit. I never knew what to say..I was too young to fully understand how inappropriate it was. All I could think was, “is it ok to be so weirded out by someone who’s saying such nice things?”
In an office I worked for, the male manager who hired me once called a co-worker/supervisor of mine, and while on speaker phone (without knowing I was sitting there) asked them to send me to his office location for the day… “So we’ll have something good to look at,” he said. I felt dirty, but I said nothing. I was so embarrassed. He was asked to apologize to me later. I’m sure he was very sorry.
Once I was running alone around my apartment complex. It was huge so I liked to stay inside the complex because it made me feel safer. I had ear phones in listening to music when a guy dressed in regular casual clothes (he was not already running) who was about 6’3 ran up out of nowhere from behind me and started running next to me. It scared me to death. I didn’t stop running. He said “I bet you look good in a swim suit with all this running. You wanna go to the pool?”
In college I had a guy “friend” who asked me why I didn’t dress in tighter clothing so guys could see that I had a nice body instead of hiding it.
All I could say was, “that’s exactly why I don’t wear tighter clothing.”
Is my only purpose to make sure men think I’m attractive enough?
Walking home from class one day in college, a truck driver laid on his horn and yelled something to the affect of “hey baby, where you going…” out of his window. I threw up the bird and kept walking. But he stopped his 18 wheeler to yell “stupid bitch” at me and then drove on. I was 18 years old. He could have been my grandfather.
Walking my dog, alone, in the middle of the day in a very nice part of Nashville this past year, a group of kids were skate boarding on a hill near me. One of them yelled something down at me, but I couldn’t hear them very well. I just ignored them and kept walking. After walking about another minute or so, I felt like someone was behind me. When I turned around one of the kids was within a foot of me almost touching me. Bodhi (my dog) went crazy, lunging and barking and growling at him. The kid ran away.
Two days ago I was riding my bike with my husband. A truck drove by with the windows down and the men in it whistled and growled at me like dogs, with my husband directly behind me.
Last year I was in a small super market shopping for groceries, when I noticed a man starring at me out of the corner of my eye. I looked at him directly, not in a friendly way, hoping he would get the hint and look away. But he did not. He seemed turned on by the attention, which made me immediately afraid of him. I quickly found my way to a different aisle. He followed me. I wish I was making this up…He didn’t pick up any groceries. He just continued watching me, making strange noises with his mouth and licking his lips. He followed for 3 aisles until I got into a line to check out and leave.
One time I was running in my family’s neighborhood, a group of boys (under the age of 15) followed behind me on the sidewalk for several minutes, making comments about me loudly to each other so I could hear them… When I reached a culdesac, I finally turned around and yelled angrily that they better go home or I’d find their parents and tell them what they were doing. They laughed. Then I started running towards them. They tried to reverse and ended up abandoning their golf cart and ran in different directions, home. I couldn’t believe how young they were. How do boys that young learn that kind of behavior??
In college a girl-friend of mine invited me to a party at Auburn. It was about a 2 hour drive to get there from my school, but I was down to go along. I was excited to meet new people at a different school. We got there pretty early since we were supposed to be staying the night with her friends who were throwing it. She knew almost everyone there. For the first hour or so I was just chatting with people, getting to know them. No one was really even drinking yet…still decorating and preparing. People started showing up around 8pm, and I had a beer and then someone made me a drink. I don’t know who made it, but I assumed it was one of the pre-made punches. I stepped outside to the patio to get some air for a minute because I felt a little weird, when all of the sudden I couldn’t stand. I got someone who was standing nearby to help me inside to my friend. When I woke up the next morning, we were in Birmingham. She had driven me 2 hours home immediately. Someone had put something in my drink. It didn’t make any sense…she knew just about everyone there. I couldn’t understand who would do something like that to a friend of a friend…
I think you’ve heard enough.
Some people are going to read this and think that I must have been dressed like I was asking for attention at the grocery store. Someone is going to think that I must dress provocatively to go running..or that I was flirting in some way with my bosses, giving them the wrong impression, or maybe that I’m lying and I really just drank too much at that party. Or maybe they’ll even think that I’m trying to brag. That’s fine if that’s what you want to believe. But the other women who have had similar experiences know better. They know how aggressive men can be and how terrifying it can be to be approached by a strange guy when you’re alone, sitting on a bike in traffic, walking your dog or shopping at the grocery store. It’s not ok to purposely intimidate another human being, knowing they cannot retaliate.
I’ve tried ignoring these people, and I’ve tried being aggressive back. I’ve done everything I know how, from passively laughing it off, to yelling at them, to getting them kicked out of clubs for grabbing me. Nothing has given me a sense of relief or safety. It’s still scary to make these kinds of people angry. The only thing I know to do is make sure that people know that this is going on. If people read that this stuff is happening, maybe there will be a different outcome when a guy is around a friend who thinks it’s funny to do any of these atrocious things to women. I hope he’ll put some thought into what it’s going to make her feel.
One day, hopefully I’ll have a son or a daughter or maybe even both. I hope that by then, my daughter won’t have to be afraid of going for a run in the middle of the day in her own neighborhood. And I hope that my son will respect women as equals, and stand up for them, not treat them like trivial, sexual objects of entertainment when he’s with his friends. Maybe some women have thicker skin than me. Maybe I am a bit of a feminist. But I promise you, there is not one of us who has not been intimidated by a man in some form, just out there walking around in their day to day lives. These people need to be exposed for the barbaric, bull sh*t behavior that they are getting away with.