Sexual harassment is something that all women (and some men) have to deal with. This may seem like a generalization or an exaggeration, but if you ask around, everyone has some story to tell. Some of them are just sad and some are terrifying, but every women has one, whether they live in the city or in the country. It happens at work, at school, on the street, in the bedroom, on buses, in lobbies… I asked my lovely co-bloggers Bobby Wren and Banal Hex for examples from their personal lives and added one of my own.
Banal Hex: I’ve been harassed a number of times while driving. I happen to love driving with my windows down, and only use AC when it’s above 95 degrees. Most recently, I was sitting in traffic enjoying a cigarette after a long and stressful day (everyone has their vices,right?), when a rather large white pickup with two men stopped next to me. They honked multiple times, and I chose not to engage them. When I continued to ignored them, they yelled “hey baby” and “what are you puffin on there”and if I wanted to come share what I smoking with them. It’s reasonable to try to bum a cigarette in the middle of traffic, right? It was frightening because of the level of aggression these two men had, despite my 1.ignoring them and 2. Minding my own business. An open window on a nice day is never an invitation to be harassed.
Roy Glib: I’ve worked a number of retail jobs and from time to time I get hit on. Mostly it’s just harmless or friendly, nothing I would consider harassment. Sometimes it isn’t though. Once I had a customer complain that I had been rude to him and his 4 friends and started a tirade of insults and threats. I can’t say I handled the situation well. I feel helpless and infuriated at the same time as he and his friends came back to my store multiple times to tell me I should be a street walker, I had a nice booty, that I should suck his left nut (just the left one). I felt so demeaned and none of my coworkers stood up for me and I didn’t have the words to stand up for myself after a point.
Bobby Wren: I was walking hand in hand with Ramie late after a movie date on our way back to the parking garage. These two guys behind us, not quietly, said “look at these two fucking lesbos.” It was pretty uncomfortable and bordering on scary. Two little girls, all alone at night. One of them, purposely to intimidate us, took the stairs with us while the other just took the elevator. We were the only people in the parking garage at that hour. It was unexpected. I’m too used to my home area and its relative safety and openness.
I’ll admit culpability to this one. When Bobby told me that she had been harassed, I immediately asked her if she had pepper spray in her purse. Intentionally or not, I had shifted blame away from the harassers and onto Bobby for not having protection. I can argue I was just looking out for her safety, that I wanted her to be empowered, but the reality is that there is an underlying assumption that women who get harassed are asking for it. Why does Banal have to have her windows down, why did Bobby have to be so visible, why didn’t I just ignore them? All of these responses blame the victim and assume that if she hadn’t been where she was, or have been wearing something else, or had their keys ready to stab, it wouldn’t have happened. But that’s not the case. Harassment happens, and no one is asking for it. As a society, we need to make a group decision that harassment is not okay. Tell your coworkers that their casual comments about the bodies of others is not okay. Speak out about the unacceptable harassment you or your loved ones have experienced. The only way to stop harassment is to deal with it as a community and sweeping it under the rug by blaming the victims is only making the situation worse.
An excellent project to stop street harassment
RAINN on sexual harassment at work and school
One thought on “Casual Sexual Harassment”
I know we have talked some about this, but I think what really hit me when reviewing the whole situation again were the thoughts that went through my head. “Did they really just say that? They couldn’t have. I must have heard it wrong… No. That’s definitely what they said. Should we stop holding hands? Would that be safer? How will I protect her and take down this person if necessary? I’m going to laugh and talk very loudly so I seem more human. This feels so surreal.”
I think that is the commonality a lot of times with how people react. “This can’t be happening.” and “What can I/should I do differently?” As if we are the problem. As if this is a nightmare to wake up from.
Of course, we (luckily) did not sustain any physical harm, but there was physical danger, and that is not something we should have had to even come into contact with.