I think it’s rare to not have been sexually harassed as a woman. Not that it hasn’t happened to men, but I don’t think it’s the norm. I feel like it happens to me every day. I think I’m hyper-aware of it, but I can’t remember the last time I walked down the street without being catcalled.
“Where you going, nice legs?”
Normally, I ignore them. Sometimes, I try to be nice.
“Good morning, beautiful.”
I’ll say good morning because I think it’s important to personalize myself to him. I’m not just a body walking by. I’m a person with a voice.
I don’t blame individual men necessarily for these things. I think it’s too simplistic to blame one man. I think there’s a long line of things that made each one think it’s okay to do this. Maybe he’s just trying to compliment me and doesn’t realize I would take it any differently. I don’t blame the individual, but the collective exhausts me.
And I think there’s a scale of different instances of sexual harassment. I’ve experienced different parts of the same scale. Some acts seem impersonal, and some aren’t. Some change the power dynamic to a much greater extent than others. I don’t like to think in terms of blame but because of the more personalized nature of more severe sexual harassment, these instances make me feel more cornered and intimidated than catcalling, and I place more blame on the individual then. I defend people for a living and I’m constantly trying to defend people’s actions, but the further down the scale, the more difficult it becomes.
I’ve had to quit two jobs because of severe sexual harassment. How many men can say that?
In these instances I had moments where I totally blamed myself. I kept thinking I did something to bring the harassment on. At that time, my girlfriend was very supportive telling me none of it was my fault. She was one of the only reminders I had to keep from blaming myself constantly, to fight against my self-doubt. She worked at the same place and had seen firsthand that I was very closed off to this man, very apprehensive, never gave him any indication that what he was doing was okay. And she assured me even if I had flirted with him, it doesn’t make anything he did after I blatantly asked him to stop, okay.
That was helpful, but it was still so weird. You never think you’re going to be “that girl”. The girl who thinks, “I probably brought this on myself.” The girl who asks herself, “What did I do to make him think he could talk to me like that?”
It’s fucking crazy. When you realize you’re doing this, it makes you feel even worse because you feel totally weak and full of self-doubt.
But I had this thought that I could do something about it. In the end it amounted to nothing but me having to quit the job, and I felt worse because my boss told me she just didn’t believe me. It was insane — to have another woman, my boss, say “It’s your word against his, and that’s not enough to fire him.” I felt like there should have been some camaraderie there. At the very least, when there’s a sexual harassment allegation you open up an investigation. She didn’t do that. She saw video footage, which confirmed what I was saying, that he was intruding upon my space and obviously communicating with me when I didn’t want him to, but then she still turned around and said “Nope, can’t fire him. Not enough.” Then to make it all even worse, she told him what I’d said without asking or warning me. And then she scheduled us together so the next time I got to work, this guy screamed in my face.
When he screamed at me, I said I wasn’t going to talk to him like this. I called her and told her what was happening. I said I couldn’t be there, and she said I could leave. So I left. I cried when I got home, but I didn’t cry in front of him. Fuck that. Fuck him.
If I saw him now, I’d probably have a panic attack. I’d want to be above it and say, “Listen, I hope you’re doing well. You fucked up back then, and you should know that, but I hope you’re doing well.”
But in reality, it all still makes me feel scared and ashamed.
I went through all of this, tried to get him fired, and now I feel like an asshole. He probably doesn’t feel like an asshole, he probably just thinks I’m crazy – me and the three other girls who filed complaints against him.