The recent news about Harvey Weinstein is yet another reminder that Sexual Harassment is alive and well — as if women need reminders.
A couple of months ago my husband was in Florida for a business trip. I decided to join him because we wanted to take a mini-vacation. We were going to stop by a few places before moving on to my beloved Savannah on our way back to Northern Virginia. I hit the road for a solo road trip and made my way down to Florida.
I’m one of those crazy people who loves road trips. You can roll down the windows, sing along to the tunes (while being out of tune in my case), and cruise right along.
But when you’re a woman alone, you’re ogled at, talked to, and harassed by men when you must make the inevitable stop for gas or breaks.
It’s not necessarily frightening for me any longer. I’m 54, so I have lived it for years. What it does is piss me off. It’s irritating.
I’m embarrassed to admit that the first thing that came to my mind was, “Maybe I shouldn’t have worn a dress.”
And then I thought, “Hey, wait a second. That’s blaming the victim. I know better than that. I have every right to dress the way I want without being harassed!” It annoyed me that I was starting to blame myself for that moment and interaction because that blame lies solely on the asshole men.
Ah, yes, sexual harassment is still alive and well and it doesn’t decrease with age. That’s because it has nothing to do with sexiness or youth. Women are harassed because we live in a society where women are objects. It happens no matter what women wear, no matter how they feel, no matter how they act or how they decide to travel through this world. It’s our mere presence as a woman that somehow makes it acceptable for men to do what they do.
Here’s the sad fact: for women, it’s not a matter of if this will happen. It’s only a matter of when this will happen. And for those of us who have been dealing with this for years, it’s tiresome and we’re fed up with the garbage.
Friends, harassment is not the same as giving a compliment and a woman’s actions aren’t the cause of this. This happens internationally on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, a global report released in May showed that men harassed women just because it was “fun.”
There is a false narrative that is still being spread when it comes to sexual harassment. It’s the one that goes something like, “Women continue to get offended over the trivial things in life.”
Sexual harassment is not trivial, it is not a joke, and it’s not innocent banter. It’s certainly not something women should shrug off with a smile or quietly tolerate.
Here’s what harassment is about. It’s a way for a man to make a woman feel vulnerable. Harassment is a tactic used by men to control and frighten women. It is just one symptom in a culture that is hostile to women and one in which females seem to exist for the pleasure of men. Society still makes it okay for men to feel entitled to vocally appraise a woman’s body. We live in a culture where men believe they can communicate a message of power through their words and actions.
So what happens is that women allow that to restrict their freedoms. Many women are forced to alter their behavior, their dress, or the paths they travel throughout the day.
I won’t let that happen to me. I will not let my freedom be restricted. We need the courage to speak out and to educate our male counterparts. A woman’s body is not public property. Being a woman in public is not an open invitation to harassment.
While greater awareness about sexual harassment may give more women the courage to speak out, that’s only a smart part of the solution. Raising awareness among men is essential, but getting to boys while they’re still young is the only way to prevent it.
So, mamas, start now. Don’t let your babies grow up to be harassers.