To anyone who thinks women aren’t constantly marginalized in our civilized modern society: You’re wrong.
Just this morning I’ve read about:
1) A woman who was followed down the street and harassed for the crime of walking home unattended.
2) A woman who was made so uncomfortable by a man at the gym that she hasn’t gone back yet.
These are two women who I know who had two gross experiences this weekend. What really disturbed me about these events when looked at together is that they are so innocuous. You know what I mean. These women weren’t touched or harmed so everything is fine, right? These are just things guys do. Sometimes they catcall you. Sometimes they stare at you. No big deal.
What I’m most angry about, I think, is that neither of those women felt they had any recourse beyond pretending it didn’t happen. Both of these stories involve a woman who feels threatened and doesn’t say anything for fear of something worse happening. This isn’t something new that just started because some crazy guy killed people. This happens every day. Every fucking day. To women you know.
And afterwards, if we do tell anyone, we’re made to feel silly. He was just being friendly. He was admiring you. You should feel flattered. He’s harmless. That last one is particularly insidious. We’re conditioned to ignore our instincts and avoid confrontations.
On further reflection, I’m most angry at myself. It’s been a long time since I felt this way and outrage has a way of diluting with time. I’m embarrassed that I could have forgotten for even one minute what it was like to be so thoroughly disrespected and objectified. I remember now, though.
I remember the way my heart raced when the car slowed down next to me. I remember wishing there was place I could hide. Ignore them. Don’t look. I shouldn’t be walking alone, even though it’s not dark. Pretend the memory of this won’t keep me awake for weeks wondering what that noise outside was.
I remember a strange phone call at a place where I worked nights. I remember how nice he seemed, how flattering. I remember being terrified. Don’t hang up. Don’t tell anyone because somehow it’s my fault. Stop smiling at the customers. Pretend I’m not afraid every night thereafter that he’ll be waiting for me when I leave.
The heart of this issue isn’t that particular men are crazy or assholes, it’s that any man thinks it’s okay to treat another person this way. EVER.
I don’t have a magic bullet for fixing this problem. In fact, I don’t believe one exists. I’m not naive enough to think I will ever be able to walk alone at night. But I refuse to pretend anymore and I refuse to be quiet. I’m afraid, and I shouldn’t have to be.