I’ve gone back and forth over whether or not I wanted to write about this topic. My sweet friend Kerri wrote a beautiful post last week and I felt like she shared everything that was on my heart.
I’ve tried to not discuss political issues here the past several months. Frankly I need a break and have always felt that blogging should remain a fun hobby for me. But equality and living a life free of harassment aren’t political issues, right?
Over the past few weeks (and year, honestly), I’ve gone over the harassment that I’ve experienced in my life and professional career. I imagine everyone reading this has endured their version of the below situations.
When I first started my career, one of my bosses repeatedly asked for pictures of me in my bathing suit. The elderly father of my boss told me he wanted to take me on a date to show me “the ropes” – and then winked at me. I received sexual emails from a coworker. That’s not even the worst of it. The HR director actually witnessed one of the encounters and did NOTHING. Why would I feel like anything would ever be done?
At my next job, I was processing a loan for a client who started sending pictures of himself (unprompted, of course) to my work email. I’ve had coworkers harass me through instant messenger and in person. A coworker told me that if his wife wore red lipstick like I did that he’d keep her in bed all day. One of my superiors wrapped his arms around me as I was talking to a colleague and whispered in my ear that I looked sexy in my shoes. My colleague and I were both shocked – neither of us said a word. I have never felt so cheap and disrespected.
And those are things that just happened in the workplace. There’s a man who works at Kroger who tells me he watches me walk in the evening then proceeds to tell me how good I look. I have no idea where he lives or where he’s seen me. One night I was walking into Rite Aid with a friend and a man yelled at me from a car “hey, girl in the green with the big butt!”. Men have pinched my ass in public. I’m not even scratching the surface.
When I’ve relayed these events to others, I’ve been asked why I didn’t speak up. Sadly, in many of these cases, I did. And there was no reprimand. Some of these men were promoted. Eventually I got to the point where it seemed useless, and I didn’t want to come off as “dramatic” or a troublemaker. I was afraid of how I would look. But that’s how it is, isn’t it?
The truth is, I’ve often been embarrassed to admit these things. Like it’s somehow my fault. Like I shouldn’t have allowed it to happen. I should have been tougher. I should have stood up for myself. Why do women not come forward? Because of these reasons. And because many times, there’s no punishment for the accused. The questioning and ridicule are saved for the accuser. It’s a cycle of bullshit that never ends. It’s not just locker room talk. It’s not playing the victim. Harassment is a nightmare many women experience and live with daily. As far as some might think we’ve come as a society, we’re not that far removed from the Charlie Wilson’s War “you can teach ’em to type, but you can’t teach ’em to grow tits” era. But that is not the world I want for my sisters or my niece or any woman. I don’t want my niece to grow up in a world where this is normal. Luckily I’ve been blessed with the best men in my life. I’m forever grateful for my dad, grandfathers, uncles, brother, and J: men who respect and honor women. I know it’s not normal. I know it’s not every man. But I know it’s happened to every woman in some capacity. I’m thankful for the men and women who take a stand. Speaking up is daunting and you may face repercussions, but it’s absolutely necessary. Things will never change if we continue to stay silent and normalize the behavior. Keep talking and fighting, friends.