Everyday Harrassment, it’s not okay.

by , under personal

Kate Beaton shared a post on Twitter today (this post, in fact) filled with young women sharing a conversation about street harassment. Mostly how common it is, and how much women in general put up with. In response, she made this comic. Go, read both. Then come back.

It happens to everyone, even me. For any guys out there, this isn’t an attempt to say look at all the attention I’ve gotten, I must be hot. This isn’t that at all. I’m trying to point out that there is something hugely wrong about this being something that girls & women have to put up with as if it’s normal.

As a teen actress, I was cast in a play by a guy for the sole purpose of trying to get me to wear a skimpy nightgown. It was a zany farce that took place overnight, so most of the cast was in 30′s style night clothes. I made sure I picked out my own, and actually wore a formal dress I had that was styled vaguely like a nightie. After that play was over I got a lot pickier about what parts I took. (It’s probably just a good thing in general that I stopped acting)

At Disneyland, I had to wear the Fantasyland costume while working crowd control (yes, Disney people, I’m using the non DL term. Deal), which at the time consisted of blue culottes that resembled a short skirt, a little white embroidered top and knee high socks. If you think I look a teenager now… this is a picture of me during my Disney Days.

Put that in knee high socks. Creepy dads or hormonal teen boys egged on by their creepy dads would say something gross to me. I’d have men trying to give me their phone number, ask me what time I got off work so they could get me off (I wish I was making that one up, but it was the most common line I was given)… and I had to smile and brush them off politely.

There was one guy I worked with who was older than most of us (he was probably in his late 30s/early 40s, we were all 18-22). He used to tell the younger girls who worked there that their nametags were crooked, and if you weren’t fast enough, he’d try to adjust it. Of course, it’s a straight type pin, so all he was doing was copping a feel.

One night a bunch of us were walking from one place to the other* at the end of our shift, and he kept asking me if I could help him move (at the time I had a pickup). I had just finished a long story about how a tire of mine was shredded and I had to replace a RIM on my truck because it had gotten jacked up when I was pulling off the road. But still, he was begging me (little old me) to help him move. The other guys in the group pointed out that I’d said my truck was in the shop. That I’d said no. But he kept asking.

This is just a small sampling of stories, and the most tame ones that I felt comfortable sharing. Yes, there are worse stories. I’ve had nearly every bit of my anatomy commented on, and had my looks complimented in such creepy ways that it makes me fear for any teenage girl out there.

I’ve been made to feel uncomfortable for dressing in just about every manner possible (I’m sure I could wear a burqa and it wouldn’t make a difference) and been made to feel as though simply existing is an invitation to be objectified.

No, not all men are creeps. But the creeps are vocal and well, they’re enough to make women uncomfortable where ever they go. (And yes, women do this as well. But I would argue that as annoying as it might be to the man in question, they probably don’t fear for their safety when it happens)

I plan on making sure that my boys know that girls are people. And people that do things like walk/take public transportation and shop and wear clothes. That no matter where they are or what they’re doing, it isn’t okay to ogle, touch, tell a girl/woman anything remotely sexually explicit, or shout at her. If you’re interested in a girl, talk to her like a person. If she isn’t interested, move on. We are not put on this earth for your entertainment.

Some other comics about this:
Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie (This was posted last year, but it relates)
Jess Fink Kid With Experience

So there you have it. Some men are creepy and it makes 100% of women uncomfortable even if they don’t say anything.

*No, it doesn’t really matter what ride I was working at or where we were going. Does it?
**I did report the name tag stuff and that creepy conversation, but at the time it fell in a grey area- and while managers believed me, it came down to my word against his. They advised me to just keep my distance from him, and my guy friends and TheBoy threatened to kick his ass if he even looked at me again. Later on, I wound up working with him on another ride and by then I’d found my voice. When he made a comment about my appearance, I told him I would hurt him if said anything that didn’t have to do with our job, and nobody would believe that little Whitney with the big doe eyes was capable of it. Which I think he realized was true, and he wasn’t a problem for me again.

  • http://twitter.com/ILiveWith3Cats Misa

    I’ve had this happen. Frequently. And lest anyone think it’s that the guy can’t help himself because you’re SOOOOOO attractive that he just has to stare/touch/blahblahblah, I’d like to point out that I am not what one would consider typically attractive. I’m overweight, have been told I “don’t carry it well” (what they mean is that I’m not an hourglass fat person), often have weird/”non-feminine” haircuts, and due to PCOS, I fight body hair issues. (Some guys have done it PURELY TO MAKE ME UNCOMFORTABLE. Some didn’t know what they were doing.)

     For most people, if you’d be ashamed to do that to your mother, your grandmother, or a nun… you probably ought not be doing it to the beautiful girl in the DL costume. Or anyone. Harassing anyone is not okay.

    Likewise, I’ve seen women act in similar ways. That guy at the construction site whose muscles you love might be attractive to you, but he’s doing his job and he’s not doing it for you to whistle or comment to him about. Your advice holds true for everyone – if you’re interested in someone, treat them like a human. If the say no – or, actually, if they don’t say yes – move on.

  • http://www.whitneydrake.com/ Whitney Drake

    Well put!

    I think the only reason I included a comment about my looks was that the one time I brought it up in a group of people I worked with, they said it just happened because I’m attractive.  Because apparently it’s acceptable to objectify people if they look good.  Which as you said makes no sense.

    We shouldn’t treat anyone that way.  I think the reason that it’s so widespread for women (vs men) is that ultimately- men count on women being timid and/or smaller so that they won’t confront them or fight back.

    So glad I’ve found you on the net.  I love getting your POV.

  • http://mommybrainblog.wordpress.com/ Katie

    Thank you for such an honest post. I completely agree that the level of tolerance for this type of behavior is WAY too high. It can turn an every day situation into a scary scenario if you’re alone or somewhere new. I think that often, the guy making the inappropriate remark truly feels like he’s giving a compliment, but if the woman receiving the remark is alone or in an unfamiliar place, it can make her feel like she could be in danger. I have many crappy examples from corporate America as well. I like what you said about planning to educate your boys on this topic. I hope to do the same with my little guy.