Every woman I know has been raised with warnings about sexual violence and harassment. In fact, harassment has become so normalized for me that, before the trending #MeToo, I hardly ever thought to mention it anymore.
While I may not have been raped (which is a product of luck more than anything else), I have had men yell at me on the street, follow me in their cars, follow me on foot, snap their fingers in my face as I’m reading a book, grab me inappropriately on crowded streets and public transit, demand I talk with them at concerts, at libraries, on the way to the bathroom (and call me a “bitch” if I don’t), have waiters sliding their hands down my back when they’re “checking in on how we’re doing”, and strangers inform me of what they’d like to do to me if we were alone (which never includes handing me a million dollars, no-strings-attached).
In fact, my entire way of traveling the world has been defined by the sexual harassment I expect to receive:
- “Stand up straight and don’t look weak. If you don’t look like a victim, people won’t see you as a victim.” (College self defense class, Dr. Scribner)
- Walk closer to the road rather than the alley (even though it goes against foot traffic rules). It’s better to jump in front of a moving car than to get pulled into the darkness.
- Don’t stretch the crick in your back because it emphasizes your chest. If they notice your boobs, they’ll remember you’re a woman and see you as prey.
- Sit near other women on the CTA. Put more trust in women defending each other than in men calling each other out.
- Avoid all eye contact with the men staring at you (even if it means just staring at the ceiling). Remember how you cringed at the creepy kissy face that guy once gave you when you caught him staring at your breasts. Better to ignore their eyes and study the medical research banners instead.
- If you go on a date have your roommate tracking you on “Find my Friends”. That way if your date dumps your body in the lake, at least the police can start investigating at the final location of your cell phone.
- Activate the new iPhone emergency feature but feel skeptical about being able to press the button five times before being attacked.
- Keep the two sets of brass knuckles and canister of mace your mother gifted you over the last three Christmases on your various key chains. They may be bulky, but hopefully they’ll telegraph your badassery even though you’re unsure how to effectively use them.
- Intermittently trade tips and tricks to avoid/curb harassment with other women at baby showers, Christmas parties, bachelorette parties, birthday parties, business meetings, over coffee, over lunch, or in passing. This can be an appropriate, relatable topic of conversation among women while also being informative.
- Ask your dad to teach you how to throw a punch without hurting yourself (the key is not to tuck your thumb into your fist).
I’ve traded tips and tricks to avoid harassment with women countless times. My location is always being shared with my close friends (and I track them) in case of danger and I walk in the world with armor on. Always.
When I get a free drink from a bartender, when I get more flirtatious service, or when I get “compliments” on the street, some guys hear these anecdotes and say, “God, women have it so good! Guys never get that stuff!”
But, I’d switch places in an instant. Take the occasional free drink and aggressive compliment. I’d much rather walk the world freely without the threat of escalation or sexual violence constantly on my radar.
So, yeah, #MeToo.
It’s sad that I hadn’t even thought to post because my experiences are all too normal to me. I thought the women who had *really* been harassed/violated should have the spotlight. But, that just reflects how deeply I’ve internalized my own victimization. And I’m not okay with that.