I struggled whether to take part in the #MeToo movement the last few weeks after seeing my Facebook page inundated with the hashtag. The hashtag was started to encourage woman to speak up in order to show the magnitude of sexual harassment and assault. I didn’t partake because I felt as if what I’ve experienced pales in comparison to that of which other women have.
Why? Because what I encounter feels normal, it’s feels far more mild than other cases and feels like it’s just a consequence of being a woman with a curvy body. The magnitude of the Cosby/Weinstein cases are several levels above what I’ve gone through but they’re on the same continuum of challenges us women have to face.
“I didn’t partake because I felt as if what I’ve experienced pales in comparison to that of which other women have. Why? Because what I encounter feels normal.”
Sure, one might not understand how sexual harassment might feel normal, but if it happens constantly, on a daily basis, it becomes customary. I tolerate it because I’v been conditioned to do so. The street harassers intrusion, I’ve become numb to. I don’t allow myself to get emotionally disturbed by these daily occurrences because if I did, I’d never want to be in a public space ever again.
It’s incredible how unfortunate and how unfair it is that I spend time worrying about what guy’s behavior I might be exposed to on any given day. Why there is such an abuse of the power dynamic between men and women?
I can’t stop the plethora of conversation, the touching and the sexualization of my body. I’ll never be able to stop it and the only thing that I’ve done to cause it is, exist. There are lewd comments on the streets and endless car horns. The whistles, the repulsive comments that come out of car windows, and men pulling out their gumby-like limp penis and waving it at me.
The persistence of interactions of walking by men in confided spaces as I visually see them positioning their bodies in a way where I have to rub up against them in order to get by. The butt slaps/grabs in clubs or bars have subsided as I’ve gotten older. I’ve also learned over the years that carrying myself in a way where they know “don’t fuck with me” has seemed to lessen it. This is the price of living my life and having the body that I have.
“The persistence of interactions of walking by men in confided spaces as I visually see them positioning their bodies in a way where I have to rub up against them in order to get by.”
Then there’s the gray area between harmless flirtation or the milder form of sexual harassment. The times I’ve try to make business connections with men to help propel my career that turn into a fuzzy line being crossed, are far too many to count. Flirting inappropriately, unwanted and unwarranted comments or being asked out on dates instead. Meeting adjourned. Business opportunity lost because I say no.
I’ve had to rearrange my life to avoid it by wearing less fitting/attractive clothing. Or I drive my car, where I feel safer, rather than taking a more convenient means, public transportation. I wear loose fitting clothing to bring the least amount of attention possible and I tie shirts around my waist to physically cover up. I sometimes even feel like it’s inappropriate in specific settings to have form fitting clothing on.
But my friends say “if I had that body girl, I’d show it off!” What they don’t understand is that I don’t want these men to penetrate my space and my time. And that also these daily occurrences of good/bad/no intentions could lead to a potentially dangerous encounter. Wouldn’t they do everything in their power to avoid that possibility, too?
What has saved me? Being polite and passive. I have learned how to not make it worse and what I need to do to keep me safe. I hold my breath, smile, say thank you and strike up conversation. Oftentimes the majority of people think ignoring it is the best way. Through trial and error over the years, I know that that is the worst thing you can do.
It’s tiresome. It’s less than ideal. I refuse to fight the sexual harassment battle in leu of my safety and well being. I’ve learned that being courteous is my weapon for self defense.