#MeToo: Sexual Harassment and Assault Awareness

quietYesterday I saw women all over my Facebook sharing #metoo. The idea was to raise awareness about sexual harassment and sexual assault in that way. Perhaps if all women in someone’s Facebook feed shared the hashtag, it would make people realize how widespread the problem is?

The problem is indeed massive. Of course, there are levels to which women are touched by it. However, the fact is that ALL women experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault. Rape, verbal or physical sexual coercion, unwanted touch, predatory looks, comments on your appearance, “jokes”, aggression because you rejected someone – all these are just elements of the world where women are objectified. When women aren’t treated like people but like sexual objects, men believe they can do whatever they want with them: comment on, evaluate, touch or use at will for their own sexual pleasure.

Most women experience a garden variety of sexual harassment. Catcalling is honestly just a daily experience to which I never know how to react. As I work from home for instance, I like to go for a cycle or a walk during lunch. The problem is that the nearby construction workers take their break then. I can’t go past one not to be catcalled and neither can any other woman who’s on her own. Why do men do it then? Probably because they can. It’s certainly not to actually get anything out of it:

Catcalling makes me a mixture of angry and ashamed. I want to react or do something but mostly I’m scared. Perhaps if I reacted to a guy who’s on his own I could get him to think about his behavior but a group would mock me or perhaps become aggressive towards me. I’ve gone out a few times preparing myself to say something next time I’m spoken to and I’ve always chickened out. Now, I try to go out before or after they’re gone. I’ve lost, I’ve altered my behavior. That’s just catcalling. Being a woman, however, means a lot of fear in general. You’re scared of being raped too. You may second guess a guy’s intentions when he invited you for a cup of coffee to his house. You walk faster when it’s late and men feel like a threat. Sometimes someone gives you a predatory look and you feel that if circumstances were different he would hurt you but after all it’s not like anything really bad has ever happened to you, right? Are we supposed to count ourselves lucky because we haven’t been raped, though? Men don’t count themselves lucky because no one chopped their arm off or they didn’t get murdered, do they? Of course, it’s much more probable for a woman to get raped than to any of this to happen to a man. The point is that every time a woman feels threatened, she feels like this not because she’s crazy but because something could happen.

Something should be done to make people understand the problem. Will #metoo do it? I doubt it. It feels like preaching to the choir. The women who shared the hashtag in my feed are all lefties and that’s who likes on my own status came from. I haven’t seen any negative reactions but I haven’t seen any positive reactions either from anyone outside of my circle of expectations. I’m sure some people thought about some women’s statuses “she should only be so lucky that someone harasses her” but in the age of social media finger pointing they knew better than to share such views on Facebook. Perhaps the hashtag is not so successful in achieving its goal but that doesn’t mean it has no use at all.

As much as people may not change their mind because of this social media campaign, it has become a voice of female solidarity. We are all ashamed of our experiences with sexual harassment and we often feel guilty. It’s something we don’t talk about because often if we looked for sympathy after we are harassed we just found more sexism, even in women. When I was slapped on my bum by a stranger in Paris a friend of mine who was walking with me replied to my outrage: “Chill, it’s not like he’s taken away your virginity or something”. When I was maybe 10 a drunk guest house manager stopped me on my way from the communal toilet back to my room. He started hugging me and making inappropriate advances. Then I saw a ray of hope walking down the stairs: a female friend. She ran away when she saw us, though. I eventually managed to escape and then was shaken and outraged that she didn’t help me. She just said it wouldn’t have happened if I was wearing long pajama pants like she did. These are of course just illustrative examples not the entirety of my experience. All women experience sexual harassment and certainly they all experiences negative reactions to trying to speak up. The bigger the trauma, the more shame there is associated with it and the more potential there is for a negative reaction for speaking up from both men and women. Yesterday, however, some women had the courage to talk about unimaginably horrible events such as rape when they were still children, gang rape or sexual abuse in family. It is sad and it is so depressing that such things happen but maybe by talking about it, we’re making even more people share their experiences. In taking the shame away from the victims, we can finally move to focus on the perpetrators. It’s NEVER the victim’s fault.

Today a new hashtag is trending: #iwill to express what will we do to help to improve the situation. Can we really do something? What do you do? Any thoughts on #metoo, Dear Reader? Do you think it can truly help spread awareness? Feel free to share your #metoo stories in the comments. 

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10 comments

  1. Gentlemen's Foundry · October 17

    I said much the same on someone else’s post about “me too.” I was one of the men who, though could have, didn’t say it. I don’t want to be a victim. Not again.

    As for being scared, it is always good to be aware and watchful. Join a martial arts class, learn to kick ass, and it helps with the fear (trust me.) Get your conceal carry permit and learn to use a firearm responsibly. Next person to try to sexually abuse me will die in the worst way. I’m still watchful….cautious….but I don’t fear anymore. I also don’t go to bars, clubs, or dark alleys at night.

    As for the pat on your bum…. There are worse things. I work in a field that is mostly female. I have women grab my arms to “feel how strong you are.” They ask overt questions about….areas they shouldn’t. They openly stare when I bend over, “accidentally” brush against me, touch my face and hair…. Worse is…they do it in groups. Like the little whispers they think I don’t hear when I’m trying to do my job. It isn’t an every day thing, but at least once a week. They all know I’m happily married to. I never reciprocate any of these things either….I have…issues with touching people. I don’t make eye contact either because of….those same issues. They were openly trading dick pics the other day…at work…

    Needless to say, they just see something they like, and try to touch it. I’m not a fan of being objectified, particularly when normal human interaction is challenging enough.

    But one thing that really helps me is that, I know for a fact if they try anything substantial, I could destroy them immediately. Sure, the small stuff is irritating, and HR would laugh their ass off if a guy reported sexual harassment….but I just remind myself there are worse things.

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    • zlotybaby · October 17

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really sorry about your experience.

      I’m against gun ownership and slightly disagree with the attitude of “just get stronger so no one can do anything to you”. Sure, it’s good to be careful and be able to defend yourself but the point is to finally recognize the problem we have with perpetrators and not with the victims. It’s not a victim’s fault because they weren’t strong enough, it’s the perpetrator’s fault that they did what they did.

      There are worse things? There are always worse things, that doesn’t take away from anyone’s experience. If someone lost a hand would you tell them “At least you didn’t lose two?”. Sensitivity goes a long way. Your experience may be worse than that of other people but there are those who have even worse experiences. I wouldn’t dismiss your story just because I read on my Facebook that a friend of mine was gang raped at 5. It’s all bad, there are just degrees of how bad things are.

      I don’t want to be touched, whistled at, commented on, in short, objectified. I’m sure that’s true for you too. I’m not defending women who behave in such a way towards you. Sexual harassment and assault of men is an issue too and I don’t think that it should be minimized or disregarded. At the same time, I can’t speak of such experiences because I’m a woman and I only know about some experiences of a woman.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gentlemen's Foundry · October 17

        I don’t blame the victim, anymore than I blame a guy in a trailer when a tornado in kansas blows his house away. But if he builds another trailer…yeah…I blame him a little.

        “Finally recognize the problem we have….” Surprise! Everyone recognizes that. I recognize it, so do you, so did Queen Boudicca hundreds of years ago. Has it stopped? Will it ever? Probably not until we try a different strategy. We do recognize it! I don’t know a single person who doesn’t! Yet…apparently…recognizing it is ineffective. New methods must be engineered. Perpetrators must be targeted, isolated, imprisoned, ostracized, and/or exiled. Permanently. Not recognized. Screw recognition. That is like sending “prayers” to victims of natural disasters. Too easy. Anyone can say they “recognize” an issue.

        Action. Transformation. Justice. Effective Correction. That needs to happen…

        Which is why I have helped people with defense issues in the past. It works. It gets results. Measurable, permanent results. No one gets raped when they have a 12 gauge racked and pointed at the rapist’s crotch.

        You can be against gun ownership…if you want. Rapists aren’t. They love quick easy ways to get the upper hand on people. I also wouldn’t tell a stranger you are against gun ownership. Best practices. I would also take a class on gun safety (EVEN IF YOU DON’T OWN A GUN.) Skills could save you one day, and you aren’t obligated to break your code of buying a firearm. Martial arts is good too.

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      • zlotybaby · October 18

        I don’t think your analogy with building the trailer is relevant. Sure, if you walked on your own in a very dangerous area very late this is sort of asking for trouble (not that it justifies what the attacker does). Otherwise if it happened to you in every day circumstances, there’s not much you can do.

        Yet again I disagree. How is the problem properly recognized if a guy gets off with 6 months for rape just because he’s a college sport star? Sexual violence and harassment only stops being minimized as a problem and starts getting properly punished now. Besides, punishing is like healing a preventable disease. Has to be done once you’re infected but it should rather be prevented. I just don’t agree with your idea that we should prevent it by arming people. That’s dealing with the consequences (having people around who think raping is okay). Aggression just causes more aggression.

        You’re obviously American. I’m not and how American of you to assume I am 😉 (gun ownership isn’t legal in SA). I don’t believe in gun ownership and in the views a lot of your compatriots have. If you get armed, the perpetrator can get armed even better. What we should do is change the way in which people think and that will give measurable results. Remember that you moved the discussion to rape, while it also has to do with sexual harassment too. Am I supposed to carry a gun to make people scared of catcalling, touching me or making sexual advances? Making someone scared may work short term in a particular situation but it doesn’t bring about a long term change. Where do you think patriarchy and sexism leading to such behaviors against women come from? From the fear about what women can do to precious litttle male egos if men stop objectifying them and give them the right to choose. Including the choice of men. We can’t be building our lives around fear. Being reasonable and cautious is one thing. Being trained to defend yourself can give you an attitude which will prevent someone from even approaching you. A gun is a completely different story, though that has to do with mentality I’m opposed to.

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      • Gentlemen's Foundry · October 18

        That’s the thing though…recognition in a legal sense will always fluctuate in a democracy. HUMANS ARE NOT OBJECTIVE. Facts don’t govern our legality, or morality, generally speaking.

        Most children murdered by their parents are murdered by their mother. Should we recognize that?

        There is a lot we can “recognize.” But again, it yields zero results. I’d rather accept the fact that we are animals, unpredictable, and easily changed by trauma, drugs, desperation. I would rather recognize that we are all the same in this regard and prepare accordingly.

        Gun ownership is an intricate part of American life. If it wasn’t for the gun ownership of private citizens, our revolution would have failed. That right is maintained as a constant warning to our government that, should they pursue tyranny, we will not allow it. It is about trust between the governed and the governing.

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      • zlotybaby · October 18

        And you think that not objective people should have guns to kill someone who in their subjective view is trying to hurt them?

        How is this relevant (and is it even true)? I think we’d agree that sexual harassment and assault is a more widespread phenomenon than infanticide.

        We are only partially animals. This is why when the problem is recognized we can deal with the issues in different ways than animals (by getting stronger and bigger). 100 years ago anyone apart from white men wasn’t (practically) allowed to vote in your country. Changing laws means changing mentality too.

        Trust you’re assuring with guns? That something has been happening for long doesn’t mean it’s right. Historically it had its reasons, now it’s causing more harm than good.

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  2. updownflight · October 17

    There were so many rapes, particularly date rapes, at my university. They organized a “Take Back the Night” march each year to draw attention to how significant this terrible issue is.

    I was lucky that I was never raped, but I was a victim of cat calling on a number of occasions.

    For me, the worst experiences I had in terms of feeling very uncomfortable were actually with male therapists. While going to one, my husband discovered on the internet that he had slept with a patient and paid a price for that. He never propositioned me, but seemed preoccupied with asking me about my sex life. Shortly after, I quit him.

    A while after the above therapist I encountered one I called the “adulation therapist”. His adulation was to a very eerie extreme. I consulted with my psychiatrist and husband how to handle it. They advised me to tell the “adulation therapist” that it made me feel uncomfortable and to please stop. I did so, but it didn’t stop him at all. I had to quit that therapist as well.

    The last uncomfortable male therapist experience I had was brief. The man stared at me in a very uncomfortable way and would lock the therapy room door. I was already paranoid because of the men I mentioned above. I asked my psychiatrist if locking the door was appropriate. He said no. Considering the googly eyes, I quit him after the second meeting. I’ve been happy now for 4 years with a great female therapist. My psychiatrist is happy, too, since he always wanted me to go to a female therapist. I did quit female therapists in the past, too, but for other reasons.

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    • zlotybaby · October 20

      I’m not sure how I missed your comment! Date rapes are really terrifying. I mean when you’re out on a date you ideally shouldn’t be concerned that someone may want to hurt you. I think because of the sexism still prevailing in society, it’ll take a while before men will understand that a date doesn’t owe you anything. I think if women stopped insisting on being paid for that would also help with making it feel less like a transaction.

      I’m sorry about your experiences with the therapists. Especially with someone like this, you’d expect they wouldn’t be creepy and abusive of the patient-therapist relationship. I’m in general quite distrustful of men and I’ve always had female therapists.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: The Mayim Bialik Op-Ed – Are There Some Perks To Being The ‘Ugly’ Kid ? | rinse before use
  4. Gentlemen's Foundry · November 3

    “It’ll take a while before men will understand that a date doesn’t owe you anything…” Entirely sexist. There are plenty of men who don’t even date, let alone treat their date with disrespect. I’ll agree, there is sexism still prevailing in our society. Apparently. I was going to refute that initially, then I read your sexist statement.

    “When you’re out on a date you ideally shouldn’t be concerned that someone may want to hurt you.” Ideally? Yeah. Ideally, on a date you would also want it to rain cotton candy, while you ride a sparkly-unicorn-Pegasus that poops rainbows. I don’t leave my HOUSE without thinking someone wants to hurt me. Let alone a close intimate setting with another person. The world is dangerous, and cold, and ruthless. People manipulate, lie, and some will actively hunt us. I can promise RIGHT NOW, there is some sick individual out there that would derive pleasure from hunting any of us down and torturing us. Always be trained, always be aware, and always be armed.

    Regardless of how you stand on weapons…the point is that they are readily available. Criminals also don’t care about laws. 85%+ of the mass shootings in my country occur in “gun-free zones.” Chicago, with its strict gun laws, has the highest homicide rate by firearm in the country. Criminals don’t care. I wish there was a world where guns and martial arts weren’t needed. But, as the saying goes, “I’d rather be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener in a war.”

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