A wake-up call: Harassment won’t stop until society changes
Over the past year, I’ve felt incredibly empowered as a woman. Between the TimesUp movement and women all across the country from different classes and races joining together to share their stories through the Me too movement, I feel kindred to all women-kind.
I’m happy we are starting to usher in a new wave of understanding when speaking about sexual assault and harassment. However, I’m not surprised by the latest stories coming out every day about women being taken advantage of by men in power. If you were to ask, most women would say the actions we hear about in the news while vile are not shocking. That’s because as women we’ve learned to tolerate and ignore crude comments and unwanted advances for most of our lives.
A friend recently wrote about how she was walking on the street, and a man made a comment about her attire that left her extremely uncomfortable. Instead of her usual disregard of his ignorance, she stood up for herself and told the man his behavior was inappropriate and unwanted. He blamed her for being in the wrong neighborhood with the wrong outfit on, and for a moment she believed him.
With the growth of female empowerment movements and more support for women who’ve experienced traumatic assaults or harassment many in power have condemned sexual violence and sexual harassment. I’m thankful people are starting to get it and to hold weight to survivors’ stories. However, there’s still a long way to go. There is still a gap in understanding of how sexual harassment and sexism help lead to a culture where assault is more likely.
Words are important. As a society, we speak about women in ways that subconsciously discount their work, portray them as weak or incapable and overly analyze their physical attributes. This dismissing of women starts at a young age. Phrases like “throw like a girl” or “stop being such a girl” tell boys that they should view themselves as superior to women and that emotions are a sign of weakness. We teach our girls to be female is to be weak. Thus begins a path that slowly teaches boys to view themselves as more powerful than girls.
After my friend took some time to think about what happened to her as she innocently walked down the street she writes, “I thought about it some more, and no, it’s not my fault. He was defensive for being called out on behavior that he has been allowed to get away with his whole life. It’s not my fault that his fragile masculinity was exposed. It’s not my fault that I don’t want to be spoken to like that by a random person on the street.”
Women are beginning to take their power back, and that threatens some men. So much so they lash out in defense of their disgusting behavior to blame women.
As a female in sports, I’ve had my share of uncomfortable run-ins. Luckily, almost all of the athletes and coaches I’ve worked with have been incredibly kind and pleasant. However, I’ve worked in offices where my skin crawled at the sexism and sexual harassment of my coworkers. On the incredibly annoying, but not so repulsive end of the spectrum, a coworker once told me he doesn’t take any woman who’s married and works in sports seriously. I doubt he feels the same way about married men. On the nauseating end of the spectrum, I’ve had coworkers talk graphically about the body parts and attractiveness of the other women I knew and worked with. I’ve been fat-shamed and told which parts of my body did and did not look good on camera. My experience got so bad at one point I had to start going to counseling to deal with the harassment I experienced.
Early in my career, a viewer sent me an email asking “whose (sic) balls you drained to get jobs you didnt (sic) deserve,” my first thought was “Well, now I’m in TV, this will happen.” But that wasn’t my narrative. It was people around me telling me to pay my dues, and while there are dues to be paid, dealing with harassment from ANYONE doesn’t make that list. The narrative that harassment “comes with the territory” is old and tired and needs to be laid to rest.
The way many speak to and about women is unacceptable. At first, when I started bringing issues up, I was asked if I wanted to go down this road implying that calling someone out for THEIR bad behavior would put a target on MY back.
Well, I don’t care if there are a million targets on my back. Women don’t deserve to be spoken down to, made to feel uncomfortable, treated less than or subject to offensive behavior and comments.
I am not alone. My experience is so similar to many others. The problem doesn’t stop when you look outside TV, Hollywood, or sports. It’s a problem we have as a society, and we need to, as a society work to fix it.
We need to be careful with our word choices, we need to be sincere with our experiences, and we need to demand better. Men need to step up and call other men out for their rude, sexist and atrocious behavior. We need to listen more and create environments where female voices are heard, and action is taken when someone is made to feel uncomfortable. We need to wake up and create a better future.