I have been reading numerous articles and posts these
recent days. What made me decide to chime in is all the misunderstanding I see about
the issue, and all the ignorant people who still don’t take the whole thing
seriously. What I hope this huge amount
of opinions and stories will achieve is to educate all affected (and those not affected) about what is appropriate
and what is not.
So, according to
certain statistics, 8 out of 10 women have experienced sexual harrassment at
least once in her life. Other times, the figures are lower, around 50%,
indicating that the respondents are not well-informed about the definition of
harrassment. Turns out that when it becomes clear that every whistle and inappropriate
stare counts (i.e. all sorts of unwanted sexual attention), the numbers climb
For decades now,
mass media teaches us women (and men) that openly expressing sexual attention
is right. Think of all the commercials working with pretty girls being stared
at by handsome guys, and many times going even further than that, you get the
picture. We are simply educated to think that that’s what men do and women
should follow their lead. But what if they don’t? What if they don’t want to be
treated merely as sexual objects? Do they have the right to choose at all?
Based on my own
experiences, we do not. The first time I have experienced harrassement I was
only around 10-12. I was walking home from school in our small town neighborhood
when a truck driver slowed down beside me shouting indecent words, many of
which I couldn’t even comprehend at that age. The same happened several times
after, and since then, I cannot even count how many occasions there were,
either at public places and even at my workplaces with inappropriate jokes,
touches here and there, stares and many-many encounters when walking on the street. Honestly
when I heard the statistics about 8 out of 10 women, I was wondering, how on
earth do the rest of them avoid it?
For all the
victim blamers out there, let me tell you about one of my latest experiences.
It was the beginning of this year, really cold weather, like minus 20°C (–4°F).
I was walking home after shopping, in winter coat, huge scarf, thick hat, barely
my face showed out of this whole winter gear. This guy, who seemed like double
my age, just stopped by me coming along, and without any introduction (not that
it would have helped) started describing in very graphic details what he wanted
to do with me. I had literally no answer to that. I just rushed along
speechless. It felt scary and psychopath-y and just very, very wrong. After all
these years I could still feel the same shame and humiliation like 20+ years ago.
At my age now, I am fully aware that these people are sick perverts, and they
are the ones to blame, not me, but couldn’t help wondering, what could I have
done differently to avoid this? Other than not leaving my house at all,
And here’s an
important point. Again, to everybody, who thinks what we are wearing, counts.
It does not. Or should I select my wardrobe with attention to the fact that men
are perverts instead of what I like? I don’t think so. This is like saying that
cultures, who do not let their women being seen at all are the wise ones after
all, and I am in opposition of that too. We are talking about rational human
beings, aren’t we? Saying that men cannot control themselves seeing a short skirt or a deep cleveage means they are no better than animals acting on
their instincts with no thinking at all. Do we want to think like that about
men in general?
This current attention around the issue will only be
useful if every single one of us thinks about it deeply to find out how can we
make a change. Perhaps, women can be more mindful about how we want to be
treated and think about whether we called out the perpetrator every time we
could (there are many times we can’t, take my harrassers on the street, what use
would it have). And I really strongly hope that men will think about their own
experiences too. Sometimes there is only a fine line between what is offensive
and what is not, and instead of brushing it aside as whining, why not put yourself
in the other party’s shoes to see what they are dealing with? Harrassment is
real, people, let’s all be aware of what is going on around us.