I was on a walk with my dog and my son the other day. I was pushing Jack’s stroller down this street when I see a man at the end of the road, just standing there smoking. So I make the decision to turn around and go down a different street. When I did this, I stopped and thought “Why am I doing this?” It was the late morning, so it wasn’t dark out and we were surrounded by houses filled with people. We were also in a good neighborhood… so why did I turn around? Am I really that much of a chicken that I can’t walk past a man when I’m alone? He didn’t give me any indication that I should be concerned for my safety. As I was thinking about it, I honestly felt a little ashamed and frankly, a little embarrassed.
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. I try to avoid men all the time. And I’m obviously not talking about men I know and trust. But if I’m walking alone, especially outside or downtown, I try to avoid being alone with strange men. Looking back, I’ve basically done this as long as I can remember. But why? Is it stranger danger? But yet, I have no problem approaching strange women or children. Honestly, I have always been scared of men.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized this is not just a me thing. This wasn’t just me being paranoid or scared. This is pretty common among women. Why? Well, honestly, I think it’s become an evolutionary response to years and years of sexual harassment. Since even before having a good set of boobs, we have learned to fear men. I remember being so young and being catcalled by men everywhere. Whether I was walking past a construction site or just walking past older boys at school. I remember one time in middle school, I was walking alone in a hallway when two boys saw me, shouted “SKIRT!” and ran over to me. They tried to box me into a corner and tried to grab me. But before they could get to me, people started coming out of class so they backed off and I got away. I remember being so humiliated and scared. And then, I felt embarrassed that I felt embarrassed. I was a mess.
This is just one example from my childhood where men have made me feel uncomfortable and I can confidently look back at the experience and call it sexual harassment. So when I saw the first “me too” on Facebook, I reflected on my past and was shocked by how much sexual harassment I’ve experienced. And what’s sad is that I hadn’t even considered it to be sexual harassment until now. Before #metoo, I just considered it #beingawoman. Because sexual harassment IS the norm for women. And that’s why #metoo is so important. Just by saying “me too,” we acknowledge a common struggle, and that’s the first step to righting decades of wrong.
There are those who don’t consider this a problem. And there are those who believe this is just women being too sensitive. The new wave of sexual harassment allegations throughout Hollywood has proven that there is a real problem. However, Hollywood won’t solve the problem. Yes, it’s getting us talking, but the world isn’t Hollywood. Sexual harassment is about all women. It’s not just about actresses. It’s not just about actors or prominent businessmen. It’s about everyday women and everyday men. And there are men whose actions will never be brought out of the darkness.
I want to clarify that this post is not meant to demonize men. My life has been surrounded by good men who I trust and love more than anything. There are good men just as there are also really bad women. Men and women need each other. And just as we need women to have the courage to stand up against harassment, we need these good men to stand up with us. And for those of you men who don’t think this is your fight, think about the women you love. Think about your mother, your wife, your daughter, your best friend. Chances are every single one of them have been sexually harassed at least once. Sexual harassment is everyone’s problem.
Because no woman should be afraid to walk next to a man.
Because no woman should be afraid to wear a skirt.
Because no woman should have to carry a weapon in their purse.
Because no woman should have to fear being alone.
Because no woman should be treated like an object.
Because no woman should have to be catcalled while walking to work.
Because no woman should have to take self-defense classes.
Because no woman should be told to stay silent.
Because no woman should have to say “me too.”