#MeToo

#MeToo.  I know, I know, it has already been a few weeks since the scandal of Harvey Weinstein was released to the public, but I have been letting my thoughts brew on the matter before delving into a post about it.  I also think it is valid to remember that although we may share online of our own struggles for the first 24-48 hours after learning of the news, this nonsense continues to take place and the conversations should remain long after this scandal fades.

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Sexual harassment, abuse, assault, and whatever other words you want to describe your experience as, have been going on for far too long.  I guess as you become older, lose your childhood innocence and move to the big city of Toronto, you begin to realize that not everyone has good intentions and you won’t always feel safe.  I was naive to the fact until a few years ago in university.  I never noticed men looking at me until someone pointed it out one day. But let me tell you, since that day I have noticed it more and more and it truly has changed the way I walk on the streets, most often times alone.

At first I thought maybe I was being a dramatic 20-something female, overreacting to the situation.  But as this trend began to happen almost, if not, daily when I am outside on the streets, I have realized that although it is NOT okay, it is unfortunately the current reality.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think twice about at least one person, in my case, male, making remarks in my direction or staring at me in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable.  If you aren’t sure what sexual harassment entails, browse this list for yourself.

The purpose of this post is to not make it about me.  I am simply sharing as a way to best illustrate the magnitude of the situation.  Below are the top four incidents that stand out in my mind, but the more I think about it, the more I am reminded of the many situations I have experienced.

  1. I was rushing from the mall to catch the Greyhound bus home attempting to maneuver my way amongst the people coming out of the revolving doors. I noticed a man looking at me.  I assumed it was because I had bright tights on so didn’t think much of it. Next thing I knew, he was walking at me and attempted to put his hand in between my legs. All I could do was push him away and keep going because I was more worried about making the bus on time. Once on the bus, I truly realized what had happened.
  2. This summer I was walking with my friend and her baby on the street in the middle of the day. It was warm and I wasn’t working so I had a dress on. A guy came up to me out of no where, up-close in my personal space to tell me just how hot I looked in the dress.
  3. A noticed a man in the grocery store who I happened to see in a few aisles before leaving. The store isn’t big so you definitely see the same people a few times upon buying your groceries. While walking on the street after leaving the store I felt someone behind me. I moved over thinking I was walking too slowly only to realize that the guy was trying to catch up to me. He began to compliment me and kept asking me weird questions while I waited at the light, never making eye contact. He noticed and asked me if he made me feel uncomfortable.  I actually had the courage to tell him, YES! I continued to say that he shouldn’t be making people feel that way and he walked away.
  4. After too many encounters, I began to put my headphones in so less people would try to talk to me. But let’s not forget, often times we can still hear even when the music is on. As I walked by in a sundress two workers outside yelled at each other, “hey, look at the ass bounce!” not thinking I could hear. Embarrassed I walked away quickly and never looked back.

I always seem to think I know what I will say when the moment happens next time. That I will stand up for myself, have courage, be brave, say all the things that are wrong about the situation. However, the reality is, I am baffled each and every time it happens. I continue to be stunned at how disrespectful some men can be.  Instead, I usually stare, dumb-founded that it has happened once again.  My new reality is to walk with my headphones on, avoid eye contact, and be thankful for the running shoes on my feet in hopes I could outrun any danger or threat.

I recently mentioned my experience on the street to some young men around my age. Thinking they would maybe get it, they instead tried to explain to me that “guys can’t help but look at pretty girls”! I will never look at those guys again in the same way. I will not tolerate someone sticking up for actions that are not acceptable. I have even written about my stories before on my blog. If you want to reread click here.

I’ve shared my experience now but so unsure as to where this goes from here. On one end I support the #MeToo movement. We need to share to display just how big of a deal this really is. But, I respect those who haven’t and won’t share as these experiences can alter your life and relationships with anyone in the future, forever. We don’t all want to share and be reminded of it. I also like the movement around teaching your boys about respect. But, I have grown-ass men disrespecting me and making me feel uncomfortable and what are we doing about them? Their mothers aren’t there to teach them.  We can support women all we want and unite together, but unless we change the way men behave, the principles and protocols in the workplace and elsewhere, should we expect any real change to occur.

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As a female or anyone experiencing this, don’t belittle your situation. Don’t think it isn’t AS bad as someone else’s because it is still happening.  I used to think it is because I am constantly smiling and look friendly on the street or because I absolutely love bright coloured and patterned leggings. But the fact is no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. It is my body. My business. Step off.

Be fierce.  Be strong.  Be vibrant.

Rachel


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