Just another post about EverydaySexism

4 Jun

Watch this video.

And then come back and tell me it has not moved you.

Maybe you are a guy, have never been harrassed and cannot imagine what it is like.

Or maybe you are one of those women who stand up and shout back without thinking about it for a second.

Or maybe you are one of millions of people who have been shouted at, insulted, groped or worse at least once in your life. One of those who have been shamed into thinking it was her fault or that she was overreacting or that she must have misinterpreted the signs or that it certainly was not that bad or that she was making it all up.

These days I am not exactly shy. I know how to defend myself, with words and actions – but it has been a long journey.

As a fifteen-year-old, I was groped by an old man at the local bus stop in our town. In broad daylight. There were people around who did not say a word. I just sat there and did not know what to do. Scooted away. He kept following me. Finally I stood up and marched into a store, where I waited until my bus arrived.

There have been numerous sick jokes, insults and stares. I don’t remember them, but I remember that it all took place.

When I offered to fix a friend’s windshield wipers and said that I had done this before, another friend suggested she should ask one of the guys at the office instead.

On another occasion, my then-boss at the dormitory (I was working with the janitor, fixing stuff and such) suggested I should get some male back-up when talking to a Muslim tenant, because surely I could not handle the situation on my own. I did not take any back-up, and the situation played out as planned. My then-boss was surprised.

About three years ago I was, once again, standing at a bus stop in broad daylight, surrounded by people. Different town, same scenario – an older guy stood next to me and started touching me. I turned around and shouted at him to leave me alone. He disappeared. None of the people around had said a word, and when I told Richard about it later, he suggested I had been overreacting. (Really? So touching my shoulder and trying to put his hand down my neckline was an accident?)

Last fall I took a self-defense class for women, offered by the local police. We did a lot of theory in this class. And on several occasions other participants – mind you, these were women who had actually thought it necessary to sign up for this class – stated that a woman wearing a dress or a short skirt was totally to blame for getting molested or worse. (Others shared experiences that made my hair stand on end, but these are not mine to share.)

And this week we (i.e. the German women working at the translation department, a minority among mostly colleagues with Arabic background) were told we could not wear T-shirts, because seeing our white arms would turn the male (Muslim) clients into animals. We asked about the new rule and learned that it explicitly applied to us because we are white. We are “their (= the clients’) dream women” and obviously responsible for not causing them any naughty thoughts.

I know women who go not out at night. Women who will only use public transportation travelling in mixed groups after dark. Women who carry pepper spray in their purse, just in case. Women who will never know the beauty of watching the starry night sky alone because they are too afraid to go out cloaked in darkness.

Being afraid is not the path of the witch. Being silent is not the path of the witch.

“Don’t get scared. Get angry.”

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