“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
Staring out of the window of the train and looking at the beautiful, summer kissed horizon while I choke back tears and swallow my words. I’m on my way home from just one of the many incidents of sexual harassment I have been subjected to.
I am twenty three years old and I have had to leave six jobs in the past two years due to sexual harassment.
From the creepy “hey dirty girl” while I sweep the floor to the not even slightly appropriate butt grabs to even being physically picked up, I have had too many self-entitled human beings think that what’s mine is their’s and bully me for my less-than-valued no.
No means no. Suck it up.
If you haven’t you’re a prude, if you have, you’re a slut” (The Breakfast Club) The rather out of date high school saying somehow followed us into the professional work environment of 2017. Whether it be an office job, hospitality or retail, women everyday and everywhere are being harassed for just that, being women.
My heart hurts when I think of how Facebook feed blew up with “Me Too’s” just a few weeks ago.
I’m glad I wore my waterproof mascara today.
Wait, why is that a must have make up essential for women? Water proof mascara?! Are we not allowed to cry? Or is it because we cry too much, because you know, we are women.
This is often a metaphor for my work life.
Customers who cross the line are one thing, you guys should know by now, I’m smiling because it’s my job.
But colleagues, the day I said “no, thank you.” I meant it. Doesn’t mean try harder, it means what it means. Stop assuming women don’t know what they want. Sure sometimes I don’t know what I want for dinner, but I definitely know I want you to keep your grubby paws off me.
Today I have been sent home after one of many incidents. Today I finally broke and I said “you know what, no more of your crap. I said no, I meant no, and you can’t get away with this anymore.” And I meant it. The words came hurling out like a tidal wave, and I was greeted with;
“must be women issues.”
I got a newsflash for you buddy. You got issues too and they’re not “special man issues.” Don’t bring my gender into this, so you’re a jerk, that has nothing to do with my boobs.
This is not dramatic, this is not exaggerated, being treated like a lesser human and belittled is never okay. We all have a right to run the race from the starting line without obstacles chucked in our way because we are female, because we are a different ethnicity, because we are gay or because we have a disability. Everyone deserves a fair shot at life and success, and it is never okay for another person to try to take that away from you. Never.
The other day I stood in Kmart, hanging out in the toy section thinking about Christmas; the fun nostalgia of wondering what Santa got you this year and if the new Harry Potter film might be in your stocking!
“No you can’t have that car! That one’s pink!”
I look over, there’s a little boy who’s been told he can have any toy car he likes, just not pink.
“Pink is a girls colour, you’re a boy, you can’t have a pink one.”
“But I like this one, Dad.”
“No, pink is for girls. Get this blue one, that one’s a boys one.”
And because I’m way too 21st century for this rubbish I butt in:
“Hey, I think the pink car is cool. If you want the pink one, you should get it.”
Of course, what difference does that make? I’m a girl. So of course I like the pink one. In many places my 75c gives you a dollar, in many places I have to have another woman backing me up to equal one mans opinion.
This is where it starts, people!
This is where men who should love, care, and give a toss about equality and self expression become misogynistic bullies who treat women like lesser humans with little value.
To the men who know what they’ve done to myself and other women, and to other offenders who have targeted women because they said no or just because they were women, you’re living in the past: You’re outdated, an old trend, 21st century Australasia doesn’t have time for you. Stop acting like a child in men’s clothing and grow up.
To the women everywhere who have been belittled, mocked, embarrassed and bullied, you matter. You count. You are allowed to speak up. Be brave and be bold and know you are far more precious than the lies people feed you. Don’t let things slide or play things down when they make you uncomfortable. Flattery is one thing but if someone is taking it too far and hounding you to change your no to a yes, that is not okay. If you feel like you’ve been violated, then you have. You have a right to be respected as a woman, so get it girl!
Let’s back each other up. Let’s support each other when we hear the words “I feel like I’m being taken advantage of” and stand together to support one another in stopping this. If we stand by and watch it happen, we are just as bad as the bullies. But if we can be courageous, love and support each other and take a stand against what is wrong, do the hard things and seek justice, we can make the women of today even stronger!
“We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.”