This weekend, my husband and I were walking toward a restaurant to meet friends when we witnessed what was, for me, a devastatingly familiar situation.
A young woman crossed the street in front of us, heading the same direction. She was alone. A truck full of young men proceeded to scream out the window at her, yelling various obscenities and sexual innuendos. She did what I’ve done so many times, like millions of women do every day, she ignored them and kept walking.
My husband was surprised and disgusted. “I can’t believe they just did that,” he said.
“It happens to women every day,” I told him. “Mostly we’ve just learned to ignore it.”
My friend was visiting another city recently with her husband and as they headed to their destination, a group of men told her the various ways they’d like to have sex with her. None of them are printable here.
This summer I was running and a man on a bike stopped to stare at me as I went by and proceeded to turn around and follow me down the street. I thought about confronting him but I was alone. He left as I turned around.
I’m floored by the number of women sharing the ‘me too’ status this week, to say they have been sexually assaulted or harassed. I shouldn’t be, but I am.
For years I felt so alone in my situation, not realizing a majority of those sitting around me in class, in my workplace and everywhere I’ve been have felt the pain of sexual assault and harassment. I’ve seen it happen so often, yet still it seems like something no one believes exists.
Perhaps this is the result of 5 million women marching in January this year saying they’d had enough. We’re done being silent; done laughing it off; done pretending it hasn’t happened. Yet something is still broken – today people are in power all over the world who laugh at this pain and ride it to the very top of status and wealth. There is still work to be done. If toppling power sounds like too much, start small.
It’s not always safe to confront someone; if you’re the woman alone facing a group of men, for example. Sometimes ignoring a drunk stream of obscenities is the best choice in a set of bad options. Other times, we could reasonably step in, but we hang back.
You know what I’m talking about – that feeling when we hear something said or see something done and we know we *should* do something but we don’t, because it’s hard and we’re tired and that conversation is a hill we don’t want to die on. And your friend is really a good person, it was just that one thing, right?
Start small. Stop pretending you can do nothing. Take back the power you have.
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