Tag Archives: women’s rights

Harassed

Matt and I went in to London last weekend to see a show in the West End.  When the play let out we walked through Leicester Square toward the underground station to get the train home, stopping at a shop so Matt could grab a coffee for the trip.

I waited outside because the shop was teeny-tiny, texting with Bridget to double check that everything was good at home and to let her know that we were heading to the train.

As I stood alone outside the shop, head down, focused on the phone in my hand, a man came up and got right in my space, directly in front of me, basically forcing me to look up.  I gave a small smile initially, because I don’t immediately assume people’s intentions are bad and maybe he needed directions or something.

He said hi and I said hi.  And then he just started talking at me.  It became obvious that he didn’t need help, he was just there to speak to me.  I was not interested, so I forced another tight-lipped smile and did my best to make it clear through my body language that I didn’t want to continue the conversation.  Multiple times I said “no thanks”, shook my head, indicated I was not interested in speaking to him. 

He stood right in front of me though, right in my personal space, talking at me.  He wasn’t drunk or unkempt.  He was well-dressed, coherent, aware of what he was doing. 

Then he took a clear plastic bottle out of his pocket and motioned toward me with it, and I immediately and clearly said, “I don’t know what that is, don’t put that on me or near me.”

I wasn’t loud but I wasn’t quiet.

“Oh,” he replied, laughing like we were in on a joke together, “this is just anti-bacterial stuff,” and he put it on his hands and rubbed it in and offered his hand to shake mine. 

“I don’t know what that is,” I repeated.  “Don’t touch me please.”

He laughed again.  I was not smiling.  “Do not touch me” I repeated when he stuck his hand out to shake again. 

He took the bottle back out of his pocket to show me that it was anti-bacterial gel.  “In case you’re dirty,” he said to me, a grin on his face.

I am not even sure what facial expression I made at that unbelievable statement.  In my head I was screaming “get the absolute fuck away from me”, but my face mustn’t have matched my thoughts, because he repeated himself, like it was cute and I was supposed to laugh and immediately want to then shake his hand.

“In case you’re dirty, for when we shake hands,” he said again.

“DO. NOT. TOUCH. ME.” I said again.  Still not loud, but loud enough and clear enough that my feelings were unmistakable.

Still, he stood in my face.  Right in my face, hand outstretched.

I flicked my eyes up over his shoulder to where Matt stood in the coffee shop and made eye contact with my husband.  The man turned around to follow my gaze and saw Matt and — boom, he was gone instantly.  Disappeared.

Matt raised his eyebrows at me and mouthed “Are you okay?”.

I nodded and grimaced and rolled my eyes.  I was fine.  I had never been scared or intimidated, I had just been annoyed and frustrated.  And now I was PISSED.

I had made it crystal clear through my body language and my words that I did not want that man to talk to me or touch me.  I was not quiet or shy or apologetic.  I was vocal and clear and adamant.  It’s taken me a long time to get to a point in my life where I am not apologetic or conciliatory in a situation like that.  But I’m there now, and I won’t feel badly about saying I want to be left alone.

But this guy did not care.  He was unfazed by the fact that I wasn’t interested and didn’t want to be engaged by him.  Not one thing I said mattered to him.  The word “no” did not matter to him.

My husband standing 15 feet away, though, without making a sound or a face or a move, was enough to make him leave.

I am still irate about it, nearly a week later.   Anger actually seems like my permanent emotion these days.  Why wasn’t it enough that I had said no?  What else could I have done to make him go away?

I know the answer to those questions already: that guy was going to keep trying to engage me until I gave in and went along.  I would have had to have made a scene, actually yelled or screamed at him or physically moved away in order to make him stop.

I don’t know what his ultimate intentions were, but it doesn’t matter.  My intention was to be left alone.  It pisses me off that my clear expressions that I wanted him to go away weren’t enough; that Matt’s presence, though, was a deterrent. 

My wishes didn’t matter, but my husband’s did.

I wasn’t assaulted.  I wasn’t abused.  Nothing truly bad happened to me.  It certainly was not the first or even the tenth or probably even the hundredth time in my life that something like that has happened.  It definitely wasn’t the worst.

But I am so goddamned tired of it.

There are very few men who have ever been in the position I was in, faced with a harasser who will not leave you alone despite your very clear statements that you want to be left alone, a harasser who is bigger and stronger than you, and who you cannot make stop on your own.  This is not a concern that exists within the consciousness of most men. 

And sadly, there’s probably not a woman alive who hasn’t been in that position at least once, probably more than that.  We have all learned to be on the lookout for inevitable harassment: we walk in groups, accompany each other to the ladies’ room, carry our keys between our clenched fingers, and we’re relieved when it’s just words and not physical actions that we have to deal with.

I am tired of feeling like I am crazy for my strong reactions when men say stuff like “not all men” or when they question what rights, exactly, women don’t have.  I didn’t even have the right to stand quietly alone outside a coffee shop texting my daughter without being molested by some creep who wouldn’t stop bothering me even when I told him to. 

I’m lucky to have a husband who knows why that pisses me off and who understands why, although I’m grateful his presence scared that asshole off, I am angry to my core that it was Matt who made him leave and not me. 

I’m grateful that Matt doesn’t say stupid stuff like “I’ll protect you” when something like this happens.  That he knows I don’t want to HAVE to be protected.  I just want to be treated with respect and not have to rely on someone else to have that happen.

I don’t have answers, just anger.  I don’t have a better response for next time this happens, except maybe to go right ahead and make a big scene instead of hoping that my words alone will be enough to stop someone. 

I just want things to be different.  I’m done being apologetic or conciliatory or allowing for excuses.  I won’t be quiet.  I won’t even be loud.  I will be deafening.

Things have to change.

I will no longer accept the things I cannot change, I will change the things I cannot accept.

–Angela Davis

Photo creds to my brilliant friend J. Hayhurst.  From the Boston Women’s March, January 2017.

 

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A Modest Proposal

Earlier this week, a bill calling for a total ban on abortions after twenty weeks passed in the House of Representatives.  Today, the Trump administration released a rule that allows employers to refuse to cover the cost of birth control for any reason whatsoever.  Women’s reproductive rights are under assault.

When access to birth control is limited, accidental pregnancies become more common.  When abortion rights are also curtailed, women have fewer options for dealing with unintended pregnancies. 

Since women already bear a disproportionate burden when it comes to preventing and dealing with unintended pregnancies, I have a solution — a modest proposal, if you will.

The government should simply mandate that all men have a vasectomy at about age 12, or at the onset of puberty.  

In order to prevent women from having to bear alone the full consequences of an accidental pregnancy while men face very few repercussions in that situation, this plan makes perfect sense.  After all, it’s much easier to take the bullets out of a gun than it is to wear a bulletproof vest all the time. 

And since government has long had no issue with involving itself in the reproductive systems of women, I’m sure all politicians will jump at the chance to curtail men’s reproductive rights as well!

It makes perfect sense and solves so many problems at once!

Women often go on birth control in their teens or early twenties when they become sexually active but do not yet want to become mothers.  The side effects of birth control are frequently difficult to deal with though — weight gain, acne, discomfort, bloating, mood swings — and the long-term effects of taking birth control or having a surgically implanted birth control device inside your body can be extremely detrimental to women’s health.  Now that insurers and employers no longer have to cover the cost of the medication or the procedure, it will be extremely costly for women as well.   

I am sure that most men have been searching for a way to take on more of the responsibility for the consequences of their sex lives.  We all know that it takes two to make a baby, and men have not had the opportunity to be equally involved in the PREVENTION side of the equation for too long. 

Let’s also state the truth: Abstinence only sex education doesn’t work — human nature and passion tend to win out over common sense in the heat of the moment.  But if every teenage boy were simply temporarily sterilized, teen pregnancy rates would plummet. 

And think — no unwanted pregnancies will also result in the lowering of abortion rates, which means that all true conservatives will agree with this plan! 

And fortunately, vasectomies are easily reversible, so men who want to bear children later in life can simply have another procedure then to enable them to become fathers.

Furthermore, if we simply legislate that the reversal of the vasectomy cannot be performed until AFTER the man gets married, we can also eliminate all instances of children being born out of wedlock. 

Win-win-win.

Women have borne the burden of birth control for most of human history, so it’s time for the men to step up and take one for the team.  I’m sure men will understand why it’s their turn and will gladly come forward to voluntarily undergo a vasectomy in order to alleviate the unnecessary weight that has been put on women for so long.

Women’s March on Washington

Tomorrow is the Women’s March in Washington D.C. 

On days like this, I wish I still lived there.  I would be at that march in a heartbeat.  I’m proud to know a lot of friends and neighbors in D.C. who are going.

I’m even prouder to say that my parents are driving all the way up to D.C. from their house in Florida to attend.  They’re meeting up with my aunt who lives in Virginia and they’re all going to the march together.  And yes, my Dad is going too.  I know a couple of men that are going.  This march isn’t FOR women, it’s for people who believe that women’s right are human rights.  The organizers of the march have also made it clear that this is not just a march for women’s rights, but for any and every marginalized group — immigrants, minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, etc.  I wish I could be there, but it’s a long commute from England, so I’ll be there with them in spirit instead.  I’m proud to know that my parents are setting an example for my children and nephews and niece  — they could stay home, but they’re driving all day on Friday from Florida to D.C. in order to participate in something that matters.  They’re showing our kids that action is required if change is needed and that it’s important to stand up for what you believe in and defend those who are in need.  They’re really awesome.

If you’re thinking about going but need more details, you can find them here.  The event takes place tomorrow, January 21st, at the intersection of Independence Ave and 3rd St in Washington D.C. near the Capitol Building.  The rally starts at 10AM, the march starts at 1:15PM, and right now they are predicting over 200K people will attend.

This march could have a massive impact; peaceful protests can affect real change.  You only have to look at the Civil Rights era to see the proof of that, or at Standing Rock to see more recent evidence.

Here are a few more links related to women’s rights that I love.  Let me know if you go to the Women’s March — I’d love to hear about your experience.

Some funny sign ideas for the March (please note you cannot carry signs on sticks at the March – put them on foam board or cardboard instead)

In Celebration of Women on A Cup of Jo

Here’s a link to the t-shirt I’m wearing in the pic above — Matt got it for me for Christmas!

Emma Watson’s incredible He For She speech

FEMINIST sweatshirt (another item on my wish list)

 

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Strong Women

RGB_GS_Squad Goals

Squad Goals

Did you see this article in the NYT interviewing Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem, who are, apparently, long-time friends?  Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that room.

I am so lucky to have good women in my life: friends I’ve had since childhood who I still talk to on a weekly basis, no matter what continent I live on, who know me as well as I know myself; friends from college who fly from far corners of the world to meet up and celebrate our friendship; friends I’ve made since becoming a mother who commiserate and support, encourage and empathize. 

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