It’s grabbing my pony tail and saying ‘I like my women with a handle.’
It’s coming up behind me without warning and tickling me.
It’s thinking its okay to grab my arse, and dismiss my protests with a statement that it is all a bit of fun.
All of these things have happened to me.
From people I come into contact with through my work, from acquaintances, and even from complete strangers.
And it’s not just these blatant actions.
It’s also the more subtle things.
The things that are easy to miss.
If you aren’t on the receiving end that is.
The insinuations that my female comrades and I got into our jobs because of who we knew, who we slept with, or how we look.
Not through hard work, knowledge or skill.
It’s the assumption that they can go over our heads.
The look of disbelief when the request to talk to the manager is met with,
‘I am the manager’.
The invitations to sit on someone’s lap, rather than getting a chair.
It is the fact that when a serious discussion is being had, it seems to be the assumption, that instead of having a valid concern, I am being ‘irrational’, ‘emotional’ or ‘taking things the wrong way’.
Why is it okay to question whether someone has their job because they ‘know something’ or ‘because they look good’?
Why do you think it is okay to make comments that are suggestive, or to put your hands on my body completely uninvited and without warning?
Would you pull a man’s hair?
Would you touch him around the ribs from behind?
Would you automatically assume they want to sleep with someone, simply because they are talking to them?
Would you call them irrational or emotional because they are bringing up a concern with you?
Would you treat your daughter, sister or mother like this?
Would you like someone to treat your daughter, sister, mother like that?
Often, we will play along or shrug it off without too much of a protest. That is true.
That doesn’t mean we aren’t uncomfortable.
It means we believe in self-preservation.
Or that we are just too tired to have the argument, again.
That we aren’t yet always confident of being backed up against the vocal, the inappropriate, the offensive.
That we are protecting ourselves.
How long until certain behaviours, become less of the norm.
How long until gender isn’t an issue.
Until it is no longer used to determine my skill, consciously or unconsciously, before I even open my mouth?
Until it doesn’t invite uninvited advances, inappropriate comments, and uncomfortable situations.
I’m not asking for a safe space.
Life is not a safe space.
People can suck.
No one is perfect, certainly not all of the time. I certainly am not.
The best intentions can go awry.
People can be misunderstood.
Signals can be misread.
But how about we work a little harder, on putting ourselves in other people’s shoes.
In giving each other basic respect and understanding.
In reading the room, the situation, before opening our mouths.
In listening, to what people are saying, or not saying, in reaction to our actions.
In thinking, before we speak. Before we act. Before we touch.