I now interrupt these sporadically-scheduled posts about Thailand to talk about boys. And I do mean boys — not men.
How To Dispose Of Entitled Male Strangers Who Think You Owe Them Your Time And Attention Simply Because You're Their Type
— The Volatile Mermaid (@OhNoSheTwitnt) August 30, 2016
About 3 years ago, while at work, I got a phone call from a guy who was trying to sell me advertising space. I told him I wasn’t the person to talk to and gave him the proper names, but he suddenly got desperate and started asking me bizarre questions: Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend? Are you a writer? Do you play roller derby?
As if I wasn’t already creeped out by the fact that he knew all of these things, he was insisted we had to meet. I was quick to tell him I wasn’t interested and was healing from an ugly breakup, yet he wouldn’t drop it and emailed me after our initial conversation. He said, “I came by you honestly today when searching for a marketing & communications contact at KU. Upon seeing your photo on KU’s public affairs webpage, I ‘had’ to do some digging on google. LOL. Attractive, bright, athletic and talented. Hmmmm…not a bad assemblage of attributes…” Smiley face.
He threw in another “you’re cute” and asked for a business lunch. I foolishly agreed, thinking it would get him off of my back if I got the proposal from him to take to my boss.
The “business lunch” consisted of him trying to impress me with things that don’t matter: how much money his grandparents left him, how often he goes to the opera, how he couldn’t each nachos cause he’d have to run stairs for hours to make up for it. This guy knew nothing but surface-level things about me, yet he thought that was enough to insist we were perfect for each other. He spent 5 minutes — max — going over his proposal, and then before I sped out to get back for a meeting, he asked if there was a future. I again told him I wasn’t interested. Yet I continued to be harassed by him for weeks on end, the worst being when he sent me a nasty voice mail saying, “The least you can do is let a guy down easy.” As if I hadn’t been doing that all along.
And all of this had my mom freaking out. She assumed I was getting stalked and called nightly to make sure I had made it home safely. Eventually, I was considering a restraining order, I blocked him and changed my number, and was taking advice from our Institutional Opportunity & Access department, who was ready to call his workplace to get him to stop.
Here’s the thing: too many men are totally cool with just saying whatever they want to and about women. Also, this is just one of several instances where dudes have been completely out of line with me. And it’s not just me, it’s all women. So, let me share a handful of other stories about times I’ve been harassed in spaces where I was minding my own business and definitely not asking for it:
• While lifting weights in the gym as a freshman in high school. I had a teammate comment on how awesome my rack looked every time I did a squat. I’d go home crying every time there was a weights day (Tuesdays and Thursdays), and I still dread lifting weights to this day because of it.
• While ringing up CDs at Camelot music (in other words, while working). A customer, who regularly came in to tell me how sexy I was in my khaki pants and Camelot polo shirts, said to me, “If I wasn’t married, I’d be all OVER that booty.” What a lucky wife that guy has! It was the first of many times I started asking myself, “Why even get married if this is how married men are?”
• While running. I had a car full of men start honking and throwing up vulgar signs at me. This actually happens fairly regularly, though to be fair, my brother (a former Big 10 athlete, might I add) says he gets it too. What a lovely society we live in!
• At the grocery store, when, after derby practice, I stopped for something to eat and heard, “Nice legs,” because obviously, my legs are deserving of social commentary by anybody I happen to walk by. His girlfriend slapped him, and I should have turned and applauded her, but I was pretty mortified and ran away as fast as I could.
• This one time at work. I was working at an advertising agency in Springfield, MO. I worked with a guy who constantly commented on my chest — along with the chests of several of the other women in the office. He’d grope us, grab us, slap our butts, and when I (and others) complained, I was told that it would “take away from the fun atmosphere of the agency” if management were to do anything about it. Safety first, guys. (This “one time at work” happened almost daily for over a year, might I add.)
• This other time at work. Same job. Same guy. We were both working late at night and he decided to pull his penis out of his pants and put it on my shoulder. So what did I do? Aside from freaking out? Nothing. Because nothing would come out of it if I had tried to do anything. That’s the kind of environment I was in. I was living in my own personal hell at a job where I didn’t feel safe or protected.
• Oh and that other time at that same job. When one of our interns told me on his last day that he wanted to bend me over a desk. I was shocked, and again, did nothing. Because why even try? If an intern feels comfortable enough to say something like that, then there is definitely something wrong with that place. I often wish I had sued, but this is honestly an industry problem.
I could keep going, but this post may never end. The moral of the story? Sexism and misogyny exist, in places we should feel most safe. And it is terrifying for women. And if you don’t think it is a real thing, then please ask your grandmothers, your mothers, your aunts, your sisters, your wives, your girlfriends, your daughters, your nieces, or really just any woman. Because it is very, very real.
And so I leave you with this clip from Amy Schumer, who took the douchey bull by the horns.
The moral of the story? Treat everyone with respect. Absolutely everyone. But beyond that, it’s time to intervene. Because it’s a problem that needs real solutions.
What are your thoughts?