ruthless compassion (aroraborealis) wrote,
ruthless compassion

on harassment

Every woman I have ever talked to about it -- and that's a lot -- has experienced harassment by classmates, colleagues, and/or strangers.

The first time it happened to me, I was in high school, and three of my male classmates backed me into a corner and talked about grabbing and sucking my breasts. So that wasn't awesome.

But what was awesome is that at the time, sexual harassment was getting a lot of coverage: Anita Hill was testifying against Clarence Thomas, so I had a role model for the importance of speaking up, and my mom really encouraged me to talk to the teacher about what had happened. I did, and my teacher responded wonderfully, affirming that what had happened was absolutely not okay, and that I did the right thing to bring it up. And then, she took it to the school counselor, and the boys got a talking to that they obviously took really seriously, because all three of them apologized in a very believable way the next day.

As I look back, there are a lot of things I like about what happened: No one doubted my story or suggested that I had done anything to invite the harassment. No one suggested I should just ignore it. The words "boys will be boys" were never uttered. Further, I like that the handling of the boys felt right-sized, and whatever conversation was had was one they took seriously. I don't know where they are, but I have a hope that they learned from this that it's not okay to behave that way to the women and girls in their lives and that this event had a long-lasting effect to the good.

Until sexual harassment is much less common, I hope this kind of response becomes much MORE common.
Tags: feminism, past

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