Just a little story I thought I would share to add some perspective. I had a routine doctor’s appointment last week. Nothing special, just a check up. As I was sitting in the waiting area a man started to talk to me. I didn’t think anything of it. I understand how boring a waiting room could be. It started with the normal small talk about waiting rooms and over scheduled appointments and I was polite and direct in my answers. I thought that I was pretty clear that I was just being cordial and not looking for the conversation to go any further… but…
As we sat there, stuck in a room, waiting for the nurse to call us in he escalated the conversation. He started telling me how cute I was. How he’s just looking for a nice girl. He started asking personal things about my life, which I dodged as clearly as I could. I lied when he pressed me on where I live. I lied and told him that I was married. I started messaging people on my phone to show him that I was otherwise engaged in other conversation. I was already sitting as far away from him as I could, but still leaned further in the other direction.
He pressed on, “Would your husband be mad if he knew you were talking to me? Is he going to get jealous?”. Really? I’m just here to get my blood pressure and ears checked.. and whatever else comes along with this check up. I really don’t need this while I’m trapped in a room alone with a stranger.
I know a lot of men would probably respond to my post as, “what? he’s just being friendly, if you didn’t like it you didn’t have to respond”, but as most women know not responding can sometimes escalate things even further.. then these “friendly men” can start calling you names and can become aggressively attentive in an attempt to make you the problem.
I was messaging with my brother at the time and thankfully he is not one of those neanderthal men who assume that women should be grateful for attention of any kind. He understood that I was uncomfortable. He asked me if I had a clear way to leave the building and I told him that I help my keys out as I walked and cleared the elevator before I got in. I made sure that the man was not in the hallway when I stepped into the elevator, as it would be too easy for him to jump in after me.
Now I know what you’re thinking. This all seems crazy. I am clearly a super paranoid women who hates men. But this is the thing that men don’t understand. This is our thought process. I have no problem with men. I have many male friends. I was raised by a single dad and have a brother whom I love. I have a nephew and a son.. and as a child mostly played with my 2 boy cousins until the one girl cousin I had came around when I was 7. I am very comfortable around men. I have worked in male dominated fields. I have often been “one of the guys” due to office dynamics as well as hobbies that I have (I’m a bit of a geek). Men, as a species, don’t intimidate me. However, as a woman I understand that not all men are like my brother or my best friend. Not all men have the same understanding of women’s personal space and boundaries.
Men joke about situations like being ok with gay guys as long as they don’t hit on them, or “don’t say things to women that you wouldn’t want your cellmate to say to you” and there’s a reason for that. Men understand that sometime other men don’t take no for an answer. They know what they and their friends are like with women and they wouldn’t want to be put in a situation like that. They wouldn’t want to be stuck in a room with an overly attentive man with no idea where the situation could take them or the feeling of having to possibly defend themselves physically. No one likes that feeling, but that feeling is exactly the part of the “me too” message that is getting lost.
When women talk about how we feel harassed in our everyday lives. How we have been forced to deal with things that make us feel unsafe or pressured it doesn’t just mean the times that we are raped, or felt up. Harassment isn’t just about the p***y grabbing and penetration. Harassment is being made to feel unsafe for no other reason than because you are who you are. Whether it be you’re a woman, a person of color, or part of the lbgtq movement if you are not a member of the “group in power” you are vulnerable, and the only way we can gain our power is to stick together and support each other.