I remember many instances on the street and bus when some man wouldn’t leave me alone. It ranged from hollering at me or telling me to smile, continuing to talk to me after I tried to read a book or put on my headphones, sitting too close to me or “accidentally” bumping into or touching me. The crazy thing is how I felt embarrassed about the attention and so uncomfortable with the idea of making them stop. In my mind it was almost as if they had a right to be disgusting because that’s “just how men and boys are” and as someone with low self-worth I didn’t feel strong enough to be assertive.
If I was feeling brave I might ASK them to leave me alone. Instead of a forceful “Get off me” I said a quiet “Please move away” because I thought being polite would work, but it didn’t and it still doesn’t!
Looking back I just cringe at how much rude behavior I put up with even though I had every right to shut it down.
I was a timid girl and stayed that way well into my twenties. An important lesson girls need is how to be forceful and assertive. Which I now do through teaching self-defense. All girls and women need to feel confident enough to use a clear firm voice and tell people, both men and women, when they feel unsafe and threatened.
However strong we teach girls to be, it’s hard to feel safe when you know going anywhere means the possibility of harassment. To change a culture of disrespecting and harassing women we need men to take part. Women can initiate all the change we want, but if men and boys don’t change their interactions with us we will stay stuck. Read more stories and find resources at Mtjg.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/public-shame
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