coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Protecting Ourselves From Creeps

I think the majority of men are decent people; no need to school me on that. There are plenty of good men who are friends, lovers, and family members. However, there are also predators out there who consider women fair game. I am not talking about rape; that is a whole different ball of wax. I'm talking about casual sexual harassment. You know, like when you encounter a creep who makes you want to leave a party early...not with him, with a bodyguard and a container of Purell.

Trump's vulgar and offensive treatment of women reminds me how ill-equipped some of us are to handle unexpected, unwanted advances. All too often it catches us off guard when we encounter a creep. We do not expect it and we just want to pretend it isn't happening. We might be afraid or really, really embarrassed. We may not fully understand why we freeze up. We just want to get away without getting manhandled or hurt. For whatever reason, we often let such "bad manners" pass. Then we go on with our lives, a bit diminished, dehumanized, and worse for wear. 

When I was a young woman, in the late 1960's and early 1970's, there was a burgeoning feminist movement. We attended assertiveness training events to learn how to speak our minds. In my early days as an office worker at Cornell University, there were actually assertiveness training workshops offered to women at work! I learned so much from attending those workshops. This may sound odd to younger women.

You have to understand how it was in the bad old days. Girls were raised to be nice, kind, and obedient. We were taught good girls put the needs of others before their own (even though that put us at risk of being abused or taken advantage of). Furthermore, a lady was always polite and did not yell or call attention to herself. I think you can understand how desperately we needed remedial training to learn how to protect ourselves from creeps!

Like so many other women, I never wanted to be aggressive. Let's face it, aggression IS creepy. Although feminism made me want to be strong, resourceful, credible and respected, I absolutely did not want to become like the creeps. I'm still down with that! (I always hoped feminism would influence men to become more like women.) That is why "assertiveness" was such a welcome concept to many of us. Becoming assertive allowed us to be strong without subscribing to a primitive definition of strength we did not admire.

When I became a manager I received additional training to help thwart sexual harassment in the workplace. A key dynamic is that a woman needs to be crystal damn clear she is not interested. Any meekness, hedging or hawing, or embarrassment will NOT be interpreted as a well mannered rejection by a creep. It will be interpreted as consent or (believe it or not) interest. Apparently creeps think differently than the rest of us.

The next time I see my granddaughter I am going to tell her the most important word in the English language is NO. She needs to get comfortable saying it, along with other things like "Please stop, this is making me uncomfortable," or "I'm not interested," or eventually "Seriously, do I have to call the police?"

I will also tell her not to pay attention to any of the unkind things a creep might yell at her as she walks away. He's a creep, remember? He will not mean it personally, because he won't even think of her as a person. That is why she will be walking away.

WHAT did he just say?











15 comments:

  1. Things haven't developed quite as the feminism of the sixties/seventies seemed to augur. Some of the pressures
    your granddaughter might encounter would have been unthinkable when I was young. Peggy Orenstein's new book
    Girls and Sex (admittedly I haven't read it, only heard
    interviews from her book tour) described mores I found
    shocking and dismaying. We still have much to understand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the tip. I'll check it out.

      Delete
    2. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/27/books/review/sext-and-the-single-girl.html

      Delete
  2. In many ways I think society will be harder on our young women. We taught our daughters to tell creeps to shove off; why are we the generation educating our granddaughters.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Except for nuns, most women have come across a few creeps in their lives. We kept quiet, didn't rock the boat, and just accepted that behavior because we thought we had to. I had hoped things were better today because of the laws that have been put into place, but then I read of what happens to whistle blowers and I know 50 years have not changed that much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm continually surprised by how many things have stayed the same.

      Delete
  4. One of my daughter's best friends works for an international airline, flight crew. She is a tough person, smart, very beautiful, hard working and definitely assertive. I asked her recently how often men grope her during work and she replied: on every single flight, it's part of the job.
    A neighbour recently complained how the streets have become unsafe at night since Germany has taken in refugees and I just had to ask her when and where did she ever feel safe as a woman out alone at night. We looked at each other in silence.
    The two times I was assaulted the men were "nice" guys, friends even, hippies, men I had thought were on my side.

    Society is hard on women, it always has been.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think so, too. And it makes me very sad.

      Delete
  5. I am so thankful I am older now, men no longer bother me. I have become invisible which sounds awful but is quite liberating. My estrogen levels have dropped as well which means I tend to speak my mind a lot more now. It never seems to change though, does it? I remember being stuck in a car outside my parent's house with a man who wouldn't let me out. To this day I can't remember what happened, other than he wouldn't let me out.

    I'll think I'll start teaching my granddaughter self defense at a young age. Thank you for the reminder.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The aging thing can be quite liberating in that regard.

      Delete
  6. Yes, teach your grand-daughter to say NO. That we have a Presidential candidate who bragged about sexually assaulting women is the worst testimony about the times we are living in. As a victim of both a sexual assault by a stranger and the very typical date rape by a "friend" I know the cost of predatory behavior, and it lasts a lifetime.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Well written, yes The Good Ole' Boy Network in the Bad Old Days in my Corporate Lives was indeed a mine field of sexual harassment and creeps wearing ties and suits. I agree with Robin that the cost of predatory behavior creates so much collateral damage to their victims and teaching future generations how to remain safe, strong and confident is vital because one never knows where the creep will show up in life situations. Blessings from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

    ReplyDelete

So, whadayathink?