I recently experienced an unwanted epiphany. Though I’ve been sexually harassed throughout my life, like all women, this last verbal assault was different – I finally fought back.
At 29 years-old, I found my roar.
I was taught growing up to kindly ignore any advances. If someone said dirty things, I was to take it as a compliment or turn the other way.
But things have changed. I have changed and I refuse to turn the other way. From now on, I’m looking those creeps in their eyes.
A few weeks ago as I was reading a book and minding my own, I looked up to find a man who could have been my grandfather staring at my breasts, the breasts at which my son had just nursed. As my eyes met his he complimented my body.
After his first advance I did what I always had done – acknowledged he existed with the most forced half smile, then looked back down at my book. As he continued the harassment my blood boiled and it was fight or flight.
I chose to fight.
I picked my head up and looked that man directly in the eyes and said, “You’re making me feel uncomfortable.”
He was shocked I even responded (hello – a problem!) and asked, “How so?”
I was tense, absolutely crawling out of my skin. My hands were shaking, heck my voice probably was, but I spoke.
“You need to leave. You need to leave right now.”
I roared, y’all.
I roared and that man’s eyes bugged out of his head and he left with more speed than that at which he approached me.
And then and there it was decided. I will not be spoken to and treated like some sort of object. I am a mother, a dreamer, a thinker, someone else’s lover. I’m not here to pad an ego or for someone to undress with their eyes.
I have a voice.
I’m the sweetest, generous, most gentle soul, but I will roar.
I know you all have had similar experiences. When it happens you may get a chill, or it may feel like there is a brick in your stomach. You may feel emotions well as your throat and chest tighten. You probably don’t know what to say.
You may feel anger, and you deserve to. Those who incite those feelings deserve to be on the receiving end of that anger. They deserve to feel as uncomfortable as we are.
I’m not saying to lose kindness because kindness will change the world. I’m simply suggesting that we rise to the occasion when we or another human is being bullied. Because that’s what it is.
It’s amazing how a few words can send someone packing. Those words, that anger, just may save a life. At the very least those words will make you feel tall when someone seeks to make you feel small.
If you’re feeling uncomfortable, look into their eyes with every ounce of strength you have and say it. And remember, you can always ask someone to leave you alone.
“You’re making me uncomfortable” and “You need to leave” are acceptable if not prudent responses.
Until harassers feel uncomfortable they will continue. They may feel their words are justified if not a compliment, and one day they may act on them. It is our job to let them know what they are doing is wrong. It is our job to do whatever we can to protect our sisters.
The next time you feel uneasy, speak up. Yes, your voice may shake, but you can still roar.