I was harassed on the way to work the other morning.
A youngish (25–30 years old, I suppose) man ran up behind me and said hello and asked me how I was. I replied, and stupidly told him where I work because I couldn’t think of a lie quickly enough when he asked me. I was quickly approaching my bus stop and had to think of a diversion lest he wait with me for it. He was asking me if I like my job and I said no. He said if I was looking for work he knows of some jobs going. I pleasantly tried to get rid of him as I stepped into the news agency, but he followed me in asking if he could have my email to send me the jobs. I said I wasn’t interested and told him goodbye, but he said he’d like to get to know me better, and could he have my number. I said no. He asked if he could give me a compliment, and told me I was beautiful. I begrudgingly said thanks and tried to bury myself in a magazine as he exited the store.
CAN’T A GIRL JUST GO TO WORK IN PEACE?!
When I told some co-workers/friends about this later that morning, one of them complained that no one ever harasses her in the street, and the other said she’d love for someone to harass her on the way to work.
Um, I didn’t tell them that some lovely man approached me on the way to work and was super-polite when he paid me compliments and asked me for my number. I told them that I repeatedly said I wasn’t interested, yet he still followed me into a shop and invaded my personal space. I was HARASSED. How is that something to be envious of?
Friend #1, who lamented that she never gets harassed, later explained to me her reaction and shed some light on Friend #2’s reaction. She said a few years ago she was very self-conscious and hated the way she looked. The fact that strange men didn’t approach her whilst she was going about her business, or wolf whistle and honk from moving cars, only added to her bad body image. She said she felt that Friend #2 was where she was several years ago.
I tend to agree, but I certainly don’t understand. Being approached with no invitation, being asked personal questions and being repeatedly asked for your contact details when you’ve already told them no is in no way a confidence booster. The fact that our society encourages us to see women as public property and the only measure of their (self-)worth is if they appeal to the opposite sex is abhorrent and a reflection on Friend #2’s reaction.
Even when I was blatantly sexually harassed in my workplace a few months ago, Friend #2 exclaimed that if it was a young, hot guy who had said to me, “I’d like to take you home,” I wouldn’t have complained. Actually, I would have.
Firstly, I would never go for a guy who would say something like that to me, regardless of age and appearance, without any prior contact. Secondly, I was just standing there, minding my own business. Since when (okay, since forever) did a woman just being in your general vicinity make it okay to approach her with rude comments? And lastly, harassment is harassment regardless of the body it comes in.
A few weeks ago I was going to meet my housemate for a movie. On the way, a young guy, about 19, came up to me and told me he just had to talk to me because I stopped him in his tracks. He asked me if he could have my number, and I said no because I’d just started seeing someone (I can finally use that as an excuse without it being a lie!) and didn’t feel comfortable giving my number out to him. I said I was really flattered, though, and he told me to have a nice day and enjoy the movie. Now, that’s how you approach someone without it being deemed harassment. That’s how my friend would like to be “harassed”.
I’m all for confident men going up to someone they find attractive and would like to get to know, paying them a compliment and asking for their number and, when rebuffed, go about their business—and let us go about ours—in a respectful way. But if some young women are so starved for affection and approval by our predominantly looks-based society that they would be happy to be harassed if it means being acknowledged by the opposite sex, there is something seriously wrong.
I’m calling for more education on harassment for both men and women.
Related: The Taboos of Sexual Harassment.
Image via YouTube.