Ladies, we all use the terms “creep,” “stalker” and, “psycho” to refer to men that make us uncomfortable. And we all know the signs of a man that is about to earn that term when we see them.
Sirs, if a girl does not make eye contact or keeps fidgeting with something in her purse, her hands or her phone; she does not want to talk to you.
When we show signs of discomfort, we’re praying the creep will just take the hint and walk away. The men who recognize the fact that you are uninterested are thinking something along the lines of “bitch” or “prude” or some other derogatory term. While some will give up, others keep pressing and even go as far as to ask for a phone number, regardless if you tell them you’re in a relationship. I’m not a feminist and you won’t see many topics like this on my blog, but I firmly believe that while women maybe be (seemingly) treated as equals, we’re still not viewed as equals. I know this because when I buy a philosophy, psychology or even a poetry book, I’m more likely to purchase a book on the subject written by a man. I have avoided buying philosophy books written by women because I feel they’re generally derived more from emotion than logic. Which is actually very hypocritical of me considering I am constantly struggling to separate the two in my own life.
Back to the subject; I would like to make clear that not all men make women uncomfortable. There is absolutely nothing wrong with flirting with a woman, complimenting her or even sitting next to her to talk. There is, however, a problem with men who assume that touching a woman on her arm, leg or lower-back is completely acceptable. It’s not. While some women have no problem letting you know they don’t approve, a majority of them are not comfortable saying anything. The reasons as to why women prefer to say nothing are deeply embedded in the standards of our society and how certain things are portrayed. Women have been made to feel guilty when they feel or think certain things; we’re easy targets because we’re emotional and are constantly at battle with our heads and hearts.
However, I could talk forever on the subject, so I’ll move along.
The following is a chart of all documented Sexual Harassment charges within the last 14 years. If you’ll look, I have highlighted a few rows (click image to enlarge):
These numbers actually shocked me. Granted, many of these are probably circumstantial and yes, the Merit Resolutions seem to stay somewhat steady throughout the years and even manage to surpass the Administrative Closures (which, thankfully, have slowly declined over the years). But nearly half of all the cases are filed under No Reasonable Cause which grew to half in 2010 and exceeded more than half in 2011. Even more shocking are the percentages for Reasonable Cause.
What truly bothers me is that some people will look at this and automatically assume either:
a) The woman was lying and wanted attention
b) She misunderstood her harasser
c) She wanted money
I don’t doubt myself that some of these charges were probably the work of con-artists and sure, some woman need drama in their lives, but you can’t tell me that out of nearly 206,000 lawsuits, nearly half of which were found unreasonable, that all of those women were guilty of one of the aforementioned assumptions. And while some may see the decline of recipients as a positive thing, I see it as a growing number of women uncomfortable with speaking out.
I’m not writing this to form a battalion of angry women and encourage them to sue their boss for maintaining eye contact too long. I’m writing this because I work with a man who is married, knows I’ve been in a relationship for over 10 years but thinks it’s okay to touch my thigh, my lower back and sit uncomfortably close to me.
Other’s I work with have even mentioned that he follows me around and sits next to me at any opportunity. He sends me text messages throughout the day, sits in my office for twenty minutes at a time and mentions things to me about my body. I have politely let him know I don’t appreciate being touched, I’ve asked him to leave my office before and yet, he still persists.
However, I’m uncomfortable mentioning anything to my boss because “it’s not extreme enough” and “he’s not hurting me”. No one has personally said these things to me, but even mentioning some things that have made me uncomfortable to the other men I work; they just laugh and say “yeah, he’s weird”. They’re not bad guys and they wouldn’t say anything that they thought personally offended me, but like the majority of people, they don’t see it as a serious problem because it hasn’t advanced to a certain level. Even I feel burdened by a certain standard and keep telling myself, “no, it hasn’t reached that point yet”.
But honestly, it has reached that point. The company I work for has two separate locations. Some days, I don’t work with him at all, but the days I do are awful. When he calls my name out to say hello, I immediately want to hide, when he comes near my office, I pretend I’m on the phone (and he still lingers until I ‘hang-up’ sometimes), it doesn’t matter what he’s doing, his presence makes me terribly uncomfortable. I was partnered with him one day to clean things around the building and he kept finding ways to touch me the entire 5 hours we worked together. Each time he’d reach his hand near me, I’d jump away and tell him I didn’t like being touched — he laughed. I’m genuinely a very laid-back person, and my sense of humor is absolutely filthy. But, I only make jokes, in confidence, with people I’m comfortable around. This invitation has never been extended to him and I’m always careful to watch what I saw when I’m around him. However, the day we worked together, he constantly made jokes about me giving him blow jobs; “Oh, why are your knees dirty, you’ve been on the floor with me” “Look at those dirty knees” “Oh, I see white knees, good thing no one else is around”.
Even with all of the situations combined, I feel like calling it sexual harassment could be overkill even though I know that’s exactly what it is. Some would say that I prolong the discomfort, and yes, they are correct to a certain degree. But instead of pointing the finger at the person who isn’t saying anything, maybe it’s time to question why we’re too uncomfortable saying anything. The solution does not lie solely on the person who doesn’t speak out, the solution rests on the shoulders of all of us.
With that, I would like to, at least, encourage men to think about their actions. Just because a woman doesn’t outright tell you she isn’t comfortable with something, doesn’t mean she isn’t. Read the body language, notice her short answers, notice she probably doesn’t make eye contact. And lastly, never put your hands on a woman who displays any of the previously mentioned signs.