I've been working since I was fifteen, that's twenty-five years. Guess how many times I've been sexually harassed in the workplace? That number is incalculable because at some point in my twenties, I quit counting. In fact, just this summer I was at a work function with a (female) client who introduced me as their "pretty [job title]". I've been in politics for ten years, own a business, and have a masters degree in public policy, but yes, by all means introduce me as "pretty".
The downside to being pretty is that no one expects you to be smart. The upside to being pretty is that no one expects you to be smart. You get underestimated, which you learn to use to your advantage. It's easy to convince someone of something when they don't think you're smart enough to take seriously.
In the decade I've worked in politics, here is the highlight reel of my sexual harassment:
- A man touched my knee under a table, tried to get me to share his milkshake, and his straw, then attempted to drive me to his house.
- A man embraced me and licked the side of my face.
- A man pinched my clavicle and told me to not lose anymore weight.
- A man looked at my breasts the entire time he was talking to me (x 1,000 + one of them was Jeremy Durham).
- A man looked me up and down and asked how much weight I had lost.
- A man told me my predecessor used to let him kiss her.
- A man messaged me on Facebook and invited me to his house.
All of these men only knew me in a professional capacity. I had no personal relationship or friendship with any of them. Did my face look like my face when all of these things happened? Was I wearing skirts, dresses and heeled boots when all of these things happened? Am I culpable because I'm pretty and dress in Ann Taylor Loft?
I've had it. And I'd had it long before "Grab them by the pussy" made national news. I am a human being. Aren't humans supposed to be equal? Or are some humans just decoration? Do I not deserve autonomy over my body because my anatomy is different than yours?
You do not have permission to touch my body. Period. There are no qualifiers or physical characteristics that change this. My body is not here for you, furthermore, included in my body is my brain, where I have feelings just like you do, albeit probably more resilience because I've been putting up with this bullshit my whole life.
Men, be better.
Earlier this summer, in a week of three police shootings of unarmed black men, an important woman of color in my life challenged me to not stay silent - that this doesn't get better by everyone ignoring their racist friends and family online. Basically, if you see something, say something.
Men, friends of women - if you see something, say something. If you're in a conversation and hear something that goes against your beliefs, say so. Tell the offending person how their view affects you and the people you love. You can say, "Hey, my friend Kim (female human) has been licked on the face and just barely not kidnapped. I like Kim, she's smart and cool, and she didn't deserve that. We need to do better."
I am lucky to have caring, compassionate men in my life, especially my husband. But I
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P.S. I wrote a post on How To Get Involved In Local and State Politics.
P.P.S. How to work with me.