Please welcome my guest, author J.C. Hannigan. She’s continuing my series on Women and Sexism.
Picture this: you are at Walmart, shopping for the random things one shops for while at Walmart. You’re chatting with your friend, discussing ways you could possibly improve your organization when it comes to managing the kids’ busy schedule and your own demanding one.
Not even two minutes into your Walmart venture, you encounter a rough-looking male in his late fifties, eyeing you up with a sleazy smirk on his face. He even licks his lips and says “mmm,” as if he’s tasted something scrumptious, while his eyes roam hungrily over your body.
You and your friend immediately duck into the nearest aisle to avoid his vile scrutiny. Your friend remarks how perverted some guys are, and you try to laugh it off but on the inside, you feel dirty, violated, and very uncomfortable.
He ends up walking down the aisle beside yours, just to run into you again. He starts approaching you, still licking his lips and making that nauseating “mmm” sound while his eyes are still slithering over every inch of exposed skin. You literally snap at him that he’s creepy and to go away, and he chuckles…so you tell your friend loudly that if this creep keeps following you, you’ll find a Walmart manager.
That prompts him to disappear, but you still can’t shake the prickly sensation crawling under your skin. You’re still uncomfortable, still checking over your shoulder – just to make sure you aren’t being followed. You wonder aloud if you should report it anyway, even though he is gone because he made you that uncomfortable, and it is broad daylight, in a Walmart, and you are with a friend. Yet, even if it isn’t broad daylight, in a Walmart; even if you aren’t with your friend, it wouldn’t be okay, but you were and you were still followed and scared enough to be worried about any future females this jerkoff might encounter.
But your friend says the same thing everyone says, the same thing woman have been groomed to tell one another: “It’s just a guy, a creepy guy. Guys are perverts!”
And inside, you know nothing can really be done about it, anyway. You don’t have a good enough description. He was a rough-looking older man; there are a lot of those around. Technically, he broke no laws, and he did leave you alone when you told him too.
But, this whole scenario is something you can’t shake, because it’s not the first time something like this has happened, and it won’t be the last…
They call it everyday sexism. Women are propositioned by creepy men like that a billion times every day, men who openly leer and make comments on our physical appearance. They say they’re “just being nice” or they’re “just flirting,” even though it’s at inappropriate times and locations, and it’s clearly unrequited.
We’re told to “take it as a compliment!” when someone makes us feel uncomfortable in the grocery store or at work. We’re told we are “too uptight” for not returning gross comments with smiles and brainless giggles.
No woman, hell no person, wants their talents to be measured by their physical appearance.
What does ones’ looks have to do with their ability to tell a story or save a life? Absolutely nothing.
I know it’s not illegal to find someone attractive, and I am not someone who bristles every time I get hit on. There’s a distinctive difference from some casual, harmless flirting and being a perverted asshole with no respect for the opposite sex. Women know this difference; we can smell it from seven miles away.
It’s not always terrifying to have a stranger remark on your looks – because it’s not always in a perverted, sexual way. I’ve had older men compliment me and tell me that I am pretty, but they did so in that sweet way that clearly expressed they meant no harm and wanted to tell someone they were pretty.
The man in Walmart was not innocently expressing that he found us beautiful, he was coming across as creepy and he knew it and he didn’t care, and that’s what made the experience scary.
And that’s why I – and many, many women – get an adrenaline rush of fear when out walking somewhere and encounter a group of guys, no matter the time. You never know what you’re going to get from them. A few innocent comments about your looks, or full out vile sexual remarks and leering that leaves you feeling dirty and cheap? Will they be the kind of guys to chirp from a distance and never approach, or will they be the kind of guys that follow you, hoping that by tossing out cheap remark after cheap remark, they’ll get lucky? Not caring that they’re scaring you, that they’re making it even harder for you to relax while out walking around? Not seeing a problem in their behavior? Not seeing how scary it is to have a pack of grown men following you, saying overtly sexual things to you?
If you don’t feel sexism exists, ask yourself this question: do men feel this same fear?
The other day, I wanted to take my dog for a hike on the trails…but then I started to think: what if there’s somebody else on the trails? What if it’s somebody who isn’t a good person? I can’t help but think about every single story in the news about women abducted or attacked while out walking, jogging, or running alone in isolated areas. If I encounter someone like the dude in Walmart while out in a setting like that: what would happen to me?
Any time women cry out about men treating them inappropriately, too many men laugh it off and say something like “it’s a sad state that we can’t compliment a woman on her beauty without them reacting this way.”
I agree: it is a sad state when we can’t tell if someone is going to compliment us or attack us. It is a sad state when we are more inclined to question our safety hiking well-maintained trails in broad daylight than to trust we will be okay. We have to raise our daughters to be wary of strange men, we have to raise them to think like this, to worry about going somewhere alone for fear of these men, because these men exist.
If you’re not one of those men, what would you have us do? Assume everyone is “just flirting,” or “just paying us compliment?” That’s dangerous for us. We have to be wary because nobody’s going to be wary for us, because the supposed good men who say they don’t believe women should be afraid don’t think there is a problem. If you can’t put yourself in our shoes, at least think about what it would feel like for your daughter, sister, wife, or mother.
That’s a problem, and it’s also why we can’t let our guard down and why I think that Barrister Charlotte Proudman has every right to speak out about the message from Alexander Carter-Silk without fear of losing her job, without being told by other colleagues that “she’s biting the hand that feeds her.” Charlotte Proudman should be able to stand up and say that women don’t need to put up with that kind of inappropriate treatment from their co-workers. Would Alexander Carter-Silk have sent a similar message to a male? If he did, would everyone condemn that male for speaking out about his inappropriate behavior?
If you’re angry at me for asking those questions, maybe you should take a closer look at that anger, and realize that you’re not angry at me for asking, you’re angry because you know the answer.
About the Author:
J.C. Hannigan lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, their two sons and dog.
She writes contemporary new adult romance and suspense. Her novels focus on relationships, mental health, social issues, and other life challenges.
Sign up for my newsletter and never miss a post again! I will never share your email and that’s a promise. Follow me on Twitter @RachelintheOC or @BadRedheadMedia for social media, branding, or marketing help. Increase your blog traffic by participating in #MondayBlogs (a Twitter meme I created to share posts on Mondays — no book promo).
All content © 2015 by Rachel Thompson, author, unless otherwise specified. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided a link back to this page and proper attribution is given to me as the original author.