Once, many years ago, I overheard a woman who claimed she was a social worker telling people at a party that women always report real rapes to the police. If a woman claimed to have been assaulted and didn’t report it, she (the social worker) assumed that it was a lie.
Obviously, not every social worker everywhere believes that. I’m guessing most of them know better, and either this woman was a rotten apple, or she was just saying insane shit for reasons of her own. To shock, maybe. Maybe she wasn’t even a real social worker. I sure as shit hope not.
What absolutely floored me was that not one person called her out on it. I waited to see if anyone was going to speak up, but no one did. Someone cleared their throat, as if they were going to speak, then said nothing. A few shifted and threw sidelong glances at each other, as if to say, “Are you going to say anything? Are you? Someone please say something, so I don’t have to.”
I turned, stepped into the conversation, and expressed myself. When I was finished, I walked away. I’d managed to stay under control, but her attitude was pushing me right over the edge. As it turned out, nobody knew who she was or who’d invited her (or no one wanted to claim her, after that). She slunk out of sight and we never saw her again.
I recently saw a post from someone on Twitter who was talking about a random guy who invaded her personal space in a line, made her very nervous, and then compounded the issue by actually reaching out and touching her. I doubt there’s a woman alive who doesn’t have a similar story. Once, when I was standing in line at a convenience store, the guy who got in line behind me moved right up on my ass. Forget about personal space, this guy was just short of climbing into my clothes. I could feel the heat from his body on my back. I moved forward a little, to create some space; he moved forward an equal amount and then “accidentally” pressed himself against me.
Public transportation can be tricky. When it’s crowded and lots of people have to stand, accidental physical contact is pretty much a given. That makes it harder to call someone out when you think it’s deliberate; they have an excuse, after all, and it’s easy to make a woman look like she’s just being unreasonable under those circumstances. When a guy moves behind me, and that move includes rubbing his crotch very very slowly across my ass, an assumption is going to be made, and I am going to react. I don’t care what other people think. I know what I felt. Accidental, incidental contact doesn’t feel like that.
No, it’s not about clothing. I’ve never been comfortable with revealing clothing. It’s just not my style, and never has been. I wear mock turtlenecks under a jacket in the summer. Clothing? Really? Please.
It’s also not about feminism. Or being “too sensitive”. Or whatever other lame-ass excuse you care to make up. It also doesn’t just happen to women.
I’ve struggled over what to say here. I wanted to say something, because when people say nothing it just makes things worse. I’m also discovering that there’s only so much I’m willing to share. I appreciate those who have spoken up. I also appreciate those who don’t feel comfortable speaking up. That’s ok, too.
I just wish none of us had anything to say about it in the first place.