If you follow me on social media it is probably of no surprise that I am writing a post about a topic that has been the target of conversation of not only my posts but of many others thanks to mainstream media finally not turning a blind eye to the perpetual harassment, assault, and rape of women. Harassment by men is something I live with every day of my life. It is not something I choose, enjoy, or feel flattered (which many men have told me they believe this is how I should feel) to receive.
I update sporadically…sometimes against the advice of other successful bloggers, leaving a two week gap in between posts because I write for myself as a therapy outlet and as well for others enlightenment and enjoyment. Writing (good writing) is not something that can be forced out of me or done at the drop of a hat. I need to be inspired. It is the one thing I am extremely passionate about and aspire to do well at.
This moment of inspiration came on June 2nd, 2016 when a photographer friend posted a status about a man writing to him on the app Snapchat asking if he could have nude photos of models that he has shot. I rolled my eyes at this man asking something so immature, but it wasn’t until I scrolled through the comments that I felt true disgust, annoyance, and rage. A model had commented “now you know how I feel” and another woman responded to her (I would copy and paste here but she blocked me ha) something along the lines of: “I have never received cat calls, harassment, etc. The only women that receive comments like these are ones that dress or act in a certain way.” Basically implying that women who pose in lingerie, bikinis, or show cleavage are the only ones to receive and deserve this demeaning commentary from men. We went back and forth debating to which she told me basically my opinion was invalid because ironically she has a Juris Doctor degree and is an advocate for sexual abuse victims.
The ignorance of this woman is the exact problem our society is facing. We choose to victim blame and shame not even attempting to put ourselves in the shoes of these women who cannot even walk outside of their homes without having something inappropriate yelled at them or fearing a man could physically hurt them out of rejection regardless of what they are wearing. And yes, perhaps many people, specifically people like this woman, cannot relate to this fear and blatant disrespect because they live in a city that shames men’s infantile behavior or perhaps they are lucky to be the 1 in a million who is unscathed and left alone. However, for most of us, we live this every single day.
If you do not know me, I have posed probably over 50-100 times in my life in lingerie and bikinis. There’s hundreds of images on my social media and all over the internet. I prefer wearing Brazilian bikinis at the beach. After a lifetime of feeling insecure I am finally proud of my body and don’t see what I wear as socially inappropriate, especially for where I live (liberal Los Angeles) where you are allowed to be whomever you want and dress however you want. When I go out to a bar in Hollywood, I can be found in a tight bandage dress showing off some cleavage along with my female friends. Surprisingly, during these times are when I am LEAST harassed by men.
A message I sent to a friend that was meant half as a joke but also half seriousness. Not that it matters, as women who wear hoodies or are lesbians are harassed too.
It happens when I am walking to my nail appointment wearing jeans and a jacket. It happens when I am at the grocery store makeup-less in sweat pants and a hoodie. It happens when I am waiting for a lyft or an uber at night, especially alone. Or when I am leaving an audition that requires me to be all dolled up and in a dress. There have been times I have wore sweats and stuffed my dress and heels into a bag to change into just in case I had to walk on a public street or wait for a ride for awhile. I am on high alert of my surroundings when I take out the trash especially of the man who looks down at me through his third floor window. I have filmed it many times on my own Snap chat account so others can see I am not exaggerating. My gay friends have been appalled to see how straight men act when they accompany me out to lunch. In all these instances I was minding my own business usually with my head down in order not to make eye contact with any man passing me so I didn’t ‘provoke’ an unwanted interaction. If someone even looks at me too long or walks by me my body language involuntarily shifts into a stiff, defensive mode. You see, the problem is not only the men words, it is that you don’t know which man is going to take it that one step further and put your safety in jeopardy. Male friends have called me paranoid but as a woman you have to ALWAYS be on alert and aware. That is the world we live in, that is our reality.
One of the times I filmed this kind of interaction was when I was inside of an isolated establishment waiting for my friend to get out of the bathroom. A security guard approached me and asked what I was doing. I told him and he proceeded to ask me a bunch of irrelevant questions like where I live and where I am from. When I said I didn’t want to answer anymore questions he got closer to me demanding aggressively that I answer them to which I squeezed past him outside to feel safe since no one was around. This was ON VIDEO.
But forget about me, since my frustrations don’t count because I have sexy photos on the internet or wear short dresses when I go out. How about my lesbian friend who wouldn’t be caught in a tight dress, who has never slept with a man in her life, but was sexually assaulted in the worst way by a man? Or my own conservative middle-aged, married mother who has shown me repulsive, uncomfortable, cringe-worthy sexual messages from men half her age in her Facebook inbox or men who say “mmm” under their breath and have touched without permission as she walked by? How about my OWN MOTHER who was almost abducted at my age by a man on the street who she let pass by her on the sidewalk and would have gotten her into his car if not for my grandmother beating him with her purse? Or how about my Facebook friend who just posted about her 11-year-old daughter getting catcalled by grown men on the street? Do they at least count? They don’t wear dresses or have sexy photos on the internet.
The fact of the matter is that it is unfathomable how a human being with decency can blame a profession (strippers, etc), sex, article of clothing (or lack there of), photo, or WHATEVER REASON they can come up with for the inexcusable behavior of an adult man. Yes, even strippers, deserve the dignity to not be raped, assaulted, or harassed even if there is an certain degree of objectification in their work. Many others including myself have been to strip clubs, have enjoyed them, and never felt the need to scream obscenities or rape one. It does not matter. There is zero excuse. Not “she was drunk”, not “it’s how you dress”, not about photos, not about how a girl was walking alone at night. Men have the ability to control themselves. They CHOOSE this behavior unlike we choose the harassment.
I used to be quiet about it but now it has reached a level of toxicity where I will no longer can tolerate feeling uncomfortable stepping out of my home in a world that is supposed to be shared freely among everyone just because I have female genitalia and was born into a male-dominated world. None of this is my fault. When I share stories with my mother about how I talk back to or shame these men she is afraid that I am going to get killed or hurt. I will not pretend that when I was waiting for an Uber ride and a random man approached me calling me a whore (again, on video) because I didn’t want to give him my number and I told him to F*** off that I was scared he could have a gun and blow my head off simply for sticking up for myself. But as a double edged sword, certain men have respected me for calling them out, and if I was to be killed it would not be in vain. I do not mind being the voice for women who cannot walk alone in fear of abduction or being called a name.
It is interesting because a couple of years ago I was working in Hong Kong. I remember walking the streets (dolled up and in heels) with 5 other very attractive women and expected men to catcall or say something to us under their breath. After awhile I suspiciously asked our guide why no one was saying anything. Were we invisible? Not their type? He said, “if men were to behave like that here, say anything public like that, society would shame them. We would look at them as if something was wrong with them.” It blew my mind. A city where we could feel safe to dress however we wanted and finally a society that saw this not as a WE problem…it was a THEM problem. *round of applause*
And really women know it is not all men. I hate this argument, when men say, “it’s not all men.” We know that. We have brothers, husbands, male friends, and fathers who we have never seen act this way. They protect women. They love us. They respect us. They are our allies. But we need MORE of you. We need to outnumber the assholes. We need more people not turning a blind eye to rape allegations or even catcalling on the street. We need to scold and shame our sons and brothers for disgusting behavior unlike Brock Turner’s father. I am by no means saying someone cannot respectfully compliment a woman or even ask for her number, if done politely. But if the woman chooses to ignore it or rejects the advancement politely move on. No one just simply living their life and going about their business owes any stranger an interaction, period. Not a “thanks”, not a “I have a boyfriend” excuse, not a smile. Stop telling women to freakin’ smile for you.
This foul behavior does not only hurt women, it hurts men too. It keeps women’s guards up. We can’t relax around you in a public place. It may as well be YOUR space. This is why it is important for the good guys to do more than just say “not all men!” If you see a woman getting attacked and berated on social media, chime in. If you see a woman getting harassed in public, say something or call for help. If you see a woman getting raped at the swedes did in the Brock Turner case, step in or call for help. Yes, it is your business. We all need you to lead by example and show others this is not okay. The reason why this is such an epidemic which is only getting worse is because it is not seen as a big deal. By the time you approach a woman with good intentions, chances are she has already had to deal with 5 jerks…in one day. It affects you. It is hard to see the good after experiencing so much bad. We want to give you the time of day and not assume ‘ugh, here comes another one’ when you approach us. We want to be approached, asked out, and make male friends and allies. I promise.
Good guys, we need you.