This has been a post that I have taken months to write.
Two words that have been trending on the internet over the last year. Women standing up to say that they too have experienced some form of unwanted harassment. I think the number of women who can honestly say that they haven’t experienced something is few.
I don’t like to think or dwell on the bad things in the past, but yes, I too have experienced this a couple of times. And yes, each time shook my confidence and was something that I challenged and would do so again.
The thing that is making me speak up now is seeing how the debate is spinnning out. It worries me, as a mother of boys, as to how I translate this message and help them grow up in a world where simple gestures, genuinely made, could be taken out of context and cause wider damage.
Sometimes the person making the comments or gesture doesn’t think and so doesn’t realise the impact they have on someone else. Sometimes going in for a hug with one person is well received and very not welcome by someone else. Simply saying that something is inappropriate for you helps others learn that perhaps that behaviour isn’t appropriate in that context. Rather than lashing out with victim statements and blame – which escalate what could be a simple constructive conversation, perhaps it is better to state what your personal boundaries are if you feel uncomfortable, or maybe give them the benefit of the doubt? I know that some people would be mortified at the idea of upsetting someone with their comment, or simple gesture.
Naturally, however, there are some men who are more aggressive than making a comment, and who know on some level that what the are doing is wrong, but go on to put the victim in such a position that they are scared, vulnerable and that somehow they feel they are complicit. Standing up to it and getting out of the situation, and then challenging it is hard…and scary and it takes courage to say no, find support and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
Pretty much every women I know has been cat called, or chatted up and for the most part I think we can take it in the humorous spirit most of that is meant. The awkward pass, or misread conversation when someone likes you and hopes you like them back is one thing, and generally innocent and should be taken as such. But, we all have that gut instinct that sometimes the undertone it is wrong, off, and not meant in a good way…but in a more threatening way.
I want to raise my boys to be good men, so it is important that they understand how to respect every person in their lives, however brief the encounter. But the last thing I want is for my tactile and caring boys to worry that the slightest thing could result in some women ‘shaming’ them for a gentle hand on the shoulder, compassionate gesture, or a genuine compliment given.
Perhaps I an naïve, but I am hopeful that the next generation we are raising will be confident enough to tackle the predators in this world, without shaming those wonderfully good people who bring kindness and compassion to it with simple thoughts, words and gestures – and nothing negative underneath it all.