I don’t know how many of you are attached to my facebook, but if you are, you would have noticed an angry post yesterday. I was driving to my day job when I stopped to get gas. There was a car that pulled in front of me at the gas station. The “gentleman” went inside, presumably to pay his gas in cash, while I stayed outside and hooked up my car.
It was maybe five minutes until he came out again, and my car was nearly full. I didn’t think anything of it. I wasn’t have a great day. My stomach had been bothering me all more, I had to go shopping for “professional” clothes and then got crazy nauseous on the ride home. So all in all, I wasn’t smiling or baking cookies.
Once my car was finished, I topped it off and turned to put the cap back on. The audacity of the idiot in front of me. He turned to me and said, “Smile! Smile, babe, today is a good day. Just give me a little smile!”
I was infuriated, frustrated, and put down.
I gave him a quick glance and continued to get my car ready for the rest of my drive to work. I didn’t dare look at his face again. I steered clear of what he’d said. He’d ruined my day, made me feel like I was nothing other than a pretty face. He had taken my agency, my smart mind and mulled it all down to one thing–me being a woman.
This is, sadly, not the first time this has happened to me. I’m continuously told I should smile. At least 3-4 times a year, a stranger will come up to me and shout it from across the parking lot that I should smile because it’s a good day.
Well, first of all, it’s my damn face. If I want to smile, I’ll smile. Second of all, why aren’t you asking why I’m not smile. What if my grandmother just died (totally happened when she did die too)? What if I just found out I had cancer? It would make my day better if you would sit and talk to me, take the time out of your day to make sure I am okay and that would probably put a wee bit of a smile on my face (even if I lied and said I was fine, at least someone would have cared enough to ask).
It’s not just that–but I guarantee you if I were male or if my fiance had been with me, this conversation with the asshole at the gas station NEVER would have happened.
People think that because I’m blonde, blue-eyed and young they can treat me like this. No! I deserve respect! I deserve to be treated like a person and not an object. I deserve to have 100% the say in my own facial expressions.
So I posed what happened on Facebook. The conversation took off! People were so angry, felt undignified that stuff like this still happens. This might seem like a smaller thing, but it’s still the same as all the other shit out there. This is sexual harassment. It’s harassment because it’s unwanted attention, and it’s sexual simply because I am a woman and asshole gas station guy was a man.
This happens every day to women. This happens at the simplest of places. One of my comments back to a fellow author on Facebook was a quick snippy comment, but it’s so very true… “And men wonder why women always go to the bathroom with someone else.”
We’re scared. Whether or not something has happened to us on the way to the restroom, it’s been ingrained in us from other women, from our parents, from our friends, and from society, that something WILL happen and we’re better off in greater numbers.
I recently posted an article about 29 Things Women Avoid Doing Because We Fear For Our Safety. It amazes me that I’ve done the high majority of the things on this list. And you know what? Men just don’t get it.
Just the other day, my fiance was waiting for our bed to be delivered and got hungry. So the SO wanted to go out and get some food. I asked, politely, for the SO to remain at the apartment until after the delivery was done. This was after I had posted the article, of which the SO had full access to and read a bit of it. Yet, I still had to explain why I didn’t want to be by myself with a delivery coming–they just don’t think about it.
All of this proves that sexism is clearly alive and running rampant in our world today. It lives and it breaths and is the nasty Jabberwocky that needs to be slain.
After all of this, after ranting and getting angry, after having my day ruined by an asshole at the gas station, what ticks me off the most? What hurts the most?
Every time he told me to smile…I smiled back.
12 thoughts on “Simply a Rant on Sexual Harrassment…”
I’ve often had people tell me to smile too and it REALLY annoys me. But like you I’m polite and smile even though I’m seething inside. Thing is my habitual expression is just a bit… well glum. I can’t help that – it is what it is. So I can definitely understand your anger and frustration.
Yeah. I struggle with depression and have throughout my life so I can’t control it. =P
And the thing about mental ill health is that you can’t see it like you can with a physical illness, you can’t see what’s wrong, you only see that the person isn’t looking the happy way you think they should.
Yeah. =( but with it running rampant these days people should think first
Oh I wasn’t excusing that sort of behaviour far from it. I suffer from bipolar disorder and so I know all about people’s prejudices. What I meant was it’s not right that people just take you at literally face value and don’t consider that you might be struggling to keep it together inside. I meant it reflects badly on them, not you. :)
I knew what you meant =P people, meaning asshole gas station guy, should think first.
I almost wrote a post like this the other day when I spent the entire intermission of a theatre show googling variants of ‘is it safe for a woman to walk home at night in Brighton’, then realised how ridiculous it is. I did end up walking home, but pretended to be on the phone to my boyfriend and walked so quickly I was out of breath by the time I got to my hotel. I wish I wasn’t scared of going out alone at night, even in a well lit city, but I am. Back home, my boyfriend doesn’t like me going out at night, and my male friends always insist on walking me home, because they know it just isn’t safe. And it’s appalling! I was also followed through Waterloo by two men shouting at me – not pleasant when you’re lost in a strange town! Gah!
It’s not at all. And while I appreciate men walking me places, I wish they didn’t have to do it.
Exactly! I just hope that if I ever have a daughter, she’ll be able to feel safe enough to walk alone at night, and not face discrimination from people saying that she should know better because she’s a female.
Yes! And I hope she also knows how to stand up for herself and persevere.
My daughter, who just turned 10, used to watch a lot of Fight Science. She’s known since she was 4 that her elbow is the strongest part of her body, and I’ve never minced words about what parts of a man’s body to aim for should the need arise.
I’m wondering why that man didn’t smile himself, and meet your eyes, if he wanted to see you smile. Why he didn’t realize that a good day for him didn’t make it necessarily a good day for you. That people smile when they’re happy, not to order…
But it isn’t just women this happens to. A few years back, I was chatting with a 4 year old male relative, when his mother commented that he doesn’t smile much, and she had to “trick him into smiling”. Now, I knew this child had a less than delightful life for a variety of reasons; but I have always been able to share smiles and giggles and grins with him just by being *with* him, engaging him in ways that honor who he is, and doing a lot of genuine smiling myself…
But I guess it comes down to one thing…is the person trying to command a smile on cue really interested in your feelings, or a performance that allows THEM to feel better.
I don’t ask or cajole emotional responses from my kids, or anyone. I do like to smile at people, talk with them, say nice things to them. And, without calling anyone babe (except, perhaps, sometimes, that guy I married!), I get lots of smiles….and a warm feeling of connection I’m betting Mr. Smile Babe doesn’t have a lot of experience with.
I’m hoping you’re feeling more like smiling by now, because it sounds like you really weren’t in a great smiling spot to begin with…sending gentle thoughts to you and your stomach!