“I came into work one day with a black eye from playing racquetball without protective eye wear the previous day. When I told my boss about it, he asked if I finally made my boyfriend the sandwich” (linked above, submission to The Power of Harassment).
Inspired by and fashioned similarly to the Everyday Sexism Project, The Power of Harassment is a place for women to share their stories of harassment: the forum “exists to offer a space where we can share our stories without fear of retribution. Perhaps by contributing your story, you’ll feel a sense of relief. Or maybe you’ll gain a new awareness of your own behavior, whether as a target or as a complicit party. My hope is that by sharing and internalizing these stories, it will help us recognize how problematic — and even traumatic — those seemingly small instances of occupational sexism might be, and motivate us to stand up for ourselves (and others) as we are marginalized and mistreated” (from Occupational Hazards).
Harassment, whether it is acted out verbally or physically, is a form of abuse that nearly all women (and some men) have experienced at least once. Many face harassment on a regular basis; whether from strangers on the street or public transit, strangers or friends online, or co-workers in the office, harassment is unwelcome, degrading attention that dehumanizing another person. Harassment can occasionally turn into outright sexual assault and may precede other forms of violence.
Bryony Beynon writes:
“Violence is not always physical. The most serious sexual assault I have ever experienced began with a wolf whistle. My perpetrator thought that both his whistle, and what he did to me after that (which definitely was physical), were equally permissible. Whether it’s leering, catcalls, shouts or whispers from strangers, defending this behaviour is a gateway to the cultural acceptance of much more serious crimes across the spectrum of gender-based violence. Dismiss the smaller issues, and the bigger issues go unchallenged too.
It’s hard for some people to get their heads around, especially those who have never experienced it, but these seemingly harmless interactions with strangers on the street can build up a well of resentment, internalised shame and guilt in the people who live with them” (full article linked above).
Sexism is the accepted norm. But what is accepted and what is acceptable are two different things.
Harassment is unacceptable.
Assault is unacceptable.
The truth is sexual assault and harassment are everyday occurrences in most women’s lives. Whether it’s a group of men yelling at you while you’re running or a man putting his hands where they ought not to be, it can take years to overcome the pain, the shame, the confusion of what’s been done or said. What’s more, harassment starts young and is not limited to one gender.
Related Post: Sexual Violence: Understanding the Terms
For more stories, resources, and information related to harassment, visit the Harassment archive.