Wednesday, May 16, 2018

No Laughing Matter

Last Friday as my husband and I shopped at a local grocery store for a few items to get us through the weekend, I experienced something weird and out of the ordinary.

My husband was pushing the cart, and he suddenly veered away from me, calling back over his shoulder that he needed to pick up soft drinks. Far down the aisle a woman was on a small ladder putting drinks up on the top shelf, and an older man, in a plaid shirt and blue jeans, passed her and then my husband.

I caught his gaze and he held it for just a beat too long. The next thing I knew, he was unbuckling his belt and then his hand was at his zipper.

I turned around and walked about five steps in the opposite direction. My instincts were shrieking that something was very wrong here, but my analytic self was saying he's just tucking in his shirt. I turned back around to see if my husband was returning to me and the guy was still standing there with his pants unzipped and his belt unbuckled. I didn't really see anything, but it was unnerving. He was leering and smirking, this perverted man.

As soon as my husband reached me and I spoke to him, the guy moved past us and I watched him leave without making a purchase, making a beeline for the parking lot.

It took me a while to straighten my thoughts out as to what had happened. I did not tell my husband about it until we were in the parking lot, as I was looking around to see if I could see Mr. Pervert.  The man was nowhere to be found. My husband was upset and frustrated with me for not saying something immediately. Ultimately, I went to the manager and asked that they review their security tapes and take whatever action they deemed appropriate.

This distressed me somewhat me because I have had a good deal of sexual harassment in my life, from when I was young on into adulthood. I have trouble dealing with males who are full of themselves and overtly patriarchal. So while in the grand scheme of things this is a minor incident, it still had an unsettling affect on me.

I felt violated, really.

That was bad enough, but then, in a sort of social experiment, I posted about it on Facebook. I knew what I was doing when I posted it (I essentially set a trap and a lot of people fell right into it - of their own free will, I hasten to add). Here we are in the new world of #metoo, when stories of sexual harassment and assault are mainstream and women are coming forward to say that the things we endure are not right. And what was the response I got? Teasing from males who said stupid things about the incident, and comments from some women about how they'd have laughed and pointed at Mr. Pervert as having a small penis, or something to that effect.

Some of the comments were proper, loaded with outrage and concern. By and large, it was split by those I know to be of one political party and those of another, and by gender. I had a number of private messages from people (women) who were aghast at the comments and very glad that I finally called out the commenters for continuing the legacy of rape culture. Only one person apologized, a man, who agreed he had been insensitive.

Here is the Facebook thread, which I captured Saturday before my computer modem died and I was unable to continue the conversation. Female names are blocked out with pink, male names by blue. I don't want to embarrass anyone in particular, but I do want people to think about what they are doing and saying. Nothing was funny about this minor incident, nothing at all.


  1. Anita, I saw your post and did something that may be just as bad... nothing. I didn’t respond to your post because for me there was nothing to say. Having been a victim of a sexual attack and dealing with the repercussions of it and several other incidents over the years, I had learned to shove it all down and accept it as the norm. When my “ first adult relationship” came along ... let’s just say a different form of sexual harassment showed itself. It has taken me twenty-five years of not wanting to date because of pain, being uncomfortable and degrading myself, and three years of my slow growing love for a good man with patience ( his and mine) to learn to feel comfortable, giving and enjoy this part of my life. ( Things aren’t always what they seem to be!!) Love really does conquer and forgive a great amount of stupidity. I said nothing because I didn’t want to go back “there” ( I have revived a lot of those feelings lately) after what I hoped was moving forward in the last three few years. After reading what you posted as a response to the comments, I now feel ashamed for not responding to you directly with support and i’m truly sorry, We need to support one another and protect the next generation from thinking this sort of behavior is acceptable for either sex, male or female. Please forgive my selfishness. #metoo

    1. I don't consider "nothing" to be just as bad as some of the comments. I don't know a single woman who hasn't endured some kind of sexual harassment. You have no need to feel ashamed and there is nothing to forgive.


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