So here is some unexpected fallout: the original Aunty Charlotte post has stirred up a hornet’s nest of replies. The original post, in fact, is my most viewed post, garnering new views every day. That’s pretty impressive given that this is a blog with ONE follower.
The overwhelming theme has been some concern that it comes across harshly and isn’t fair to the guy who blocked me on FB. A few people have worried it was a reference to them, which is why I put that disclaimer in place. One person asked me to take it down. I don’t intend to take it down, but I will explain why it is up since it’s causing a lot of feelings.
When I was in grade seven, I used to walk to school along the Bedford Highway. On my walk, men used to roll down their windows and cat call to me. Many, many trucks and cars honked. This was my first awakening to the rent I had to pay for being female. I was twelve.
In grade ten, a man didn’t stop at honking. Instead, about ten feet from my high school doors, he also rolled down his window to reveal himself masturbating. I wasn’t shocked and my sensibilities weren’t so offended I lost my ability to function. This wasn’t the first time. It wasn’t the last time. This was what some men did. I was fifteen at the time.
In university, I lived in Montreal. My walk to and from the metro station took me past a construction area. My walk involved pot bellied men in their fifties and buff young guys in their twenties wolf whistling and yelling, “Hey!” I hated that part of the walk because I had to be on my guard for the span of a few blocks, but it wasn’t that unusual. I was twenty at the time.
My first unwanted sexualization began long before my first walk along the Bedford Highway. My last unwanted sexualization was… hang on… let me think… TODAY. I have over forty years of unwanted male attention where my sole purpose is to be an object they can ogle, stare at, make comments about. I have learned to make jokes, laugh it off, avoid the conversation, change the topic, avoid the area, change the route. I have never once in my life assumed it would be the last time I’d ever have to deal with THAT.
We have a problem with normalized sexual harassment in this society. Yes. I said: NORMALIZED SEXUAL HARASSMENT. It’s not flirting. It’s not fun. It’s where men feel entitled to reduce a woman to a sexual object with absolutely no value beyond being a sexual object. (See also: why don’t I get on a plane and go make out with him because he liked what he remembered from me in grade two.)
Flirting is consensual. Sexual harassment is not. It’s unwanted. It comes from a feeling of entitlement. It’s not mutual. The fact that he didn’t recognize that it wasn’t mutual or consensual or wanted doesn’t change that it is a form of harassment. The harasser doesn’t have to know he’s being a dick to be one, but it doesn’t change that in his mind, my best attribute was my objectification.
So just in case you’re a caveman and missed Respecting Women 101: if you have to ask, “Hey, are you ignoring me?” you probably crossed the line ages ago. Your best bet is to apologize, and not one of those, “I’m sorry if I said something that offended you,” apologies that aren’t apologies at all, but an actual apology. One that sounds like you’re sorry you were a dick. Or skip the apology and go away. Both work.
Let’s assume you still aren’t getting it. Let me give you some options to, “Hey sexy.” In my post, I say I am focussed on my career. You could say, “Hey career-focussed girl.” Or maybe you could read a different blog post and say, “Hey Union woman,” or “Hey nice nails lady,” or even, “Hey feminist who always wears dresses.” There’s a long list to choose from if all you read is my blog. But here’s the thing: none of my blog posts invite you to call me sexy. In fact, I sincerely hope there is more to me than sexy in the eyes of the world. I have much greater aspirations than being an object of lust. Frankly, I’m not to inclined to be an “object” at all.
Back to my friend who asked me to remove the post. The answer is no. I’m mighty tired of men complaining that they are embarrassed when women talk about hating sexual harassment. I’m sorry you are embarrassed. I really am. Of all the men who commented, they are all stand up men who are kind and nice. But, brothers, I have to tell you, if you’re asking me to stop talking about this kind of thing, you’re part of the problem.
So the post is staying, along with this one. But if you can help explain to other men that women really hate being objectified, I’d be most obliged. As a side note, not one woman replied defending the OP or expressing her embarrassment
Oh, and if you’re really unsure what to call me because you’re afraid I might get a little tetchy about being called, “sexy,” call me by my name. “Hey, Charlotte,” works great and you won’t ever get a blog post about you.
And… as an added bonus: I’ll let the comma use go.