Lavender Took (lavendertook) wrote,
Lavender Took

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Sexual Harassment--the testifying does matter, and an open letter

Last Friday evening, I was sexually harassed--it could be called a minor level of sexual assault--in the Dollar Store of all places, for fucks sake, and I put the fucker in his place.

I went to the Dollar Store Friday evening to get a bunch of strands of silk flowers for my town LGBT group's float in Greenbelt's Labor Day Parade, and continued hunting and gathering household items, always a relaxing activity for me. A tall guy in a scarlet red muscle shirt, kept turning up, examining things right next to me, reeeeeal close, as general American standards for personal space go, three times or so--as if you can't see a long expanse of bright red hovering beside you in your peripheral vision. I felt preyed upon, wary, and alert--not a fun kind of feeling when I was all about the chilling.

About the fourth pass, after hovering, he brushed past my side. OK, this was escalating--I wasn't just being paranoid--"I'm pretty sure I'm not being paranoid," was my thought, because you never can be one hundred percent certain with these stealth tactics. The next pass, his hand just happened to brush my butt. Not a grab, so you could be 100% certain, but I could bet the next time would be.

I snapped at his retreating back, "Don't touch me again!" and he turned as I glared at him. "I didn't do anything! Geez!" he shot back (feebly) with a taken aback look, and I hope that 1% doubt flooding me as I evaluated his response didn't show as I continued to glare at him angrily, and he muttered and stalked off.

I was in there a bit longer, finishing browsing the isles and he didn't cross my path again, and I figured he was gone--until I was standing in the checkout line and I saw him stalk out of the store, nothing in his hands. You don't spend that amount of time in a Dollar Store and walk out with nothing ever unless it wasn't the things on the shelf you were hunting for. Fucking predator. Fucking being evaluated as a thing. I was not wrong, and, intellectually, I know that 100%, due to that final piece of evidence of his empty hands, but the 1% doubt never leaves. That's what they count on. And that's what they usually capitalize on. For the ones of us who gain the sureness to tell them off, there are 5 more they can count on never speaking out.

I wonder how many other women he stalked during that time, as well. For that I am sorry I didn't feel the sureness to go to the clerk and tell her to be on the look out for him (probably not effective with a tired clerk toward the end of the day) or made a sweep to make sure he still wasn't in there bothering others. I would have had to have been up to at least a verbally abusive response if I did make him know he was being watched.

I did wind up feeling empowered by this incident instead of diminished, because I did trust my instincts and told him off, mildly in words, but I know my tone and glare got the "fuck off, you bastard!" idea across--it is good to release anger at deserving parties. This was a making-up for all those times when I was younger and was more choice prey, and just couldn't be sure of my perceptions, and didn't want to take the chance of accusing an innocent man. The thing that gets me is it's taken me 40 years to be able to respond like this. That's a lot of storing up negativity from the bullying of others not properly dispensed with--more women than not have this to deal with.

I'm not a shrinking violet--I did build up the fighter in me through my 20's to balance a timid childhood, and was early on able to fend off clear sexual harassment, but the much more prevalent stealth kind, no, it's taken me this long. But I've gotten here both from building up trust in my perceptions, that sneaky predators like this helped undermine, and the constant reminder from other women telling their experiences--a shout out to fancymcsnazsnaz--and keeping the topic in the spotlight like my vigilant friend ginmar, and all my other feminist friends, here on LJ and off--thank you all--couldn't have come to this place on my own, and you were all there with me in my glare. (-:

And now onto World Con, and Harlan Ellison sexually harassing Connie Willis and rachelmanija

And I'm telling my Friday's incident upon hearing about this Saturday night harassment account now, because WTF! Harlan Ellison! You goddamned misogynist bastard!!! Groping the wonderful, brilliant, and gracious Connie Willis on stage (I've talked with her on a couple of occasions--she's a total sweetheart) and trying to diminish another woman writer here as well? No, its not funny, no it's not little, yes, it is a diminishment of a woman's sense of safety in her own body that men impose on women that reverberates far past the women you individually prey upon (don't give me counter examples of gender reversal--they do happen--they are not systemic and under gird with normative ideology), and you owe big time.

Even if your apology wasn't smarmy and you penned a genuine one, it would not be adequate. Amends are necessary. Not just to the particular powerful women you used your position of power to attempt to diminish, but for contributing to a widespread pattern of sexist oppression--way to go for a supposedly progressive dude! The power dynamics that you have abused sets this world's apart from your well-known crank stunts.

You've got a podium. Educate yourself on sexual harrassment and use that podium to write about it and raise awareness. Make sure little fanboys who idolize you don't think this is an acceptable example to emulate, and that they can blow off afterwards. This is your responsibility.

If you have any conscience at all or desire to leave the world in better condition than when you took it up, do work to heal the mess you made now. You trespassed on another person's body, and you owe.
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