I decided to go to the gym this afternoon & on the way there I realized my gas tank was on E, so I stopped to fill it. There I was, innocently pumping gas, when some nitwit comes up behind me & calls out to me. Naturally I turned around thinking maybe the man needed directions or something. Instead he proceeds to leer at me & say “Does your husband know how lucky he is? If not, there’s a bunch of men who could get you.” I was so completely taken by surprise that my only response was to flippantly say “Have a nice day” & walk (read: run) away.
I spent the next 5-10 minutes hyperventilating & driving a somewhat circuitous route to the gym just to ensure that I wasn’t being followed (thankfully I wasn’t). When I parked at the gym, I sat in my car in tears wondering once again if I have a sign on my forehead, of which I’m blissfully unaware, which reads something along the lines of “I’m so innocent & trusting. Please take advantage of me!” But the fact of the matter is crap like this happens all the time to women all over the world. My female friends who are reading this are surely nodding along in agreement because many, nay, most of them, have told me similar stories of creepy strangers who have made similar disturbing remarks to them. And worse yet, some have even been physically assaulted.
When stories like this are told, many jump to asking “Well, what were you wearing?” as if that were somehow relevant. Let me be the first to say that such information isn’t the least bit germane to the conversation at hand, considering Channing Tatum could be pumping gas in nothing but his boxers & 99.99% of women would never dream of coming up to him & asking “Does your wife know how lucky she is? If not there are plenty of women who could get you.” The point is no matter what a woman (or man) is wearing (or not wearing), no one has the right to treat her (or him) with disrespect.
And just in case anyone reading this feels like railing against the younger generation & saying we have no respect for anyone, let me be clear in stating that today’s creeper, along most every other man who’s ever harassed me in a similar fashion, was at least in his 40s, if not considerably older.
Let me also be clear in saying that I am not one of these women who thinks every man who says hello to them or touches them in any way is harassing them. Indeed, I once got asked out at the gym, but I in no way found that intimidating or rude because it was done in a nice, respectful manner. I’ll admit it made me a little uncomfortable but only because it reminded me that I am in fact not invisible at the gym as I usually wish I were.
This isn’t a treatise against men. Indeed I’m incredibly thankful for the many wonderful men in my life, from my loving husband to my father, grandfather, & many other male friends & family members whom I feel blessed to know. But I can’t let something like this happen to me without saying something. I refuse to live my life thinking of every man as a potential rapist or harasser, & yet I know that men like the one I unfortunately encountered today take advantage of the fact that so many women like me operate under the assumption “innocent until proven guilty.” (This is not to say I invite strange men into my house. Indeed, I almost never open the door to solicitors when my husband isn’t home. I just mean that I generally assume the best of people until shown otherwise.) And sadly most women placed in situations like mine today react in much the same way I did: we’re too flabbergasted to come up with a response that sufficiently puts the creeper in his place. While we should be telling them we’re not pieces of meat to be acquired, most of us are too stunned to say much of anything at all.
I consider myself to be a fairly strong, independent woman. I have a good career, financial stability (even without my husband’s salary), & a good head on my shoulders. And yet situations like today make me acutely aware of just how vulnerable I really am. Despite the fact that I work out quite a bit & am definitely stronger than the average woman, the simple truth is that even guys half my age could easily beat me up if they really wanted to. It happens much more often than I like to admit that I get off a machine at the gym thinking how awesome it is that I was able to do 50 lbs or whatever when I used to only be able to do 20 lbs, only to watch some scrawny thirteen year old boy hop on the machine & pop out 75 or 100 lbs like it’s nothing. It’s just biology, that’s all.
If you’re a man who is reading this post, you’re probably already the type who is far too respectful to ever consider approaching a woman the way this man approached me today. Yet I can’t help but ask that men consider what it’s like for us as women in a world in which we are clearly the more vulnerable half of the population.
Let me be clear: this is not a pity party I’m throwing. I’m not asking for your sympathy. Only for your empathy. Situations like today make me realize how difficult it must be for all the good men in the world because the creepers of the world are giving your gender a bad name. If I’m capable of being empathetic towards men even after being so unceremoniously harassed today, I think it’s not too much to ask that we raise our sons to respect women & treat us like the human beings we are.
Here’s what I wish I’d had the presence of mind to say to the asshole who felt it necessary to intimidate me today:
“Yes, my husband knows exactly how lucky he is to be with me, just as I know how lucky I am to be with him. Additionally, I am not some piece of meat or object to be acquired. My husband did not “get” me. I chose to be with him because I wanted to be with him just as much as he wanted to be with me. On behalf of the other innocent women of the world whom I’m sure you’ve similarly disrespected, let me be clear in saying you’re a miserable, disgusting wanker who needs to get the hell out of my way . . . On that note, have a nice day!”