A few nights ago I was hanging out at one of my favorite places, it was crowded, everyone was having a blast until this friendly but drunk man grabbed my ass. I looked him dead in the face and I said: “Bitch, you’ve got the wrong one.” I immediately told the bartender and the manager of the bar. The bartender, a man, and the very good guy immediately rang up his check and told him he had to go, the manager, however, smirked a little and offered the excuse that he was drunk but generally a good guy. I was pissed, yet I wasn’t surprised and I was angry for myself and for the women who had to work in this environment. I give zero passes to any man who will advocate for another man after a woman shared her experience of assault at his hands. I refuse to be at the mercy of a man’s mediocre ass definition of what a good guy is, and I made sure I spoke up at that moment because I refuse to let drunk guys get over on touching women inappropriately just because they are drunk. Let us practice self-control.
There have been a few times in my life when I can recall when men have been aggressive and inappropriate, I’ve looked to men around to me to help and very seldom did I get the support I needed. I distinctly recall a time when I was in a very crowded space, but a man definitely grabbed my ass very aggressively, and my friend who I was standing in front of saw the change in my face and he asked me what was wrong, I told him and his reply? “What do you expect, you have a great ass.” At that moment I wanted to chop him in his throat and drop kick the other guy straight in his back, but instead, I swallowed all of my feelings and kept hanging out, but I was burning fire on the inside. The terrifying part about this friend of mine is that he has a daughter, a little sister, and I was a good friend, and still, in his mind, it was just a part of being a woman, guys will grab your ass, girl, it happens, what are you going to do? I’m going to speak up, I’m going to share with other women what happened because chances are it’s happened to them too and when we band together, we can take these fuckers down.
The brilliant novelist and powerful woman Michelle Alexander recently wrote an essay for the New York Times entitled My Rapist Apologized and she recounts the story to her daughter about her friend who raped her. He was not a stranger, nor someone she had just met, but a person who she has identified as a good guy and trusted him to enter her space and he used that trust to violate her body. The date rape statistics are alarming for college-aged girls and for women who aren’t in college. Date rape means you were assaulted by the man who you trusted to be in your space without worrying about your safety yet he violates said space by raping you. Generally speaking, women would drop their guard when they know they are with a man they trust, we believe we are safe in the presence of a man we trust, but far too many are learning this is not the case.
I was unsettled by my experience in the bar but I was honestly more pissed after speaking to one of the servers who is a decade younger than me and she nonchalantly said it happens all the time, it’s okay, I’m used to it. I had to look her in the eyes and put my hands on her shoulders and say, “No baby girl, it’s not okay.” In her 5-6 years of being a server/bartender, she said she lost track of how many men have touched her inappropriately and it’s happened so much that she’s become immune to the violation of her body. That thought sickens me because I think about how I became immune around her age as well, and actual good guys who checked other men for being inappropriate were few and far in between. I think about my daughter and her peers and reflect on the kind of world we are leaving for them. I don’t want her and her peers to be a generation of girls who accept unwanted advances silently or boys who believe it’s okay to make those advances. There has to be a clear and candid conversation about speaking up even if you’re scared, even if it’s your friend and it doesn’t matter what you were wearing/drinking/saying/doing when you were assaulted, it is safe to speak up.
Society burdens girls with protecting themselves AND being responsible for the actions of their abusers by asking them what they did to provoke their assault. Women should be able to wear whatever they’d like without some man assuming that’s an invitation for him to touch her. The responsibility should fall on men to educate other men on why respecting women matter and how touching women without permission is a gross violation of the trust that has already been established and why stepping in to shut down other men from violating women. It’s maddening to think about how many things women have to do in order to ensure we have a good night and make it home safely to reflect on the good time we had. I’m hoping for a world where we can all be in a space and everyone feels safe because nobody is looking to exert power over another human being’s body or space. I need good men to advocate for women by shutting down men who are disrespectful towards women. I’d like to see girls sticking together to ensure they are all safe and to speak up when someone has violated their safe space. Nobody is safe unless ALL women are safe.