Originally written for Tidewater Women Magazine September 2017
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
These days the dollar doesn’t go very far. But Taylor Swift just increased its value exponentially. What this young super star did for women will hopefully be seen as the beginning of the end of women having to silently bear the indignities often committed against them. I’m sure you’ve heard about her case involving a male DJ who thought it would be acceptable for him to “cop a feel” of this young woman’s butt. After all, what are women for?
Ms. Swift’s reaction to this assault is in stark contrast to those women who allege they were assaulted by a once revered Bill Cosby. Approximately 50 women felt so intimidated and fearful that they kept silent, some for almost 50 years. If you’re a woman, you most likely have experienced some form of sexual assault. Whether, physically or verbally, you have most likely been accosted by some man who thought it would be funny or fun to grope you. How did you feel when that happened? What did you do? Who did you tell?
Depending on your age and your upbringing, your answers to those questions may range anywhere from I ran and hid and told no one to I kicked him in the b***s and let him know his advances weren’t welcome. Hopefully, it was closer to the latter.
When Taylor Swift filed a lawsuit, and asked for one dollar as compensation, she sent a message to the world that women are no longer willing to keep their mouths shut. Despite the message sent by our president, it is not acceptable for men to grope any woman.
If you have been or are in a situation where you feel uncomfortable with unwanted advances, here are a few tips:
- SPEAK UP. If you fear losing your job, there are laws in place that are meant to prevent that. You will have to tell people what happened. And you may have to testify in court. But you have a right to stand up for yourself.
- Don’t let him guilt you. You didn’t ask for it. You’re not there to be a play toy and you don’t have to deal with his advances. Whether at work or in any other aspect of your life, you deserve respect. Stand your ground and firmly say no.
- Often a man will tell you he had “no choice”. You made him act that way. No, he chose to act that way. And he can choose to be more respectful. You can choose to demand respect. That’s not an easy thing when you’ve never done it before. But you can learn to value yourself enough to firmly refuse his advances.
- What if it’s your husband who is the abuser? Aren’t you required to put up with it? Doesn’t he have a right to expect you to be there for him? Again, no. It’s your body and you get to decide who touches it.
- Most importantly, if a man is making you feel uncomfortable either by his language or his actions, and you don’t feel strong enough to handle it on your own, please seek help. Whether that means calling the police or getting in touch with a support network or therapist, get support. If it’s severe enough, get away from him. If he doesn’t treat you with respect, he isn’t someone you need in your life. For any reason.
This is a new era. Women have been fighting for years to be recognized as worthwhile citizens deserving of respect and of being treated with dignity. Fortunately, Taylor Swift, a “thoughtful, committed citizen” has paved the way and sent a loud and clear message that we’re not willing to take it anymore.
As a postscript, while the main focus of this article is women and the abuse they have suffered, this same abuse can come at the hands of a woman. There are men who have suffered the same indignities over time. The abuser can be a woman or another man. Whether you are male or female, the information in this article applies to you. It can be embarrassing to have to admit that someone got the upper hand but if you don’t speak up, it will only continue.
Since this article was first published, we’ve seen an uproar from women around the world who have joined the #MeToo movement. We’ve seen rich and powerful men being called out for the acts they committed against women. Most recently we are now seeing legal charges being brought against some men who thought it was OK to abuse and misuse women.
We have seen uprisings in the past of women who were not willing to put up with the status quo. While most of them were partially effective and did cause minor changes, they tended to fizzle out. What they did, though was add to a foundation and educate generations of women over time. That foundation has finally reached a tipping point and women are now joining together and working toward putting a stop to the indignities they’ve suffered.
I have heard some people say that women are taking things too far. I can see where the people who say that may believe the current movement is overboard. However, unless you’ve been a woman and subjected to the kind of treatment being addressed, it will be hard for you to understand. Think of it as similar to other movements that have fought for simple civil rights. Like people who have been treated unfairly because of the color of their skin or their sexual orientation, women are asking for nothing more than the respect they deserve as human beings. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask.