I’ll be 42 next week. I’ve been married for almost 18 years. I thought that by now I’d be free from leering, sexist comments, or even groping. But I’m still a target.
I don’t wear skirts anymore – I don’t want to provide easy access. I’ve never owned any provocative clothing and I don’t wear much makeup. My crime? I smile a lot and I’ve always been very ‘nice.’
So today when I was out running and I saw the old guy who always stares directly at me and tries to get in my way, I told the guy walking behind him, “The guy in front of you creeps me out.”
Normally, I don’t like to say these kind of things. The creepy guy was old and probably lonely. But if nobody says anything, his behavior will likely escalate and ruin the trail for other women.
I know about behavior escalation. When I worked in FAA offices, there was a guy who sat in the cubicle next to me. I was the new woman in the office and we talked all the time. Then he started touching my hand. Later it was my shoulder. Eventually he put his hand up my skirt. And finally he locked me in a conference room and masturbated in front of me. The next day, before I could report anything, I was fired.
I wish I had said something to other coworkers to find out what kind of behavior he had exhibited before I showed up. Because I’m sure I wasn’t the first. Nor the last. He’s probably still scaring women out of the office. But the culture encourages silence.
I’m encouraging women to speak up when someone gives them the creeps. Because what starts as the creeps escalates to assault. So, next time you’re on the subway and you’re worried about the way someone is staring at you, tell the person sitting next to you. Or if you’re at work and someone is treating you like the office floozy, ask your coworkers what he’s like around them.
Because we must change the culture.