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I’ve always been somewhat of a fiesty person. I was never the person to shut up and take it when I felt someone had wronged me in some way. In fact, when I was younger and still drinking and full of piss and vinegar, it wouldn’t have been unusual for me to dump a drink on some dude’s head or go off on him in a bar for touching me or being a creep. I’ve always felt that if I didn’t stand up for myself, no one else would. With a little bit of age and some perspective, I can clearly see that I didn’t always hollaback in the most effective way, but I still feel that I was in the right to not stand idly by while some dude groped or harassed me. Unfortunately, many of the men that I have dated in my life have not felt the same way.
Today I have a wonderful partner that I know would stand up for me if someone was to do something inappropriate to me in public. But it was not always that way. I’ve dated a lot of guys along the way that blamed me when I got assaulted or touched in bars. They would say to me, “Britni, are you going to get me into a fight tonight? Because I’m really not in the mood for that.” I would be so livid at this for so many reasons. I’d never asked or expected anyone to fight! I believe that violence is never the answer. I never threatened physical violence, I would simply (and sometimes loudly) call out the person that had just reached under my dress and grabbed my ass in the crowd for sexually assaulting me.
It usually went something like this: “You just sexually assaulted me. You touched my body without my consent and that is sexual assault.” I always felt it important to name the behavior for what it was, because I felt that the guy needed to know how serious and violating what he’d done was. I never expected the men with me to fight the guy, but I had expected them to be upset that someone would treat me that way. To be angry that some guy had violated their girlfriend. To stand up for my right to walk through a crowded public space without being groped. But more often than not, the men I was with would tell me not to be so aggressive. To just let it go. Why did I have to be so combative all the time? Can’t you just go out and have a good time for once in your life, Britni?
While it says a lot about the kinds of men that I was dating, I think it says just as much about our society and the way we look at sexual assault and harassment. We live in a patriarchal society with misogynist attitudes. We blame victims for their assaults because it’s what we’re taught. The men I dated were just doing what they’d been taught to do by the culture we live in. When I think about how betrayed I felt in those situations, how angry I was that they weren’t angry, it still makes me angry today. These were not bad men, but they held shitty core beliefs about women.
I hope that by doing this work, by having tough conversations with the men that I know, by writing posts like this, that just one man will read it and empathize and realize that maybe they can do something about the way women and girls are treated in our society. I can yell and scream all I want but until the men that care about me and the women in their lives join their voices with ours, we’ll only be able to get so far. Until the guy that’s with me gets angry on my behalf and says something, too, I will just look like a crazy girl making a big deal out of nothing because that’s what us overly emotional ladies do. So I challenge all the men out there to stand up and let your dudes know: we’re not crazy and we’re not overreacting. That shit’s fucked up and they really need to cut it out.
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