If you are a woman living in our world today, you have probably felt threatened, unsafe, and objectified at least a few dozen times in your life. So many of us have been whistled at while going for a run in the neighborhood, grabbed while out at a bar, or felt pressured to go home with someone after a date. We have become accustomed to putting up with this behavior and at times even desensitized to it.
When I was a student in college I ventured out one night with my girlfriends to the local bar. We were standing in a group catching up on our weeks when two guys walked by and one of them grabbed my butt. At first, I was completely taken aback. “Did that really just happen?” I asked myself. I turned to one of my friends and told her that a guy just grabbed me. I’ll never forget how she responded. “Please don’t make a big deal about this. I know it’s annoying, but they were just being guys. Just let it go.” It’s a phrase I have heard countless times since I was younger. “Boys will be boys,” so many people say. But what does that really even mean? Do we have such a low standard for men in our society that we tolerate and even defend such disrespectful behavior? I took a few minutes and considered my options. I could just let the whole thing go like my friend suggested, but then I would be silencing my voice and that choice did not align with my values. I knew what choice I had to make. The goal wasn’t to put anyone in their place or cause a scene but rather to stand up for myself and my value as a person.
I walked over to the guys and asked which one of them touched my butt. They began laughing and one of them admitted to doing it, saying his hand “slipped.” It was then that I asked him if he had a sister. He told me he had two sisters who were younger than him. “When your sisters go out to bars, do you think it’s acceptable for guys to touch their butts?” I asked him. He thought for a moment. “No, I would hate if any guy touched my sisters in that way,” he responded. I went on to tell him that I, too, was someone’s sister, and no guy has any right to touch me or any woman for that matter. He apologized and admitted that he had never thought of it that way.
Over the years I have thought back on that situation countless times and have realized one very important lesson. It’s not that I am someone’s sister or someone’s daughter that makes the act of this stranger touching me wrong. It’s the fact that I am a human being living on this planet, and like all human beings I deserve to be respected, no matter what. As women, the most important act of self-love is standing up for ourselves when we believe we have been treated as “less than.” It’s not always easy to do, but the moment we ignore the problem and stay silent is the moment we forfeit our power.
Sometimes it just takes one of us to stand up for what is right and then slowly we begin empowering others to join us. We have seen this brought to life in the #MeToo Movement, The Women's March, and recently at the Golden Globes when over 300 celebrities wore black for the Time's Up Movement. This is how change takes place. Whether it's marching in crowds alongside thousands of men and women advocating for your rights or merely standing up for yourself at a bar, the world needs your voice. Speak up. Chances are that someone next to you will say, "Me too."