One busy afternoon, I was rushing on foot down Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills, from the office to the bank a few blocks down, trying to get to it before it closed. At some point some guys driving by hollered at me, and another guy walking in my direction asked me in surprise if those guys just hooted at me. It was like he was so surprised to witness such a display of behavior. I was surprised by his surprise, but I did not have time to waste, so I quickly responded with, “Oh, I don’t know, I’ve learned to ignore it.”
That’s when it hit me. At the time I was 25, and I was so used to such uncomfortable situations that I had trained myself to tune it out. The thing is, it’s not like I don’t hear it, it’s just that I’ve programmed myself to keep moving and act like I don’t hear or notice a thing. That way, it can’t affect me. The truth is, it does. It’s embarrassing and uncomfortable, and I feel violated. But if I keep walking, keep my eyes looking forward, then I can keep it from penetrating my pride.
Of course, sometimes my silence eggs men on even more and they get in my face to make sure I hear them. Other times when I do respond and tell them to grow up and show some respect, they call me a bitch, and say “What? You can’t take a compliment?” Or “Don’t be so uptight.”
We get tired of hearing these lines and dealing with them, so many of us learn to ignore it. It feels pointless to address it...especially after the hundredth time. It becomes muscle memory to turn on our shield so that we can repel as much of the dirt as possible.
In the workplace it becomes even more complicated. My job requires meeting with a lot of different people, and there are certain people I now refuse to take any further meetings with because they’ve crossed a line. It’s a “funny” thing though. At times I have found myself in a meeting where someone said something that made me feel uncomfortable, but I’m trying to remain professional so I’ve tried to ignore it. I think, no this is business so he couldn’t have meant it that way. I try to give that person the benefit of the doubt, or I try to convince myself that the person didn’t mean to be inappropriate and it’s just business. When I was younger, people used to tell me that's just how things are, so put up with it, but protect yourself. I cannot accept that that is just the way things are though. I cannot accept that that's the way things will continue to be. I’ve come to learn that if I feel uncomfortable, there’s a reason. It’s like PTSD. Things you learn from trauma can cause your body to react later on when something causes your mind and body to remember that trauma.
Even in the doctor’s office I have encountered sexual harassment. Physician abuse is not uncommon, and unfortunately not discussed enough. Since an uncomfortable and infuriating encounter with a former general practitioner of mine, I stopped seeing male doctors—not that it’s only male doctors who can be abusive, and I know incredible male doctors, but I just feel safer with a woman.
Everyone has the right to feel safe. I did not know about Harvey Weinstein's disgusting behavior until recently, but it appears many of my colleagues, particularly the ones who have been in the industry longer than I have, all knew his deplorable ways. His apology, trip to rehab, and The Weinstein Company firing him mean nothing. What does matter here is that we seem to have enough people finally talking about this that I hope we actually act on our words. We can no longer accept and excuse "bad behavior" as a norm. If HR Departments really want to act in a company's best interest then it wouldn't try to brush sexual harassment claims under the rug. Parents will teach their kids that no lewd remark can be considered flattery. Peers must call each other out on disrespectful and offensive statements and behaviors. And all must be held accountable.
Remember to be love, be brave, and be excellent to each other.
BIG LOVE & HUGS