Tonight, I was entering dance class, and was singing and dancing as I usually do….bee bopping my way around the world. I didn’t really pay too much attention when I heard some guy behind me copying my noises. But I did surely notice him when he followed me into the studio. He was a middle-aged drunk man, disheveled and dirty, not standing too firmly. He first inquired about using the phone. When he was denied, then it seemed like he was going to share his life story with us. With only four women and no men in the studio, I could feel the slight sense of fear and alertness of the others. Normally I would walk right in and drop off my things in the back. But I felt like there was strength in numbers and decided to stay up front. Thankfully, the owner handled his rantings quite well, with a strong, confident and firm manner. She asked him to leave and he finally met this request after a few more awkward moments. All was well during class, but just to be safe we locked the door.
By the time class ended, I had kinda forgotten about him. That didn’t last too long. We opened the door laughing and he responded completely irrationally and threatened to come after us. Perhaps he assumed the laughter was directed at him? My first reaction was to run to the car and then I was like “f**k it, I’m not running anywhere, esp not from this dude”. As we walked closer to our cars, I turned around to keep an eye on him and flipped out the key on my fob just to be safe. I’m not sure if our confident stances stopped him or he decided it wasn’t worth the energy, but after a moment he ended up sitting back down in the doorway of a nearby store. Even though I had this internal dialogue with myself where I determined it wasn’t necessary for me to run, I was still shaken. When I sat in my car, I could feel the fear still rising up in me. After a few moments, the adrenaline settling down a bit now that I was in a safer space. Sitting there I could also feel the anger, the irritation that he started to make me doubt myself. In a matter of moments, I started to play the what if game. What if I hadn’t been singing? What if I had paid more attention to who I was attracting in my space? What if we hadn’t been laughing when we walked outside? What if, what if, what if.
I can probably speak for most women when I say that at some point in our lives, we’ve felt unsafe around a man. This can come from many different situations, whether you know the person or not. Sometimes it’s on a date with someone who is a little too handsy and/or aggressive. Or it can come from a stranger in a parking lot who just gives you the heebee jeebees. And I’m also sure I can speak for most of us when I say that we start to question our actions in these encounters. We start to wonder if somehow, we caused an attack, aggression or harassment because of our actions. This was a somewhat minor situation, but I still had all those fears and doubts get triggered. I felt the automatic reaction of wanting to pull back my energy and not be me for fear of attracting unsavory characters in the future. I felt like I somehow could have controlled or avoided the encounter if only I wasn’t “too flirty, too out there, or dressed too sexy.” These are all things we’ve heard or considered when evaluating an attack. We hear it in the media, in the news, in courtrooms and by water coolers – “she had it coming”, “she was too promiscuous”, “she was dressed too sexy”, “she was too drunk”, or “she let it go too far.”
Women – I am here to remind you that your body and space is always your own. NEVER is it ok for a man to touch you if you don’t want him to. NEVER is it ok for a man to make a woman feel unsafe to make himself feel more powerful. NEVER is it ok for society to tell you how to dress or present yourself. Yes, you can be sexy, flirty, drunk and have lots of partners. You can have and do all these things and still expect to be respected and treated like a lady. I’d like to say that this kind of judgment only comes from men but sadly we ladies also know that we judge other women in this way. We all know where we’ve implied or outright said someone deserved being mistreated because of how she was dressed or behaving. It’s important we teach our children how to handle themselves in these situations. It’s important to never blame the victim, to never imply that anything differently could have been done to prevent the situation. And please, if you’ve had a situation that has made you shut down in any way, reach out to an experienced counselor or therapist. It was not your fault; you are beautiful and worthy and I respect and love you.
As women, we are meant to be light, fun, and vibrant. Please don’t let anything or anyone take that gift away from you. Much love and light ladies <)