Throughout history women have struggled for basic civil liberties. The Women’s Suffrage Movement of the 1920s gave us a voice. In the late sixties and seventies, we took to the streets over our right to our bodies with the birth of modern feminism. Today we rise up against sexual injustices, as the Me Too Movement takes off and the air of silence surrounding assault in Hollywood lifts. While the struggle has been trying, and seemingly endless, women have made remarkable strides toward equality. So, how is it that in this, the year of women, I can have my posterior grabbed by a man three times my age, whom I do not know, and still feel unjustified in defending myself?
Recently, I was harassed on my way home from work. Walking down Main Street, packed from the usual Saturday night pub crawl, I bumped into a well-dressed man of about 60. Apologizing, he placed his hand on my lower back and told me to have a good night. As I begun to step forward again, uncomfortable, I felt his hand drift down. My first instinct was to hit the older gentleman, and I don’t believe anyone would have blamed me. Yet, for whatever reason, I held back.
Continuing on, I thought: “well, he is older; he comes from a different time.” By the same token, should we be forced to accept an older worldview rather than he adapt to a modern society? I went on thinking: “well, it is late on a Saturday night, and I do work at a bar.” I was already far from the bar, and I’ve never been the kind to welcome that women should have to fear the night. Still I told myself: “well, he has probably been drinking.” Of course, I stand firm that if an intoxicated man grabbed another woman without warrant, I would have attempted to stop him. All these justifications left me with one notion that women have been taught for ages. There is simply some level of injustice, harassment, or objectification we should just come to expect. It is this ideal that stopped me from hitting that man, from standing up for myself. It is this standard that has allowed men like Harvey Weinstein to become media moguls, men like Roy Moore to be elected to chief justiceships, and men like Roger Ailes to receive $40 million payouts following numerous allegations. But there is only one truth that we should all have to accept: there is no excuse for inappropriately touching a woman, or anyone else, without their clear consent.
This is far from the first time this has happened. In the last few months alone, I have been followed out of the bar, groped, offered countless rides “home,” and even watched through my bedroom window. I am far from the only one. Nearly every woman I have talked to has these same stories. It has become apparent that something has to change. It is time. We cannot allow the men of the 2017 sexual misconduct reckoning to go unaffected. We cannot accept a shift to occur only in the celebrity world. It is time that all women can feel safe walking at night, going to work, and attending university. It is time we no longer anticipate the “normal” level of harassment. This only enforces the idea that it is OK. We must come forward, speak up, every time it happens. Because, no, it is not OK for me to feel unjustified in defending myself when you grab me. I will no longer remain silent. No woman should.