Back in another life, I worked as a Paralegal. I mostly worked on probate, real estate, and divorces, although I’d have to say that I also filled out my fair share of Interrogatories, and filed plenty of criminal related papers with the Court. Being a Paralegal, most of the people I worked with were men. We did have a few women lawyers, but at the time most law firms were full of male lawyers.
So, where am I going with this? Well, the time was the 1980’s; sexism was pretty much the norm and I endured my fair share of groping. There was the “accidental” brushing of an arm up against my breast, the sitting much too close in the “break” room or at the copy machine, with the lawyer in question taking the opportunity to rub up against me. I had my share of whistles, lawyers coming into my office to see what I was wearing on any given day. (I dressed modestly in business attire – no low collars or tight skirts). Then, when I worked at a financial investment business there was the full body contact where my boss would stand behind me, usually in the mail room, bend his knees so that he could rub his entire body up against my back as he stood up. That happened exactly three times. The third time he did it I threatened (yes threatened) to punch his face off (complete with a raised fist) if he ever did it again. He didn’t.
This behavior also followed me out into the street where the construction men seemed to think that if they didn’t yell sexually inappropriate things at me and the other women, they would be remiss in their “alpha male” duty. I was groped while standing in the bus on my way both to work and to home. There were the men who would sit so close to me that they were almost in my lap. Then, there were the random men who thought that I should just start either talking with them, or smile at them.
The worst part of this behavior is that it makes you feel as though you’re the one who has done something wrong. Maybe it’s your clothes, maybe you look like you like this attention. But as a woman you haven’t done anything wrong. I knew that in my head, but I still felt like I’d done something to be on the receiving end of this behavior. How many times did I simply move away from that too close man; just walk away as fast as I could from that construction guy who tried to grab me? Countless times.
Women are people. We are not just something to be groped. My advice to all those “alpha males”? Grow the f*ck up!