I need to talk about harassment

When I started this post I was sure about what I wanted to write and how I was going to write it but the more I thought about it the more discouraged I became. I realize when you take on a subject such a harassment you are guaranteed to alienate some people. Men, those who are even remotely interested in reading about harassment beyond refuting the accusations and declaring “not ALL men!”, might feel attacked and women might just not agree with your position. After all, you don’t have to be male to uphold male privilege. Regardless, those readers who are here in good faith will hopefully read with the intent of listening instead of responding.

Social media can be filled with land mines. Some people never encounter any of them. I have been on IG for years and this is the first time I have been harassed but I know that it happens daily to women everywhere. We might not see it, or hear about it but it’s happening.  It’s a problem. I have been called names on Twitter, from bitch to an ableist slur. I had one guy tag his response to me with the gamer gate hashtag in the hopes that they would come after me. How is that anything other than violence? I reached out to someone who told me about blockbot and I now have all known gamer gate accounts blocked just in case. If you’re wondering what my offense was to incur this, you are likely part of the problem. What these men do is search keywords and hashtags on Twitter in order to harass women, threaten women, dox women. If you ever come across any such account you will see their TL is nothing but the same spam message copied and pasted to different women.

I’ve been on IG for a couple of years and I enjoy sharing photos, especially of food. It’s a fun community and because I like browsing and sharing to hashtags and the like I have never locked my account. Last Saturday I participated in Dewey’s 24hr Read-a-thon and as part of the event I posted several reading related pictures to my IG including this one:

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Six days after I posted said photograph I received various IG notifications from the same account. They liked a few of my pics, left a comment on this one, and followed me. I was not inviting men to look at my legs. I was not looking for their gaze. But of course this is lost on this guy. Initially, I decided to accept the compliment and be done with it. Not surprisingly he took that as an invitation to take things further (because complimenting a woman is a social transaction that requires payment in the form of attention paid to the man that bequeathed such a gift) and asked if we could “have a nice talk”.  I ignored him.

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Moments later I received a private message from him. I honestly don’t know why IG even has this feature but nevertheless he thought it appropriate to send me a photo of his naked torso.

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Notice how he downplays his actions. It’s nothing, just a picture. NO! It’s NEVER “just a picture” when it’s unsolicited. This is exactly the kind of behavior I am referencing whenever I speak about male privilege. He decided that he had the right to send me this uninvited.

I had clearly stated that I was not interested but again, unsurprisingly, he did not let up.

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I blocked him after this exchange and I set my profile to private because it’s not uncommon for this kind of person to create another profile just to continue where they left off. One of the reasons this exchange disturbed me is because it makes me wonder how he would behave with a woman to whom he had physical access to. No means no wherever we are. Online communication is not exempt from the rules of consent. What I experienced is not an isolated incident. Women experience this and much worse every day. That is why I deem it of extreme importance to get conversations going about this. I refuse to be silent.

Harassment is part of the female experience. When I was in sixth grade a new student joined our class. He pulled my hair, hit me, and stole my pencils. When I finally complained to the teachers she told me that he just liked me. She invalidated my feelings and excused his behavior. I remember feeling confused and let down. I went on to “date” this boy. He forced himself on me and put his tongue in my mouth. When I struggled and pushed him away he was upset. I overheard him and his friends refer to me as a bitch for not reciprocating. I felt sick and not long afterwards I broke up with him.

At a Guy Fawkes bonfire I had a guy walk up behind me and pinch my butt. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me but he felt confident and comfortable approaching me like that. His friends laughed in the background. They didn’t touch me but are they any better than the guy that did? It’s too often that we sit in silence because we feel that it’s not our problem, it’s not happening to us.

In the backseat of a car while riding with two of my cousins I fell asleep. I woke up to my male cousin with his hand up my shirt groping me. I kept quiet. He realized I had awoken and removed his hand. Until recently I had never told my mom about the incident. A part of me felt I had been responsible. So well does society socialize women to take responsibility for the actions of men.

Dressing modestly never helped me avoid the situations I am sharing here. The fact is that only harassers, attackers, rapists etc. are responsible for their actions. There is always this habit to ask what did you do to invite this? The answer is always nothing. Nothing.

This post was difficult to write. More so than I thought it would be. Not so much because of what I am sharing about myself and my experiences but because a part of me is always worried about what other people will think of me and my opinions. I am working to overcome that. If you’ve read this far thank you.

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6 comments

  1. Women are being harrased by men non-stop. Nothing new about it. And now also in the work place women and men are being harrased by their women bosses. You can confront it, or in this case of IG just avoid it by stopping the converstaion immediately once the man said something about your legs and you were not interested to hear it. Once you responds you gives him a chance to continues. And yes, I also gazed at your picture. It’s only natural, but I wouldn’t make comment. I doubt that the picture of his torse is really his. He probably uplifts it from the internet from a wbesite of male models. Sory to read your other stories, but it happened to hundred of millions of people around the globe, and sadly will continue. Really, not much you can do to prevent it. Best wishes to you and your family.

    1. I disagree, just because it happens doesn’t mean I need to accept it. I don’t accept it and I never will. Responding to ignorant comments is never an invitation for more. Implying that it is blames the victim. I can’t get behind the idea that if we ignore things they go away. The exchange I shared in this post is a symptom of a much larger problem that women face. You are right about his picture, it wasn’t his.

  2. I’m not suggesting to accept Harrassment, which is bad, but that getting angry and fighting about it ach time it happens isn’t practical. OK, this man harrassed you on IG. What can you really do about it? Telling him to stop …. he doesn’t care. Only way to stop him is to block him. Reporting him to IG because he’s doing it probably to many other women? Maybe … but I’m not sure that they will take action based on one complaint. And not to belittle this harraasment on IG, the statistics are that an American woman have 20% chance of being raped in her life time. And that is the ultimate harrassment. Really bad. Terrible. But it happens non-stop and whether we accept it or not, it will happen because we live in a world with many bad people around us and how can we really stop harrassment? I have no idea. How can you convince these men not to do it? This is a process of educating men about it from younger age about how to treat women, but I doubt that education will succeed. Harrassmnt is in the brain of many men and you will have to re-program their brains with surgery to stop it. Good luck that you’ll never face it again.

    1. You know this is really a good example of male privilege because an issue that affects women and is discussed by a woman you feel that you have the right to suggest how I should feel and react. You are basically saying oh well yea that sucks but what can be done? That is rubbish. “Harrassmnt is in the brain of many men and you will have to re-program their brains with surgery to stop it.” Wow. I don’t even know what to say to that. The level of wrong in that statement is outstanding.

  3. Millions of men are also victims of harrassment daily. It’s not only men against women. It’s best to just silently read you posts and refrain from positing comments.

    1. What does the fact that men experience harassment have to do with anything? You’re derailing here. Women experience all forms of harassment at a much higher rate and are often doing so in silence precisely because people believe they shouldn’t bother fighting against it. If you comment expecting me to agree with you for the sake of it you’re mistaken. I don’t accept the normalization of problematic male behavior because “they can’t help it”. That it happens everyday is precisely why speaking out is important to me. I am a woman speaking about experiences that have affected me as a woman. My experiences are not your experiences. When somebody from a group of which you’re not a part of speaks out you should listen not contadict or correct. Thanks.

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