Self, do you remember that time you were at the Costco parking lot in college? Yeah, that was like decades ago. It was only one decade ago. Okay, but do we have to talk about that out loud? Isn't it better to think the world is good? Just because it happened to you doesn't mean the world is a bad place. Okay, I guess I'm ready to talk to you about it, Self.
I was packing up the groceries into my parents' Buick, when a white male in his twenties with light hair approached me. He asked me if I wanted to take a survey for a radio contest. I really just wanted to go home, so I politely said no thank you. He replied, but it will only take a few minutes. Again, I say no thank you, I need to get home. Then he starts to get pushy, talking real fast, listing these reasons why I need to come take this survey. I'm losing my patience, saying a terse no, I have to go. I also start having an uncomfortable feeling in my chest as he continues rambling. This isn't sitting right with me.
I yell, "Leave me alone! I don't want to take your fucking survey!" Then he turns from pushy to ugly in a second, "You cunt!" He yells more things at me that I've blocked from memory (cunt stays with me to this day; it's a hard word to forget). Two tall, dark-skinned men approach and ask, "Miss are you ok? Is this guy bothering you?" Before I say anything to these men, the guy leaves. I thank the men and get in my car, not even sure what just happened, just that I'm upset and crying.
So you were harassed? Yes, I was harassed in a Costco parking lot in the middle of the day. If it weren't for the other two men jumping in, I'm not sure where it would have escalated. Does it make you mad that your 2 polite no's should have been enough for the 20 something male to say, okay, thank you for your time and walk away? Yes, of course! Again while I'm thankful for someone interfering and helping me, I struggle as to why my no's weren't enough. That should have been enough.
Do you think this harassment happens to other women? Other women that you know? Yes Self, it does. Do you think it's happened to another friend, and she just hasn't told you? Yes Self, it does. What do you think you can do about it? Just share my story with my friends and family to show them that harassment happens closer than they think it does. That it happens to someone they know. Why haven't you shared it before? Because I am scared of what they say to me, that it's some how my fault, or I'm whining or complaining (that I'm being a "crybaby"), but most of all because I can't burst my own bubble and admit that I wasn't in control of the situation. To admit that to myself, is to admit that I'm weak. I'm not weak, I'm strong.
When harassment has happened to me, I have been afraid. I recognize that I didn't have control of the situation. It made me feel LESS THAN. I would rationalize it to myself, compartmentalize, tell myself I'm overreacting. I don't believe I'm alone in this rationalization. I think that other people who have been harassed are scared, that they downplay the situation. "I'm not weak." "Harassment happens to other people, not to me." "Others will look down upon me." "If I say something, it could impact my career." And so on.
Whether its feelings of shame, fear, denial, anger, each individual who has been harassed has their reason for why they might rationalize it. It's easy to downplay. It was for me. It is hard to accept that the world can be bad. It's difficult when you see the worsts in people when you know that there are good people. It's difficult when someone makes you feel LESS THAN, even though you know you are not. It's cognitive dissonance at its finest-- you saw the world as good, people as good, yourself as good and then those few minutes (or longer) of harassment crashes that all.
Self, I want you to know, it was okay to be afraid and scared. However, those feelings will pass because I know that no more will you succumb to fear, hate and harassment of others. I know that you choose to rise above. I do choose to rise. I choose to be BETTER THAN how someone might see me (a "cunt").
I choose to help someone else who is being put in a position of LESS THAN. I will not be quite when someone is being forced into LESS THAN. I will take action when someone is being pushed into LESS THAN. We are BETTER THAN. My fears, my shame, they can be replaced by hope when we are being BETTER THAN.
Got it, Self? Yep I do. I am BETTER THAN.