Waking up on Monday morning and seeing a feed full of #MeToo posts from nearly every woman I know caught my attention — even through a sleepy only-one-eye-open scroll — and had me wondering what everyone was talking about. But as soon as I came across the first post that shared more than just the hashtag, I knew. Women around the world are coming together, they’re standing up, they’re raising their fists, and breaking the silence about their experiences of sexual harassment and assault.
I wish I could say I was surprised by the amount of women and even men (thank you, Daniel, for sharing your story) in my own social network that had shared their #MeToo posts, but I wasn’t. This is an issue I’m all too familiar with and have faced on a regular basis since before I was even 10 years old. Like my friend Casie, I was an early bloomer and have always had big boobs; the constant comments about them started young, and have never stopped. I’m turning 30 next month, so it’s been a long fucking time of dealing with this disgusting behaviour. I did not think twice about joining in, and sharing that I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the amount of times I’ve dealt with this, and I’m not talking only about guys ogling my breasts. I know enough women to know that I’ve never been alone in this, but the #MeToo movement is a jaw-dropping, eye-widening reminder of how many women are faced with sexual harassment and assault on a daily basis.
My favourite thing about turning 30 is the confidence I have in myself as a person, and as a women, that I didn’t have as a little girl, a teen and a young woman. The confidence to stand up for myself, the confidence to protect myself, and the confidence to stand up for and protect others too. Unfortunately this has not only come with age and maturity, but mainly learning from my own personal experiences that make me feel sick to my stomach to even think about.
The list of what’s considered to be sexual harassment and assault is a long one. I think a huge problem is that women often deal with so much sexual harassment on a daily basis, that it might even seem “normal” to some of us, or many of us. I’ve laughed or brushed things off far too many times, even when they’ve made me feel incredibly uncomfortable and violated. This is not okay.
While you may think that things like sexual harassment, especially in the workplace, only happen when you’re part of the ‘glamourous’ film industry or working in an old school corporate environment, it’s not. Even in the exciting world of start-ups, we’re hearing of more and more stories of sexual harassment. Most of my career has been spent working in the fashion industry with teams that were predominantly made up of women and gay men. In these work environments I did not feel that I was faced with sexual harassment (obviously I know it exists in the fashion industry in a big way), but I was faced with it at nearly every other non-fashion job I’ve ever had, and especially at the start-up I used to work for not long ago.
Sexual harassment and assault also happens well outside the workplace, and we know this. It happens at home, at school, in restaurants, on the sidewalk, on the subway, in taxis, at parties. Jesus, when do women ever get a break from it? I hope that time is coming soon with help from everyone who is standing up to say, #MeToo.
If I were to write down every incident of sexual harassment and assault that I’ve experienced in my lifetime (so far), this post would be the length of a novel. I would also need a better memory to do so because I’ve blocked so much of it out, and 25 years of incidences is a lot of reporting. To give you an idea of just some of what I’ve experienced, here goes:
- A guy standing in front of me and jerking off through his baggy sweat pants while staring at me on a New York City subway
- A man staring at me with his dick fully out on a London subway
- A stalker who did not stop calling or texting for over 4 years. I met him one time, when I had snuck into a bar at 14.
- Uber and taxi drivers who have made me feel so uncomfortable in their cars I didn’t know if I was more terrified of staying in their car or getting out of the car in fear of them knowing where I lived.
- A company owner who would stand over me at my desk and rub my shoulders.
- Endless comments about my breasts, at work.
- Endless comments about having sex with me, at work.
- Endless comments about my ass, at work.
- Endless comments about my body and looks in work environments and non
- Being made to feel stupid at work simply because I am a woman
- SO much inappropriate staring
- Creepy men on the street telling me to ‘smile’ at least once a week since I was 12
- Creepy men asking me to sit on their lap, or, worse, grabbing me and pulling me onto their lap
- Men who have turned business meetings into opportunities to flirt suggestively
- Being pulled into bathrooms or dark corners by random men at parties
- Essentially being kidnapped from a club while intoxicated (and under age) in New York City
- Being cornered in a bathroom by a former boyfriend’s boss (and a married man) who assumed I would hook up with him because of who he is.
- Being stopped by a random man on the street who asked to take naked photos of me (I was twenty) and went on to describe every curve of my body, and even what he imagined my nipples to look like based on the colour of my lips.
THE. LIST. GOES. ON.
In case you are unsure of if you have ever experienced sexual harassment or assault, or if you’re unsure if it’s something you’re experiencing in a situation or environment right now, here’s a list of some of the signs to look out for.
From the Ontario Human Rights Commission, this list (though not an exhaustive list) is to help identify what may be sexual and gender-based harassment:
- demanding hugs
- invading personal space
- unnecessary physical contact, including unwanted touching, etc.
- derogatory language and/or comments toward women (or men, depending on the circumstances), sex-specific derogatory names
- leering or inappropriate staring
- gender-related comment about a person’s physical characteristics or mannerisms
- comments or conduct relating to a person’s perceived non-conformity with a sex-role stereotype
- displaying or circulating pornography, sexual pictures or cartoons, sexually explicit graffiti, or other sexual images (including online)
- sexual jokes, including circulating written sexual jokes (e.g. by e-mail)
- rough and vulgar humour or language related to gender
- sexual or gender-related comment or conduct used to bully a person
- spreading sexual rumours (including online)
- suggestive or offensive remarks or innuendo about members of a specific gender
- propositions of physical intimacy
- gender-related verbal abuse, threats, or taunting
- bragging about sexual prowess
- demanding dates or sexual favours
- questions or discussions about sexual activities
- requiring an employee to dress in a sexualized or gender-specific way
- paternalistic behaviour based on gender which a person feels undermines their status or position of responsibility
- threats to penalize or otherwise punish a person who refuses to comply with sexual advances (known as reprisal).
This article from the The Nest on the Warning Signs of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace is short and concise but will likely resonate with you if this is what you are currently experiencing at work. The main image they used for this article resonated with me because it’s exactly how I looked and felt any time this happened to me at the office. For a longer list, read these 10 signs in this article by Women Tribe.
The Toronto Police have A Guide for Sexual Assault Survivors that helps define what sexual assault is, and provides a break down of what support they can offer, how you an report assault, and what will happen after.
Shout out to actress Alyssa Milano for calling sexual abuse victims to come forward by sharing their stories with #MeToo and to everyone who has stood up.
This shit has got to stop.