Standing Up For Myself To Commenters Who Tell Me To Stand Up For Myself
“Unsafe” is not a uniquely female feeling.
I recently wrote about an imposing and unwelcome man making me feel uncomfortable when he encroached on my personal space and offered me wine. One commenter, guess the gender, had this to say:
I didn’t ask for this attention, I didn’t encourage this attention, I did nothing beyond existing in a public space as a female. But somehow it’s my responsibility to correct the situation imposed on me by this man. So I’m just wondering how many times it’s going to be up to women to fix the problems of terrible men, rather than men fixing their perceptions and behaviors in the first place. I’m just wondering.
What about telling him to go away? Was that not an option? I don’t understand!
You don’t understand. You don’t understand what it’s like to be alone and feel like you can’t tell him to go away, not without backlash directed at you in a public place. You don’t understand what it’s like to physically and emotionally fear a man’s reaction. You don’t understand what it’s like to sacrifice your comfort, personal space, and time for your safety, and you don’t understand why just “telling him to go away” is often not a safe option.
Commenters: I am a woman, you are men, and if you can’t attempt to understand my reality, I ask you to at least respect it.
“Unsafe” is a feeling I am coming to understand is difficult if not impossible for men like these commenters to grasp. And that’s understandable, the incidents of women making men feel unsafe are undoubtedly fewer in number than the reverse, so it’s likely they’ve never experienced it. And I don’t want more men to feel unsafe in order to empathize with women. I just want them to empathize with women.
I don’t ask for these comments or opinions on my behavior (though I welcome comments and opinions on what I’m actually putting out here–my writing), but I get them anyway because this is the internet. I do not want to silence those who find my reactions and behavior weak, but they should not expect me to be silent, either.
The fact is that the problem in this situation was the man, not me. The man took action, I was the recipient of those actions. I wanted none of it to happen, the man wanted all of it to happen. So this situation was a lot of things, but it was not my fault, my responsibility, or my problem. The man should have changed his behavior, or simply never engaged in it in the first place. But since we live in a culture where (some) men believe it is their right to do and say to women whatever they please, it is the woman who is seen as the one in the wrong for reacting to male behavior with anything other than positivity.
I will not accept that it is my responsibility as a woman to enjoy all male behavior aimed in my direction, and that if I don’t enjoy that behavior, it is also my responsibility to fix it. I will only accept that it is the responsibility of men to behave respectfully and safely toward women. Any man who disagrees and thinks it is his responsibility to “teach me a lesson” in the comments should hear this: Stop projecting. Stop whining. Stop blaming the victim. It’s that easy.