I posted the last post because I wanted some peace and quiet for a change (and also because it was easier than any of the other posts I’ve been contemplating, la la la). But instead it just made me confused and kind of upset.
Because the count right now is 32 comments (plus two responses) and two emails to me from readers going “what the hell? How are there so many comments on this?” Reader Olga put it particularly well: “Total conjecture here on my part, but I feel that perhaps this kind of harassment is so systemic that it goes on unnoticed by a lot of people, or that it is tolerated to a point where people wouldn’t even recognize this kind of behavior has violating someones space.”
And she’s right. At first I was policing, and I did delete one comment that said “no, this hasn’t happened to me except the times it’s happened to me,” but in the end I thought it would be more useful to leave them up and say “look what’s happening here.” No, nobody’s ever refused to stop talking to me except old men. No, nobody’s ever called out at me except construction workers. No, nobody’s done this recently. No, nobody’s done this since I was in junior high. No, nobody’s hit on me per se.
Here’s the stat I wanted to give: we have 32 comments and 2,008 views on this post as of right now (it’s only been up a couple hours but I got tired of monitoring comments). That’s about 1.6 percent of readers reporting a harassment-free existence. But of course in the end it’s more interesting to analyze the positive space than the negative, so now I’m more interested in the caveats.
Think about your experience when you read that question. Was there someone you were discounting — people you expect it from, people who were just trying to be friendly, people who weren’t perfect strangers? Did you interpret “refusing to leave you alone” as “hitting on you openly,” and feel bad that you don’t experience that kind of attention? Did you interpret “setting boundaries” as “shutting them down explicitly and decisively” and discount the situations where they kept talking as you kept walking or reading or smiling tersely? Did you wonder what it was about you that kept people from talking to you, as though it’s a failure (or a feature) when other women get unwanted attention?
What are we excusing? Why are we excusing it?