When my daughter was younger, many of the relatives would greet her with “Come give me a hug.” “Come give me a kiss.”
I was having none of that.
I told people that it is her body, and it doesn’t matter if she’s only a year old, she didn’t have to hug or kiss anyone.
I got a lot of grief for this.
I didn’t care. I stood firm.
My Husband was embarrassed. He was not happy with me. I didn’t care. I would have gotten divorced if I had to. I was holding firm to what I believed was right. To expect a hug or a kiss from a child is wrong- and it doesn’t matter who you are.
There are a lot of people who think I am dead wrong. They don’t consider it harassment, but I do. And in my reality- what I believe is the only thing that actually matters. And that was the tenet I was taking in raising my daughter. I made sure she knew that it was her body, and anything to do with it required her permission. That if she said no, and someone didn’t listen, she was to come to me immediately and I would take care of it. And you can imply your own meaning to what I meant by “take care of it.”
See- here’s the thing. Though we might all agree that harassment is bad, and that it means that someone is put in an uncomfortable situation because of their gender- we all have different levels of tolerance, and a different subset of what specifics make up harassment.
- A 5 year old child chases another with the intent of kissing them. Is this harassment? I think so. I also think that no child should be suspended because of it- that a direct conversation about touching someone else without their permission is in order-
- A teenager constantly calls, texts, mails, emails, mails another. While the doer might not constitute this as harassment, the one on the receiving end often does.
- An adult manages to be at the gym at the same time as another adult- they manage to be at the same place at the same time. Is this harassment? Well, it is if one of the adults feels this way.
So here’s the thing. Men, women- young, old….. they need to discuss these things. it doesn’t matter if you are 100% positive that no one you know would ever be a harasser- these things must be discussed. There must be open and honest dialogue about the different ways that people feel. Because everyone feels different about everything.
Say your child is totally respectful of all around them. What if they have a friend who keeps texting someone- if the textee is not responding, does your child know that they should talk to the texter about how their actions might not be seen in a good light? About how the other person might feel uncomfortable?
Now- let’s give a personal example. I worked for a very long time in a male dominated industry. Men were lewd and vulgar on a daily basis- not all, but I’m going to say the majority. but, all were complicit in this behavior. Including me. But, this behavior did not bother me at the same level that it would bother others. I felt that it was just a bunch of people letting off steam when faced with high levels of stress. But I never felt threatened because of my sex- I never felt that I didn’t get a fair shot at things. Now, there were clients of ours that did not want to work with a woman. Technically, that is harassment- but I let it go because I always figured there would be other opportunities and other clients. But that was me. Another woman? Who knows.
And what about a situation at a party, or a place where people are trying to meet other people? One blogger friend said that he just doesn’t complement any woman other than his wife, for fear of someone thinking it’s harassment. But how do you talk to someone you are interested in sexually? Obviously, we know at some point people engage in sexuality intoned banter…..but what are the new rules about how one engages in this? I have a friend who was dating the first time after divorce- he literally asked the woman what parameters their flirtatious banter could take. He actually said, “is this form of discussion acceptable to you?”?. And it makes me wonder, is this really why Tinder has become so popular? Is Tinder giving people the OK to say, yes- there is a possibility that this “relationship” could end up in a sexual way, and we’re both pretty OK with that because we are using this app?
So- I think we need to discuss, in a non harassing way- what we should do to stop harassment.
Who wants to start?