(Check the original version on my blog: https://www.thejulybible.com/single-post/2018/10/12/DEAR-SEXIST-SOCIETY )
I was inspired by the BuzzFeed video "Dear Girl" to finally talk about a topic that I've been wanting to take it out of my chest for quite a while now. I want to tell you how I became a feminist and, for the first time, raise my voice and share my experiences with sexual harassment.
In high school, I never "had a reason" to become a feminist. In the sense that my mindset was "nothing ever happened to me, so I don't have a reason to fight for". The feeling to fight for equal rights wasn't inside me because until then I never suffered (or didn't think I had) from any sexist actions or suffered any assault. I always had feminist influences around me, such as one of my former classmates, and my mom.
But things changed.
Bear in mind that what I'll say about men here is not in any form a generalization, it's just that unfortunately, not all men are respectful and well informed.
Anyway, things changed. I suffered my very first episode of sexual harassment when I was 18. It was during one of my English classes on my foundation programme, before university.
My friends and I were having a seminar where we all had to present our plan for our final project essays, but that's not actually what matters. What does matter is what happened after that.
I finished my presentation and went back to my seat. Nobody liked that lecturer, not even me, but I was always respectful and treated my lecturers nicely and politely. He was around 60, white, blue eyes, and grizzly white hair and beard. He was that sort of lecturer that tried the hardest to make everyone laugh, when in fact he was embarrassing himself. I was always the one who felt bad and gave a slight smile, so that I wouldn't seem rude.
As I go back to my seat, I see him approaching before the next student begins their presentation.
"Now, let me sit right here next to my girlfriend." - He sits next to me and puts his hand on my shoulder, not like a 'nice job' pat on the back. An actual touch on my shoulder, grabbing it slightly, the way your boyfriend does to you as a sign of love. But it wasn't my boyfriend, neither it was love.
I don't think I have ever felt more disgusted. I gave him the most pissed off look and didn't say anything. I had no words. That touch on my shoulder froze me, I felt my power and my strength being blown away.
I finally manage to say something: "Uh. No.", and moved my chair away from him.
The entire class noticed and I noticed the look in all girls AND boys. I wasn't that close to the people in my class, but every single one of them expressed so much disgust in their eyes and I could see that all of them wanted to help me but didn't know how to.
The lecturer got up as he saw the reaction of the whole class, tried o make a joke out of the situation to clear the air a bit, but it didn't work. He said something along the lines of "ah okay then, I won't sit next to her" and a nervous laugh.
He winks at me.
At that point I just looked down and stayed silent for the rest of the lesson.
From that day onward, I felt on my own skin, what is like to be considered less of a person by a man. To be seen as an object. To feel powerless. Frozen. Empty.
After the whole thing with the lecturer happened, I started studying a bit more about feminism and situations that seem one thing but are actually another. That opened my eyes.
Remember what I said at the beginning of this post? About never experiencing sexual harassment or assault? Oh well, I was wrong.
Back to when I was around ten or eleven, I had my first experience with sexual harassment, in my school. I was talking to the principal's assistant, and she was a lovely lady, always chatting with me during lunch break and letting me play on her computer. We were talking, as usual, when one of the IT guys came in. If I was around eleven at that time, he must've been around 23-24 ish.
We both knew each other because he was in charge of taking the pictures of all sports events in my school, and since I used to practice rollerskating, he was always there on my presentations at the end of the year. And again, I was always taught to respect people older than me, whether if it's the principal or the IT guy.
He comes in, says hi to the lady and says hi to me, like usual. Only that this time it wasn't just to say hello. He leans towards me and turns his face sideways, his cheek facing me.
"Just hello? Where is my kiss?"
The lady and I were extremely confused. And I said: "Me? Eww. You won't have one."
Not only I said no again, but the lady defended me and told him to go.
I was now scared for almost a month to walk on my own around the school. It is a tiny school, so not only everyone knows each other, but everyone knows where you're supposed to be.
I never did anything about that all the way until I graduated from my school, at 18 years old.
Now here's what, for me, is the saddest part of both stories: fear and silence.
Fear in both stories to tell anyone about what happened. Fear of hearing once again "Nah. Stop being dramatic. He didn't do anything.". Fear of being followed if I said something. Fear of speaking up.
And here comes the silence.
Nothing changed. The IT guy worked at my school until I graduated, and by the way, he was the one taking my graduation pictures.
I filed an anonymous complaint to the university against that teacher: no response. My friends, who were also harassed by the same teacher, sent a complaint: no response.
What I can say about all of this is:
Feminism is not something that we want. Is something that we need. Because we live in a society where it's our fault if we get raped because we were wearing short skirts, or a big cleavage. Well guess what: rape existed way before short skirts were invented.
We live in a society where we cannot feel safe in our own skin if we're walking alone at night. It's a society where the first thing your mom said to you before your first party was "Don't leave your cup unattended.".
We live in a society that needs to change. And the change is not only on the hands of women but of men too. Many people think less of feminism because they think is to put women above men. It's not. It is to make men and women EQUAL.
And now I kindly ask:
I know that MOST OF YOU have a good heart and are respectful. But what you see on this table is our reality as women. Please help us to achieve that one quote you have. It’s time for change.