Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Balance Ton Porc

Last week, I had the pleasure of catching up with a dear, dear friend who was back in town.  Over drinks and nibblies, she expressed surprise at having forgotten about the overt cat-calling that goes on in Paris.  Many times, she'd just been sitting at a café, minding her own business, only to be interrupted by one or more men.  We laughed about the sheer balls of these men, and then I started regaling them with the"return of the gym bise-r", whom I had not seen for a few months.  

At the end of my story however, she reframed it in a way that I had never thought of before.  She pointed out that there was a guy who was repeatedly making me uncomfortable on a weekly basis, so much so that I had actually changed my work-out schedule to avoid him, instead of confronting him, or bringing it up to management.  What really got me though is when she brought up that I might not be the only one dealing with this guy.  What if he was doing this to a different woman every day, and we were all collectively just de-dramatizing it or not wanting to make a fuss?  I mean, that's the message that we keep hearing over and over again on the news - that the women thought they were the only one or that they were somehow responsible in some way, so they didn't speak up.

This whole conversation has occupied my thoughts quite a bit lately, especially as for the past few weeks I had been saying that I had been 'lucky' enough to not have my own #MeToo story to share. I mean sure, I run into enormous amounts of sexism in my line of work, but not sexual harassment.  But now I'm thinking about all the subtle ways that I modify my behavior to avoid being in those kinds of situations.  I take self-defense classes.  I don't go to certain neighborhoods at night. I pay attention to what I wear when I go out without C. I cross the street if I see an aggressive-looking man walking towards me. I enter the most-populated metro cars at night.  I take an uber so that someone will be able to trace me if I disappear.   I've come to realize that these are all things that I've been doing unconsciously - it's only now after discussion that I realize that no, it's not normal that women have to do these sorts of things on a daily basis.

On the flip side, I heard a really good counter-argument to the "women are asking for it by how the dress/look/act" line.  If someone's home gets robbed, you would never say to them "Well, you were really asking for it by having such a nice house.  I mean, with your lawn trimmed so nicely and all those flowers and fancy decorations - you really can't blame someone for breaking in".  Or "Well what did you expect having such a nice car?  Leather seats, all the options, fancy rims....your car was just begging to be stolen".   And therein lies the irony - we would never say that to someone about their things, but yet many people wouldn't think twice about making such statements about a woman's body.

Not that I have any magical solutions.  But maybe my girlfriend was right in that it starts with each one of us calling out the small incidents we see around us, instead of sweeping them under the rug, making a joke about it, or somehow thinking it was our fault.

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