Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Being Female

Confession: I've been avoiding Social Media. It's taken me most of my life to truly appreciate the level of harm my empathetic tendency has to hurt me.

I don't just read angry or terrified posts; I absorb them. Feel them. And no matter how I remind myself I am not personally affected, either by the privilege of birth or citizenship, I have a hard time separating myself from the pain those personally impacted, feel.

I've been on the receiving end of sexual harassment, physical assault, emotional intimidation, the latter as recently as last week when a large white male in his forties entered an elevator I was in. As he stepped on, he looked me up and down in a way that set my alarm bells ringing, and hairs on my neck on end. I briefly considered stepping off, but if he followed me, I would be trapped on the 5th floor with no one around but him. And, it was only 5 floors to the Lobby. And witnesses. I remained, and avoided eye-contact, but kept him in my peripheral vision. He looked at his phone, laughed, and then looked at me.

"They're protesting back home."
Silly me, I responded, because that's what POLITE women do (or those do that are afraid to piss off the bigger stronger person with whom they're trapped in a small metal box): "Protesting? The new president?"
"Yeah." He smirked. "And they just better get over it."

I stepped off that elevator moments later, AFTER him (didn't want him behind me), and loitered by the front desk until he departed out the front door. Then I sent up a silent prayer of thanks that I am Canadian. And, as much as it galls me to admit it, I also gave thanks I'm Caucasian.

That's White Privilege. Knowing your skin color offers you a certain level of protection. Next time I visit the US, I only have to worry about being female. And that makes me want to cry.

All my life I've had to worry about being female. From the time I was a young and my mother admonished me for turning somersaults, or cartwheels, while wearing a dress: Good girls don't show off their underwear! Or when I started to develop, and male friends of my parents and aunts started staring, and in some cases, groping. When boys at school started cat-calling, or "copping a feel" in the hallways, or on the bus. Men at work whistled and cat-called, asked if I wanted to participate in Wet T-Shirt contest? Told me I had the "nicest big b....lue eyes they had ever seen" as they stared at my chest. It was daily.

As I grew older, and legislation and social acceptance of such sexist behavior changed, the daily assault on my psyche with regard to my physiology slowed. It never went away, as exemplified by my recent elevator encounter (and yes, an inappropriate and obvious full-body scan imbued with sexual overtones is an assault on the psyche), but with legal avenues open to people like me (females), business management and principals started cracking down on inappropriate behavior on the part of males, and societal norms began to change. Young men were beginning to be raised with greater respect for their female counterparts.

Sexual assault was defined as such: Sexual assault. Not "copping a feel". Not "checking to see if they're real". Not "offering a compliment" (because the invitation to the Wet T-Shirt contest was apparently that, a compliment), but SEXUAL ASSAULT. And I began to get through entire days without experiencing an uncomfortable reminder of my femaleness. The fact I had one to four children in tow most days probably helped. The fact the Law and the Powers That Be said it's NOT OKAY, helps more. And that is what is so terrifying about recent events in the U.S.

The small measure of protection females in general had, went up in a puff of fetid air from the white male who will soon be the ultimate Power That Be. Forget being a woman of color. I can't even imagine what they feel. And I won't presume to know. I only know, that as a female, I hurt. A lot.

We were finally seeing, after centuries of oppression and abuse, some improvement in perception of our femaleness. Some improvement in protection of our femaleness. Some respect with regard to our right to not have our femaleness assaulted, physically or psychically. And one person, one man, one white man, has the power to roll all that back. And that is what has kept me from Social Media the last couple of weeks: Grief.

Grief for my Sisters. Grief for my daughter. Grief for my future granddaughters. Grief for my nieces. Grief for all the females of this world that face daily persecution, limitations, and outright abuse/assault/terror simply because they are




Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally. ~ Abraham Lincoln

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