But you know what I'm not on-board with? People who get offended by well-meaning advice about how to avoid getting raped. Because you know what? An inevitable part of rape culture is that women learn dysfunctional behaviors that increase their likelihood of being taken advantage of -- starting at a very young age. For example, being polite. Girls are taught to be polite, often with disastrous results. No one says it better than Tina Fey in The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
After being abducted and locked in a bunker for fifteen years, Kimmy Schmidt and three other survivors appear on the Today show. Matt Lauer asks one of the women about her kidnapping. She replies,
I had waited on Reverend Richard at a York Steak House I worked at, and one night he invited me out to his car to see some baby rabbits, and I didn’t want to be rude, so…here we are.
One problem I was just discussing with my new BFF Ken is how gross and inappropriate it is when men touch women. Women they don't even know! Or women they do know, but not well enough that they want to be touched. And it's no accident! Men are actively, intentionally taught, in their pathetic little pickup artist classes, that "violating a woman's space" is one of the many ways you can manipulate them into unwanted contact with you.
Some of them are really good at it. They'll do it in a public place, hoping you'll feel too awkward to confront him in front of others. They'll do it in a subtle way, such that you "feel bad" rebuffing him, since he's "only" touching your hand, shoulder, back or thigh. They'll back you against a wall or the arm of a chair and use their body as a physical barrier to keep you from stepping or scooting away.
It's gross. It's disgusting. It's wrong. But women -- there's a really easy way to make them stop.
Look them in the eye and say,
You are not the rude one in this situation. He is.
Obviously, it's hard to overcome years of social learning. Which is why it's so, so important for you to mentally rehearse. Learn the phrase -- or modify it to your satisfaction. Decide exactly what you want to say. Then visualize yourself saying it to the next gross-ass pickup artist who comes and puts his arm around you at a party or event.
I'll say it again. Decide exactly what you want to say, then specifically visualize yourself saying it. It's no different from sports psychology. Athletes don't close their eyes and think vaguely about making the game-winning shot. They think about their stance. They think about their free-throw routine. Two bounces. Spin the ball. Thumb on the S in Spalding. Ball over forehead. Wrist over elbow, elbow over knee. Breath. Bend the knees. Shoot. Follow-through. Swish.
My fear is that, without this mental rehearsal -- without this un-learning of so many gendered social norms -- more women will end up like Daisy Buchanan, who recently wrote I'm Tired of Being Kind to Creepy Old Men in Order to Stay Safe. In it, she lamented,
“What’s your name?” is an innocuous enough question, regardless of where the asker’s hands are. I’d been made to feel bad for not answering.
So I started to plan a different path to class, setting off 20 minutes early to add enough loops to my route to avoid the trio that caused me trauma.
Every incident of harassment I witness, whether it’s at first- or second-hand, is making my world a little bit smaller and scarier. I don’t go out dancing any more, even though I adore it – because I know from experience that something bad might happen if I have to get home after midnight and the streets are full of potentially terrifying men who might not take it well if I don’t want to stop and say hello.
So I’ve imposed my own curfew, and try to be in bed by 11pm. During a chat about exercise a friend mentioned that she’s stopped running because of the number of men who will shout “compliments” and block her path to get her to slow down and talk to them. She misses running outside in the fresh air desperately, but the anxiety the harassment causes her is too great for her to risk it.
"Stop touching me."
Yes, the men who are touching you shouldn't be touching you. More efforts need to be made in health classes, freshman orientations and other forums to teach men not to do that. But when you grant them the power to determine what route you walk to work, what time you go to go to bed, and whether you'll run or dance today... you're not doing anyone any favors. Un-learn politeness, and learn how to #BeRude.
Want to know more? Check out:
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Gif All Women Need to See Immediately
3 Things I Wish All Girls (and Women) Knew
Why Most People Suck at Saying No (And How You Can Start Improving Today)
The Secret Catcalls of Educated White People - My Problem With "Pickup Artists"
Dear Felicia Czochanski : You're Gorgeous, But You Don't Understand Street Harassment