Aug 7th, 2015 This week I'm at a nerd conference for work. While sitting through the boring introductions during a session, I made ...


Aug 7th, 2015

This week I'm at a nerd conference for work. While sitting through the boring introductions during a session, I made the mistake of checking Facebook real quick to fill my time. I saw the #metoo hashtag, and not knowing what it was about, I of course looked it up. After reading about this sexual harassment and abuse awareness, I went back to the Facebook search of that hashtag, which shows you first all your friends that have posted about this. As I scrolled for what seemed like forever, my eyes started to fill with tears. Now I'm not much of a crier really, especially not in front of anyone but a few select people, so I swallowed that lump and quickly put away my phone. That was not the time to think too much about that.

It moved me beyond words. It's not that sexual violence is news to me, it's the sheer number of women (and I'm sure men, but I only saw women in my feed) that have been hurt by this that hit me hardest. Since the movement is about both harassment and rape, I at first thought I shouldn't share any of my own experiences, because lucky for me I've never been raped. And really harassment doesn't seem like a big deal next to rape in my mind. But then I thought, that's not right either. Even if most of the people posting about this have only been harassed and not raped, that's still too many. It's still uncalled for and still needs to change. And the thought process behind rape is probably similar to harassment...the idea that the person deserves to be treated like they have no say in the matter. That it's okay to use your power to manipulate those under you. That it's okay to victimize someone. It's not. So here we go.

I remember being sexually harassed before I even knew what sex was. Some dirty pervert grabbed my ass in a grocery store one time when I was just a little kid. I had no idea why or what that was about, but I of course got scared and quickly ran back to my mom. I don't remember telling her what happened, but I do remember the fear and shame that immediately followed. Now as a parent my reaction to the memory is seriously appalled. Who does that shit?! If someone touched my kids that way I'd freak out! And I'm sure my mother would've done something as well if I'd told her.

As I'm now sure is a typical scenario for most young girls, I was harassed plenty growing up. Whether it was catcalls, whistling, inappropriate remarks, suggestions, or groping, there were too many times over the years to recall each one. I just know there were way more than should've been allowed, let alone normal. There were even a couple incidents in my teenage years that got dangerously close to date rape, but thankfully I was able to stop it before that happened. But I know way too many women that weren't that lucky.

I get that teenage boys are horny. But guess what? So are teenage girls. I know, I used to be one. So that is no excuse. But for whatever reason, not nearly as many guys get harassed by girls as the other way around. So why is this so one-sided? Why has no one taught guys that this is completely unacceptable behavior? Instead it was often written off with, well boys will be boys. Bull fucking shit. If my boys behaved like that I'd be outraged. I can't even think of what the appropriate punishment would be, but there's no way they'd get away with "it's just a guy thing." I think I've already done a pretty good job of teaching them boundaries, and will continue to do so throughout their life. I just don't understand why everyone isn't doing the same thing. But now that I think on it, teaching your kid boundaries is a whole other blog post for another day.

Or how about those excuses that "she was asking for it" by the way she dressed or behaved? This argument is old but still enrages me just as much as the first time I heard it. If a woman chooses to show off her body in public, that in no way means she's asking to get harassed. Maybe she is looking for attention, but I guarantee she doesn't want people to be rude or violent. Maybe she wants a compliment, like hey, you look good! etc. but not hey, nice tits! with an ass grab. NO! For goodness sakes can't anyone give a compliment without crossing that line? Yes you can. I know as soon as my boys start showing an interest in dating, I will be teaching them appropriate ways to pay a compliment without crossing any lines.

The even bigger problem with not teaching your kids boundaries and appropriate behavior, is they often grow up to continue that terrible behavior. And if you do this as an adult, the punishment if you get caught sexually harassing anyone, is much bigger...or at least we all hope it is! Realistically that depends on the situation as we all know too many people still get away with this bullshit, even in the workplace.

I'm lucky enough to work at a small company, thankfully full of respectful guys where I not only never have to deal with any harassment, but not even any disrespect. At previous jobs I did encounter plenty of sexism though, which often felt like borderline harassment. There's still more men in my field than women, although thankfully that's changing and I'm hoping within my lifetime I'll see it even out a bit more. But when I started, I was not only a minority, but was even called "an anomaly". I got a lot of weird looks, suspicion that I couldn't possibly know what I was talking about, being a girl, and very young. But as people gave me a chance, or in some cases had no choice but to give me a chance, they realized that I was not only smart, but was often more friendly than my coworkers. I had to go out of my way to be very nice and keep my mouth shut about those rude remarks to get some people to take me seriously. And while that was a frustrating experience, I know every woman who's been a minority in her field has had to face the same crap.

My goal is to do what I can to help ease the way for women in my field. And that's always meant I had to learn to deal with sexism and harassment. Speaking out when things are over the line is important, which I would not hesitate to do now if I encountered any harassment. But when I was starting out in my career, I was too afraid to speak up as I didn't want to fill anyone's stereotypical ideas of a woman in a man's field who cries harassment. That's really sad, and I wish I hadn't felt that way. I like to think if anything really over the line had happened, I would've said something. Thankfully it never did, so I don't know how I would've dealt with it for sure. But I do know I felt uncomfortable plenty of times and just kept my mouth shut. And it shouldn't have to be that way.

Ladies, and gentlemen, we should never feel like we have to keep quiet when we're harassed. You can't be comfortable in your job or life if you have to deal with harassment on a regular basis. It's better to say something. Yes if the person harassing you is an asshole, they might very well make it difficult for you. But so what? It's difficult being harassed too, so you might as well stand up for yourself and face the difficulties of that situation over staying quiet and feeling shamed. You owe it to yourself and to every other woman (or man) that's going to follow you. The more work we do on this now, the less our children and their children will have to put up with it. Think of how far the civil rights movement has come in the last 100 years! And think of how much farther it could go. But it takes everyone involved to stand up for themselves, and those around them.

Don't be afraid. Don't be ashamed. Don't be quiet. Help this end. Be heard.


  1. A powerful post! Thank you for sharing your painful experiences with us.

  2. Hi, Melanie. I came to your blog via the IWSG blog hop but decided to check this out instead. I really like the points you make about the importance of teaching kids boundaries, especially our sons, who face a culture that encourages them to treat women and girls like consumable playthings. Thank you for raising good young men.

    1. Thank you, Rhonda! Children really are the future!
      I just published my IWSG post:

      Thanks for reading!