There’s A Thin Line Between Love and Harassment

As I waited in line for my very overpriced coffee in a semi-crowded Starbucks on a Wednesday, I noticed two guys…two men checking me out. As I attempted to ignore their blatant staring, I noticed something else. These two men were old enough to be my father, they were with their young kids, yet their ogling of me never ceased. But my level of safety and comfort quickly diminished. I wondered what I had done to set off their staring. Was it what I was wearing? A quick glance down at my t-shirt and too-big shorts told me no. Was my bra strap showing? Again, no. What was it that I had done wrong that they were staring at me in this way?

Nothing. I had done nothing wrong to attract their very unwanted attention. The only thing I had done was step foot in the store to feed my caffeine addiction and to read my book. That’s it. I wasn’t flirting with them, I wasn’t planning to interact with them in any way besides standing in line, and yet somehow I thought it was my fault that they were looking at me. And this interaction didn’t happen in a new, strange environment. It took place in the white, middle-class suburbia that is my hometown.

Now all of this took place in the span of five minutes, but in that time, I realized something.

How can one tell the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to harassment?

It’s a thin line…one that’s based on communication and societal perceptions. It’s forged from years of harassment and opposingly, years of kind words. The line is different for every person. But the line will always be thin between “love” and harassment.

The question is, is what do we do as a society about that line? Or is it up to the individual to understand their own boundaries? When does one cross the line?

In order to understand the thinness of said line, here are some examples of lines that I’ve heard in the past. Try to figure out which ones are “love” and which are “harassment.”

“Hey girl…oh you don’t wanna say hi to me? I get it.”

“You look beautiful today.”

“Hey, pretty mama how you doin’ today?”

“Hey, how’s it going?”

“You should be flattered that someone wants to compliment you.”

Think you have the right answers?

The answer was that all five of them could be considered harassment when you take into account the context they were in. Two of them included an attempt to touch me in some way (one grabbed my arm, the other went for my ass). Three included smiles and winks, none of which were reciprocated by me. All five produced the response of me walking quickly past them with my head down and my heart racing. See what I mean?

See what I mean?

In today’s society, the line is so thin that we are often hyper-vigilant in our quest to stop harassment. We are so afraid of making a commotion, drawing unwanted attention to ourselves. In the case of many women, myself included, we are wary to speak up against our harassers, because it could very well lead to more abuse or even physical violence.

If we expect this type of backlash and violence, what can we as a society do about it to prevent it from happening in the future?

I believe that we should teach people how to understand the difference between “love” and harassment. What I mean by this is that through education and prevention, we can help prevent everyday sexism and harassment. Of course, this isn’t a task that will be accomplished in a day. This is something that has been happening for decades, and sadly it may take time before we can truly acknowledge the irreparable damage.

Just because it’s always happened, doesn’t mean that it has to continue.

 

 

It’s Not Always Easy Being PC

Recently, I had someone tell me that ” I wasn’t being politically correct enough.” When I asked them to explain what they meant, the answer that I received was “Well we’re millennials, we should always be politically correct.”

And to that person, my response is this.

Just because I am a millennial and a human being, doesn’t mean I will be politically correct 100% of the time. And neither will you.

Political correctness (PC) is a term that is thrown around frequently in society today. It is used in discussions relating to a variety of issues, including (but not limited to) racism, homophobia and other LGBT+ issues, religious bigotry, etc.

While I personally support the use of politically correct terms and the breaking down of systemic institutions and the powers in place, I think being 100% PC may sometimes come at a cost.

By trying so hard not to offend or demean, we end up often confronting or berating others if they are not as socially cognizant as we assume they should be. Therefore, by belittling others for not being hyper-sensitive, we ourselves are not being PC. The original issue/topic gets muddled in a sea of false politeness and the real purpose of the discussion is put asunder.

Now, I am not saying that I think political correctness is without merit, but I do think that some people exploit it is as an excuse to justify their actions and behaviors. Some people simply assume that because they are “being PC”, it means that they are empowered to scold others for their lack of social consciousness/self-editing.

This potentially false sense of empowerment of a higher moral compass may not take into account the other individuals’ knowledge or comprehension about the subject that is being discussed. By not taking into account the person’s background, religious/cultural upbringing or general education, the PC person hinders their ability to construct or support a persuasive argument. You can’t help someone to learn if you don’t know how to teach.

To effectively evolve and create a more socially conscious global community, I believe we must first listen, even if we don’t like what we’re hearing. Mutual respect and growth only comes from those who are willing to feel uncomfortable with the conversation. In my opinion, everyone benefits when we are less concerned with being correct, and more concerned with open, non judgmental dialogue.

It is important to be conscious of the words we are using, but it is also important to be aware of the thoughts that are being expressed.

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Thanks Mom and Dad, For Everything.

This past Sunday, I had the privilege of becoming part of the latest class of college graduates.

But as I walked across the stage to receive my diploma, I realized something.

Even though I was the one who was graduating, there was no doubt that without the support of my friends and family, I wouldn’t have been graduating at all.

In particular, there are two people whom without their support and love, I wouldn’t have even existed to get to walk across that stage.

If you haven’t guessed it by now, those two people are my parents.

My mom and my dad are two of the most amazing people in my life, and I’m going to tell you why.

My parents have always been there for me, from Pre-K to college, and have stood by my side through the impossibly tough times. They tried for years to have a child, and when I finally was born, did everything in their power to make sure I would be okay.

They’ve taught me some of my most valued lessons and have helped teach me right from wrong. They’ve taught me to always help others when I could, and the importance of giving, especially when others have nothing.

My parents have dealt with my 2 AM anxiety-filled phone calls and constant questions about how to be an adult.

My parents sometimes struggled to help get me through college, all while working full-time and raising my sister too.

My parents taught me to work hard, but to also take the time to relax and have fun. They’ve taught me that if I have an idea or a dream, I should work as hard as I can and that it will be possible.

They’ve taught me to love pizza, disco, old movies and “All In The Family”. They’ve taught me what true love looks like after 37 years of being together.

My parents are my role models, and there is no doubt that without their love and support, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.

So thank you, Mom and Dad, for everything you’ve done, and everything you will continue to do.

I love you.

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Writing In The Prison, Week 5: No, It Isn’t Like Orange Is The New Black

“So, you work in a prison? Is it anything like Orange Is The New Black? Or Prison Break? Or…

I’ve received this question more times than I can count in the past few weeks. Whenever I tell people about my Independent Study, this is usually one of the first questions I am asked.

At first, I thought it was funny so I laughed it off. But now the more that the question is asked, the less funny I find it.

Is Orange Is The New Black really what people think prison is actually like? Or for that matter, do people think that any show or movie which depicts prison life is 100% accurate?

The women I work with know that they’ve done something wrong, but they want to get better and to start their lives again. The most “attitude” I’ve seen all semester is from the guards who work there.

Why is it that there is such a stigma against prison life? Is it because we as humans are afraid of the unknown, the unusual? There are so many questions, and sadly not enough answers yet.

But I can tell you one thing, this prison (and the people in it) are nothing like those in Orange Is The New Black. There’s not even a theme song!

Please let me know what you think, and share.

Until next time.

Writing In The Prison, Week 4: The Things We’ve Lost 

We’ve all lost something or someone. From old childhood toys to former friends, family members to even lost memories, we, as human beings are in a constant state of loss.

We can lament over the things we’ve lost. We can also hold out hope that we can rediscover for what we’ve lost.

This week the writing prompt for the inmates was to write a story about things we’ve lost.

But what happens if you’ve lost everything?

Many of the inmates in the correctional facility know what that’s like.

These people, whether by their own actions or the actions of others, have lost their homes, their freedom, their families.

They’ve lost their faith and their hope that things will get better. They themselves are lost, and they want to find themselves.

We all want to find ourselves. We want to know about who we’re supposed to be in this world, and what we’re going to accomplish. We want to know from the second we’re born what we’re going to have.

But what does it take to do that? Does it mean we need to lose everything to gain perspective on the world? Does dealing with loss = finding ourselves?

Does it mean that you take things  away until you’ve lost everything? Or does it mean that once you hit rock bottom, the only way you can go is up?

And who can experience loss? Is it only those who have something or someone to lose? Or can anyone experience the feelings of loss? I think that a loss isn’t only for the privileged, loss is for everyone. Everyone knows in some way what it’s like to lose something, to lose someone. Some people lose more than others, but that doesn’t mean that the ones who haven’t truly lost anything don’t know what it means.

I think that the things we’ve lost are a part of us and regardless of who or where we are, the feeling of loss is something we can all relate to. And if we have lost everything, the important thing to remember is that the feelings of loss are universal, you’re not alone in your loss.

Please make sure to give other pieces in this series a read, and make sure to share.

Until next time.

 

Writing In The Prison, Week 3: Emotions

A few days ago was the three-week mark of my independent study, Writing In The Prison. This week, something that I noticed while teaching was how important emotions are conveyed through the writing that we do.

It’s not only the inmates writings’ that have emotional depth but ours as well. Every word we write, every story we tell is based on real things that have happened to us. It up to us to show the world what we want to say. What this means is that there can often be deeper emotions behind the words we write.

We’re given prompts to help us along in our stories, but everyone interprets those differently. For example, one of the prompts for this week was “write about an encounter with a bully.”  What I saw in the inmates writing was their real passion; they knew exactly they wanted to tell their story, emotions and all.

It’s because of this passion that I cannot wait to see what is in store for the rest of the class.

Please don’t forget to like and share.

Until next time.

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Writing In The Prison, Week 2: Empathy versus Sympathy

Yesterday was the second week of my independent study, Writing In The Prison.

And this week, something that I noticed while teaching was the emotions that were expressed, and how they were reacted to.

Several of the stories this week were deeply personal, and due to their personal nature, it also brought strong emotional reactions as well. Which is completely normal in any situation, but in this particular situation, I wasn’t completely sure how I should react.

This is where empathy versus sympathy comes into play.

Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another
Sympathy : feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.
Can we as humans be both empathetic and sympathetic? Or can we only experience one over the other?
In the case of the inmates, it felt as if this class serves as a unique bonding experience for them, as it is allowing them to share their thoughts and feelings with each other. But while the teachers share as well, it feels like there is still a disconnect between us. Because while we are part of the class, we still are part of the “Them”.  Even though we do not hold the same authoritative positions as the guards, we’re still volunteers in the facility. We have the freedom to leave at any time, and we technically do not have to return. We choose to come each week, for different reasons. We do not fit into a proper category because of our freedomswe are not inmates, and we are not workers.
But I know it doesn’t mean that we don’t care. In fact, I would argue in some ways, we are more compassionate, as we only get an hour to learn more about these people, and to learn more about the facility as well. And in turn, the women in the class, and the workers at the facility only get about an hour to learn more about us. Which means the limited time is allowing us to move faster, beyond the bonds of small talk, to really get to what matters.
And I think that is what makes this opportunity so special.
Until next time.