Two days ago I met a flasher.
Today, on my Instagram feed, I saw TIME magazine posting stories of women speaking out to sexual harassment and name them as Person of The Year.
Only then I asked myself: “Was I sexually harassed?”. I even had to google ‘What is sexual harassment?’ to make sure.
I found a reputable source but I can’t find ‘flashing’ or ‘flasher’. So I googled more and found another article which confirms flashing as ‘exhibitionism’. Flashing is sexual harassment.
If wasn’t for this timely news , I wouldn’t have put two and two together. I would just brush off the episode as one of the things that happens to people. I would not recognise it as sexual harassment.
When I was asked “Are you traumatised?”. I just scoff it off and said, “I’m brave. It’s ok”. It wasn’t bothering me. I wasn’t scared, shocked, or angry. I think the fact that I am so cool disturbs me.
Then I wonder why. Perhaps because I have faced this all my life regularly: catcalls, strange men trying to come too close, people I don’t know asking for my number, acquaintances hinting they want to take me home, men at work using their position to convince me go out with them.
It started since I was 13. After so many years, I’m immune to these unwanted attention. Unless something is said or done explicitly e.g groping/rape/’I want to have sex with you’, it’s just ‘one of those things’.
Which is rather sad now that I think of it. I started to wonder if all these affected me in any ways. I realise it may have.
Maybe I don’t wear that much revealing clothes, put on too much makeup or perfume (despite the fact that I do like dolling myself up) because experience tells me that it means a lot more unwanted attention than usual.
Maybe that’s why I don’t like clubbing. Or that I prefer to work on my own and have the opportunity to choose who I want to work with.
Maybe that’s why I’m insensitive to romantic hints or advances that are too subtle. Or that I have a thing for boys who have no interest in me/clueless about women.
Maybe that’s why my parents were so protective of me when I was growing up. Or good friends wouldn’t allow me to take the cab and insist on sending me home especially when it’s too late.
Maybe that’s why I took the opportunity to learn Judo and continue learning it until I got a blue belt despite the training being extremely tough.
Sexual harassment shouldn’t be ‘normal’
The problem is that I think may be embarrassed to speak about all these. I don’t. I have never, actually.
Not because I think nobody would believe me. But rather they think that I’m making a big deal out of something small. Or that they may mistakenly think that I enjoy the attention. Or that I believe that I’m so attractive that these things happens to me.
It shouldn’t be so. We are not suppose to be embarrassed to speak out to sexual harassment.
Another point is to acknowledge and share that many women face sexual harassment constantly. It’s so common that sometimes we don’t even know we are harassed. And even if we do, we think it is normal.
My girlfriends had been groped, flashed, propositioned, etc. They think it’s normal. So when it happens to me, I think “Oh, it happens all the time!”
That need to change. It’s not suppose to be normal or expected. I am also writing this in the hope that good men would understand sometimes why we behave the way we do and perverts to know that this intimidation culture is not ok.
Tomorrow I need to be back to the same place I was flashed.
It was in broad day light, on a quiet street that was supposed to be busy but wasn’t because it was too early. I was walking happily to the place I wanted to go.
A man with messy hair, soot on his face, dressed in oversized grey clothing, came a few feet infront of me and pulled down his pants.
Thankfully I knew what he wanted to do before he did it. So I just looked away and quicken my pace.
My day went on as usual.
I know things wouldn’t change overnight. But I’m glad we are moving towards a positive direction: being able to speak out, not feel embarrassed about it, and understand it’s not our fault. I like how Tarana Burke said
“These women are able not just to share their shame but to put the same where it belongs: on the perpetrator”
I hope tomorrow I will be safe and I thank God that these harassments had not deterred me from going where I want to go.