In college, when I was a sports reporter for the student-run newspaper, one coach always made me feel queasy.
When I would meet him out on the field, he ignored my hand, held out for a firm shake, and instead went in for a hug — and a kiss.
I told my editor — a young man who was also my age, 19 — about this and how uncomfortable it made me. He didn’t hesitate to offer to step in and handle things. I wanted to deal with it myself. And I did.
When I confronted the coach, he denied any inappropriately gross intent. He’d had a rough childhood and wasn’t given a lot of affection — I kid you not, this was the card he played — and so while he did not think he was sexually harassing me, he did knock off the kissing and hugging.
Just a few short years later, as a young reporter working the cops beat, I was at the police station late at night and near the end of my shift, went to check the “resumes,” aka the crime reports. A male officer blocked my path, grabbed me around the ankles and pretended he was going to hoist me over his shoulder. I smacked him with my handy-dandy notebook. His coworkers, all male, watched and laughed. Later, I told my then-boyfriend, now husband, about the incident, and he was livid. He was going to talk to the city editor and the public information officer, but I told him to leave it alone. That college coed who was so quick to stand up for herself was now afraid of getting iced-out and seen as “whiny” in a very male-dominated beat. So, I let it go.
Here we are, 20-some years later, and we’re still hearing about women getting disrespected, harassed, assaulted at the hands of powerful men who think it’s acceptable behavior. Now, I know some people are just assholes, but I fail to see how men who have wives and daughters — and MOTHERS — can act this way toward women. In our house, people are people and everyone’s equal no matter their gender now, gender at birth, color of their skin, even political party affiliation. My husband and I have raised two girls — and a son — to treat all people with respect and to believe they can be anything they want to be and do anything they want to do. Nothing will stand in their way. How can this be the 21st century and we’re still seeing this kind of behavior?
It is way beyond the time to knock this shit off.