Feminism | Posted by Zoe Y on 05/10/2010
Why Was I The One Who Was Ashamed?
The other day, I was home from college and sitting at the back table with my mother where we were talking about the state of the world. I had brought up an article sitting before me in The Week about another girl who had been bullied to the point of her suicide. I felt that this was becoming a common theme in the news and it worried me. Why was it that kids were so cruel to each other and why wasn’t anyone stopping this?
That’s when my mother asked me if I remembered “that Beck boy” who sexually harassed me in middle school. I was stunned. I’d forgotten completely about this incident until that moment. Both of us had difficulty remembering the details of what had happened. We both could remember that he had said something disgusting to me and that it had hung over my head until I came home crying from school. My mother had managed to draw it out of me then and told me to go to the school and tell the Principal. She gave me a day to do it. When I didn’t do it, she went herself and got the boy suspended.
From my perspective years later with my new feminist lens, it seems like a success story. Most individuals who harass don’t see any consequences. But as I tried to remember the details of what he had said to me, all I could remember were the feelings of shame at my mother actually getting him suspended.
Sure, this boy had said something nasty to me. Sure, I had gone home in a slow depressed daze and cried in front of my mother. But he was just being a boy, he was just joking. I was ashamed to get this boy in trouble, to do anything about what seemed like such a small incident. When he was suspended, I knew he resented me for it. I knew he didn’t think he did anything wrong and the sad thing was that I sort of agreed with him.
Remembering this incident reminded me of why it’s so difficult for people who are being bullied or sexually harassed to stand up for themselves. There’s this sense that sexual harassment is “ok,” that it is part of life and we girls should just buck up and get used to it. The idea of reporting these people is shameful because we feel that we are making such a big deal out of nothing. Even worse, we are afraid of offending these people.
Suddenly, everything I have read about how women are made to feel like they are unimportant and are not meant to upset others, all of this that I’ve read before and couldn’t relate to, I now understand.
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