In October, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted “Me too. Suggested by a friend: ‘If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Thus, this beautiful, empowering, bold movement sparked a firestorm on social media, bringing awareness to a very real issue.
As women in athletics, we deal with incidences we aren’t okay with quite frequently, whether it’s catcalls, physical passes, being dismissed in conversations or worse. This is not to say all men are offensive and condescending; a lot are fantastic, and I am blessed that my male coworkers are in that category. Unfortunately, some men act blindly towards women and aren’t aware of it.
For women, immense power can lie in the three words, “It’s not okay”.
Fortunately, I haven’t experienced much that, I feel, was too awful. But I did encounter an instance this year on the job that I was far from okay with. I don’t think anyone else noticed what had happened, but it caused a crisis in me. I didn’t want to be the girl who overreacted but at the same time, I didn’t want to be the girl who did not react and let other people think it was okay to treat me that way. This internal battle really made me understand the enormity of the issue. I should not have thought, like most women think, that there is flaw in overreacting. I have the right to stand up for myself. No man, or other person, has a RIGHT to your body. Overreacting is better than not reacting. At least you draw that line immediately that you aren’t going to tolerate being treated that way.
How many times do we sit and listen to men make comments about women that are not okay or that offend us but don’t say anything because we don’t want them to respond with “Lighten up,” or every woman’s favorite, “Is it your time of the month?” Both of those comments are offensive, dismissive and, frankly, terribly weak comebacks.
The truth of the matter is this: Strong, intelligent women who are good at what they do are coming into this field regardless of whether people like it or not. Where we are right now, we cannot afford to not defend those women.
Unfortunately, this poor treatment does not stop at men. We, as women, can sometimes be our own worst enemy. We can create an environment for each other so much more hostile than any man can. The only explanation for this is insecurity. We want to be the best in our jobs, and while that is fair, our fault comes when we start saying we want to be the best WOMAN in our job. This creates insecurities and when another female comes along that is also very good at what she does, we try to hinder her as much as possible in any way we can, most commonly talking smack about her behind her back.
Know that you are good at what you do and believe that. Talk is cheap and gives the impression you can’t back up what you’re saying with action. Putting your nose to the grindstone and hustling is proving yourself.
So, women, if things get inappropriate and you are uncomfortable or are not okay with what is being said, SPEAK UP. A lot of times I don’t think men even realize what they are doing. Your opinion matters, and you matter. As for how we treat other women, the harsh truth is this: We hold ourselves back. Every time a woman has a huge accomplishment it seems that there are three more there to knock her down a rung on the ladder. Celebrate each other’s victories, lend a hand in the pitfalls and stop competing with each other. We are all after the same goal and it is unfair to ask men to treat us a certain way if we don’t treat each other that way already.
Men, a test of who you are is if you can defend us, even when we aren’t around, to your peers. Just think, that could be your mother, your sister or your girlfriend being talked about. Even if it isn’t yours, it’s someone’s.
When I started working in athletics full time, I wish someone would have gave me this piece of advice: find your voice. Be clear and concise in what you want to say and say it. Be consistent with your expectations, how you allow others to treat you and what you allow others to say around you. Avoid the drama and be a kind, encouraging voice in a world that sometimes seems so hopeless.