I got my first “real” job when I was 16 because the assistant manager I interviewed with thought I was cute. Less than a year into my employment, he came in on his day off and kissed me while I was ringing up a customer on the register. He was easily twice my age, but I, being 16, didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing.
When I was 17 I transferred to a new store and a regular male customer flirted with me constantly. He was in his 50’s and my standard response was to laugh uncomfortably and not respond to his advances. One day as I was ringing him up he asked me how I liked to be kissed. I was visibly embarrassed and an older male coworker noticed and pushed me to tell him why. When I relayed the question, he turned to the customer and screamed at him, “She’s seventeen! SEVENTEEN!”
When I was in law school I attended a seminar at school on how to present yourself professionally in court and at job interviews. Among the helpful tips about resume formatting and setting social networks to private, was a long list of “guidelines” specifically targeted at female students: don’t wear your hair down, don’t wear too much makeup, don’t wear bright nail polish, don’t wear heels above 2 inches, don’t wear a top that’s sleeveless, low-cut or brightly colored, and always wear tights or nylons under a skirt, or better yet, opt for a pantsuit over a skirt — it’s “more professional.”
When interviewing at law firms I wore pants. I didn’t wear too much makeup. I wore conservative black wedge heels. I wore my glasses and my hair up so I wouldn’t look “too pretty.”
After being hired at a law firm at the age of 26, I was regularly asked if I was the new secretary. When I showed up for my first deposition they asked when the attorney would be arriving. When trying to file settlement papers in state court the clerk informed me that a lawyer from my firm would need to return to argue the settlement in front of the judge.
During one deposition, the claimant and his attorney immediately began discussing my attractiveness loudly and right in front of me at the table. The claimant even had the gall to turn to his attorney and ask if he thought “the carpet matched the drapes.” His older, male attorney chuckled. The female court reporter and I remained silent.
When I showed up in court for the trial involving the same claimant, his attorney strolled in and turned to my male boss, whistled and said, “That’s the best looking redhead I’ve seen in a long time.” During a court recess the claimant came up to me and said, “[The defense] brought you here on purpose because they know I can’t resist pretty girls.”
My boss was shocked and outraged by the comments. I informed him, “It happens all the time.”
After I got engaged at 26, a (childless) male partner at my firm came up to me and said, “You’re not going to have kids are you?” He proceeded to ask me repeatedly about my plans to reproduce to the point that I finally brought it up to the female partner because I no longer knew how to respond to his questions. She informed me that he was “probably just being friendly.”
When I was 27 and newly married, I was walking home from BART when a man ran up behind me and grabbed my ass. I turned around and screamed at him, calling him a “fucking pervert.” I saw him laughing as he ran across the street. I felt violated but reasoned that it was “my fault” for having been talking on the phone while I walked home, despite the fact that it was only 7pm and there were a lot of other people out. I mean, I should know better than to let my guard down like that.
Later that same year I took an early BART train to work in the city. A few stops in I glanced over at the guy sitting next to me and realized that he had started masturbating. I quietly got up and went and stood near the train doors and waited for my stop.
And you know what? I’m LUCKY, because every woman knows situations like these. So many women have known situations that are so, so much worse. I know multiple rape survivors, and you do too. Even if you don’t “know” — you know rape survivors. Trust me. It happens all the time.
Now, I’m a mother to a daughter. Soon I will be a mother to daughters. They will grow up in this world and I hope to God that things are different by the time they are my age and maybe have daughters of their own.
So if you’re wondering why I don’t support a presidential candidate who openly boasts about assaulting women, aside from the fact that he’s a completely incompetent racist imbecile without the experience or soft skills necessary to be leader of the free world, THIS is why. Because I am a woman and I live in this world. And I would be ashamed to vote in favor of ANYTHING that represents this kind of misogyny — not just for me, but for my daughters.
It is that common, it is a big deal, and it shouldn’t happen all the time.