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Feminspire | April 17, 2014

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I Don’t Owe You a Smile or My Time

I Don’t Owe You a Smile or My Time

If you identify as a woman, you’ve likely been subtly or overtly conditioned to always be polite, to smile, to take up as small an amount of space as possible, to not impose. And with that, you’ve probably had your boundaries crossed or not respected by a drunk dude at a bar, or a sober dude at a bar looking for drunk women to impose himself upon. It has happened to my friends and it has happened to me, and I can’t fucking stand it. When these situations arise, it can be a challenge to overcome a lifetime of training that teaches us to not offend, especially in a culture that often treats women as objects or public property. I am 31-years-old and I did not start actively putting my needs, wants and boundaries first until I was 30. That’s a lot of time spent trying to wriggle out of uncomfortable situations with excuses, or worse, being stuck in a situation that I felt like I could not extricate myself from. But the thing is, we don’t have to be polite, and it is totally and completely okay for us to state our boundaries and expectations and to demand our space.

Last week, I was having dinner with my friend, Kevin. Prior to his arrival, I was sitting alone at the bar, drinking a cider and catching up with one of the bartenders, who it ends up I went to 3rd and 4th grade with. This dude kept coming up to the seat next to me and yelling at the bartenders. It seemed that he was trying to flirt with them, but his method of doing it was to continuously insult them. He kept looking at me after he made comments to them, trying to get my attention, but I have no interest in engaging in conversations with people who think it’s funny to put other people down. When Kevin showed up and sat down next to me, the guy came over and started poking at the piercings in the back of Kevin’s neck. ‘I know you probably think it’s normal, but did you know you have a bunch of metal shit in your neck?’ he half-shouted, his hands resting on Kevin’s shoulder. ‘Um, yeah, they’re piercings.’ Kevin replied, never turning to fully face the man. The man stayed positioned half behind Kevin and in between us, using his body to occupy the space that would have allowed Kevin and I to continue engaging in conversation. I was about to ask him to please remove himself from our space so that we could keep talking when he put his arm around me and leaned closed to my face and shouted ‘Do you know the bartenders name?’

‘No. I haven’t asked her yet’.

‘Well how are you going to have that bitch run and fetch you shit if you don’t know her name!?!’ he bellowed, blowing his beer breath in my face and leaning in closer.

A few years ago, uncomfortable by his proximity and my own cultural conditioning, I would have tried to shrug it off, to move myself out from under his arm and to make up some excuse as to why I had to go to the bathroom, hoping he would be gone before I got back. This time I put my hand up in the air in a ‘stop’ position, palm outward and said ‘I am not your friend. I do not want to talk to you. The things that you are saying are degrading and inappropriate and I need you to move away from me and get out of my space right now.’ He looked down at the ground and said ‘I’m sorry,’ and began to say something else, but I don’t know what his next words were going to be because at that point I interrupted him to say ‘It isn’t okay, and you don’t get to say anything else. You are not entitled to my time. Move yourself away from me right now!’ and I pointed firmly toward the door. He moved off to the other side of the bar and didn’t bother me or Kevin again that night. When he needed another drink, he went to the opposite end of the bar to get it and stayed away from us.

I find it to be scary as hell to be in a situation where my physical space is being imposed upon and my body language or boundaries are being ignored. I’ve never felt this to be anything other than another person acting on their own sense of entitlement and assuming that I will be too ‘polite’ or ‘friendly’ to tell them to back the fuck up off of me. And for most of my life, that’s been true. I’m not supposed to be argumentative, demanding, aggressive, or to feel entitled to my own space and time. God forbid anybody should think I’m a shrill bitch who can’t get along with others, ya know? But the thing is, demanding that your space be respected, that your person be respected, is not argumentative, demanding, or aggressive. It doesn’t make me or you a shrill bitch or an asshole or any other negative thing. It just means you’re a person who exists in this world and has a right to manage your own space and nobody has a right to impose themselves on you.

There can be negative repercussions from not speaking up, and there can be consequences from speaking up. I’ve been lucky so far in that every time I have asserted my boundaries in this way and demanded that whatever dude is in my space move away from me, they’ve done it. I think it is largely in part due to the public nature of them being called out and that in general, it is not expected that I or most women are going to tell somebody directly that they are crossing our boundaries and to move away from us and stop speaking to us. I would rather everybody in the world think I’m a shrill bitch who can’t get along with others than spend one more second of my time with somebody I don’t know feeling so entitled to my time, space, body, or smile that they think it’s okay to yell in my face, to touch me, to follow me around a bar or concert, or to occupy any of my mental or physical space.

I don’t think it should be a radical notion to believe and enforce the idea that women, as human beings, are entitled to be left alone when we want to be and that we should be able to state our needs and wants and have them respected. But seemingly, it is, and I want that to change.

What about you? Have you ever felt cornered by some dude you didn’t know but you didn’t know how to get out of the situation or what to say? Are you somebody that demands your space be respected? Do you want to be? If you saw a woman at a bar in a similar situation, would you support her? Would you want to be supported? What can we do, together, to help empower each other in these situations? Meet me down in the comments section, and let’s talk about it.

Written by Sara Luckey
You can tweet with her here, talk beauty with her here , or engage in a conversation about current events as viewed through a sociopolitical, feminist lens here.

  • Meg

    Great article! Thanks for giving a concrete example of what we could say in a situation like that. Asserting myself and not being too polite is definitely something I need to work on.

    • Sara Luckey

      I think it’s great when there’s a common problem or situation and people share ideas about what to say or do and then practice them together. I think this is one way of us doing that together, and i like it. Shrugging off the politeness is hard, but ultimately worth it. I mean, essentially we are taught that politeness is more important than self-preservation, and I can’t get behind that.

  • Alex C

    I highly applaud the way you handled that situation and the exact words that you used. Neither conceding nor rude, you were strong in putting down your foot without attacking his person. Very well done.
    I’ve yet to navigate myself to where you are, but I am slowly progressing there with experience.

    • Sara Luckey

      Thank you so much. It is really hard at first, to start asserting your boundaries in this way. And there is an element of fear of potential physical consequences. It can be really difficult to way that out, and I wish you the best of luck on your journey.

    • FunFunDate

      I agree! :)

  • Lisa

    I am so glad that you did this and then wrote about it. It is shocking and sad to me that so many women are conditioned to think that a response like that is rude or inappropriate when in fact it is the opposite. Thank you for making change one boundary-assertion at a time.

    • Sara Luckey

      Thank you so much, Lisa. Shaking off our conditioning can be hard, but it can also make the world a better place one little piece at a time.

  • megan

    One of the most empowering moments for me was shouting at a bar creeper a few months ago.

    • brookstyle

      whats a creeper?

  • Vivid Sammy

    I tend to become a little aggressive with people like that, I either walk away or resort to more physical actions by literally pushing them away if my super mean/mad face doesn’t work. This article made me understand a little better where my anger comes from and actually just calmly telling them to move away seem like a waaay better thing to do. Thanks!

    • Sara Luckey

      Epiphany day! Awesome! I sometimes feel the urge to physically push or shove, too. This type of thing happens SO regularly that I start to wonder why I have to be polite or careful with them, ya know? But ultimately, I fear that reacting with violence would garner more violence, and that could be disastrous. I bet you have an awesome super mean/mad face. Shade for days!

  • Mandy

    Do any of you ladies ever fear the consequences from speaking up? Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of unbalanced men lose their tempers and lash out against women they feel have “disrespected” them by not giving them what they want. This all happened when I was too young to really defend the women I saw it happening to. Now that I’m older, I try to playfully dissuade the man-children who try to get all up in my space and come on too strong. I never get too aggressive, I just use one of the many excuses I have in my arsenal and I hate every second of pretending to play nice with these assholes. I’d LOVE to put these people in their place, but I’m not very big, I don’t carry weapons, and I honestly don’t know what I’d do in a situation that turned ugly.

    I hate feeling that I have to sacrifice defending myself for my sense of security if I’m out alone.

    • Sara Luckey

      Absolutely! I want to be able to always verbally state my needs and wants and have them respected, but I also know that there is potential physical harm in doing so. It’s one of the things we have to weight out when assessing our situations, and it is scary, you’re totally right.

    • BotanyBuff

      Sure. Sometimes it’s actually safer to be loud and aggressive, though. According to one of the retired state troopers in my martial arts school, yelling and swearing and things like that actually make you less of a target. Of course, all of these things are situational, but showing that you aren’t afraid to call other people’s attention to the bad behavior is occasionally the best policy.

  • Ariela

    I loved this article. I have the tendency to be really accommodating towards other people, even at the expense of my own comfort and everything you said really challenges the expectations that we should be so conditioned to just try to avoid people instead of confronting them.
    Yesterday a truck full of guys stopped by me and my friend as we were walking back to our dorm and started cat calling things at us. Usually I ignore these things, but this time instead, I flipped them off and yelled to fuck off. Needless to say, they were surprised.

    • Sara Luckey

      I think you bring up a really good point when you mention they were surprised. It often seems like the situation is set up so we lose either way. If we ignore them, we’re ‘asking for it’ and if we confront them we’re a ‘stupid bitch’ in a lot of situations. But often, giving any kind of push-back will be met with surprise because that sense of entitlement stretches so deep, they don’t expect any pushback at all. It really can be surprising to them that we’re asserting our space and boundaries.

  • Ida

    Great article! I experienced something similar at a party once. This drunk guy kept asking me to kiss him, and when I told him no he started calling me names instead. Some men are just lovely. But the thing that put me down about this situation was when I told other females around me about what he called me and for what reason, none of them stepped in to help me. They just gave me the ”I’m sorry” look, and ignored me.

    • Sara Luckey

      OH NO! I’m all about the sisterhood and I think we DO need to help each other out! These situations can be scary and the reasons they’re scary is because the threat of potential harm is real and we can’t know for sure whether the dude that’s in our space now is going to physically harm us later. I think it’s important that we can feel comfortable and strong in asserting our boundaries and asking for space, but I would really like to see women helping each other out in these situations a little more frequently. Trust, were I there, I would have come and stood close to you so you would have felt support, and lended a verbal hand if it seemed necessary.

  • shebrolet

    This has happened to me a few times. The one time that really sticks in my head was when I was 18 and on a bus by myself. The guy doing the intimidating was intellectually handicapped. I felt that I couldn’t stop him because of his disability.
    That was over 17 years ago now, and I wouldn’t have the same problem telling him to get out of my personal space today, regardless of his disability.
    The more I think about these situations, the angrier I get. We need to be teaching young females that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable. It shouldn’t have taken me over 30 years to be able to defend my personal space and rights to a harassment free life.

    • Sara Luckey

      You’re spot on about teaching young girls and women that this behavior is unacceptable. We also need to teach our young boys and men to treat women with respect and that this behavior is not acceptable.

  • missminute

    Assertiveness often comes with age for both women and men. I have always been an outspoken woman, but even so as I grew older I became more so. For me it was never about social conditioning, growing stronger and more confident was simply a nice side affect of growing up and letting go of youthful insecurities. It has been similar for many of my female friends.

    • Sara Luckey

      Absolutely! There’s definitely more than one aspect at play here, and in all situation. The thing I like most about my 30′s is that I’m done being in my 20′s. And I’m looking very forward to my 40′s with anticipation of what new and great strengths will come.

  • http://www.facebook.com/maria.a.borromeo Maria Adelaide Borromeo

    This is also true when it comes to verbal harassment or verbal abuse, and to friends/family/partners/acquaintenances. Respect is a duty and a right!

    • Sara Luckey

      You are absolutely right and I am in complete agreement. Verbal abuse from a loved one can be so much trickier and more difficult to navigate than harassment from a stranger because ultimately, feelings are involved with loved ones that just won’t be there when interacting with a stranger. It adds another entire element of difficulty to the situation.

      • Stephanie

        I loved this article! Thank you so much for speaking your experience! I also loved reading the other experiences from women in the comments section with similar difficulties.

        I spend 3 months in Kenya, and was shocked and saddened with the sexism I encountered there, and how it was just expected, and accepted by both the men AND the women. I did workshops with teens, in regards to equality and peace. This was a huge growing experience for me, and standing up for what I believe in, as well as empowering others to do the same, as much as it seemed like a never-ending struggle to do so at times.

        What I think is one of my biggest problems in my personal life, is standing up for myself to people I know and care about. I usually have no problem, being very firm, and assertive with strangers when they are making me uncomfortable. However, when it comes to intimate relationships, this is usually another story for me. Strangers, I could give a shit if they like me or not, lovers and friends, this is very important to me.

        When I got back from Kenya, I got myself out of a very abusive relationship, with much time to ponder, and to empower myself while I was there, this was fairly easy, and felt SOOOOO good to FINALLY stand up to him, and he was shocked!

        Anyway, I just wanted to applaud you on writing this article, it has helped me check myself once again, as far as what I am doing, putting up with, and how I am respecting myself, on a daily basis.

        Thank you, and thank you to all the ladies who voiced their experiences as well! Keep it up! We gotta be there for each other one inappropriate situation at a time:)

        • Sara Luckey

          I am so glad you’re safer now! I am definitely with you on being with each other. Let’s show our sisters support when they are in public and in need. For sure!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jennylynne Jenny Porter Tilley

    Great post! Reminds me of the time I was at a club downtown and this creepy guy kept trying to pull me–physically–away from my friends to dance with him. I repeatedly shrugged him off and moved farther away. After he didn’t give up, a HUGE guy (complete stranger) came up and told him to stop hitting on his wife (me!). There need to be more people like you and my pretend husband for that night who don’t just accept the fact that “you’re in a bar so you’re going to be hit on and people are going to hang all over you so just accept it.”

    • Sara Luckey

      That fake husband dude is awesome! It would be great if more people would start moving as interactive players when somebody is in a time of need, or distress. I’m glad you’re safe Jenny, because you’re awesome!

  • DaniF

    I love it, Sara! As I was reading this article, my own experiences started to surface. I struggle with expressing my own needs/concerns/feelings as I worry about how it will impact the other person. I have only recently started to assert myself more in situations that make me feel uncomfortable or harrassed. One lady came to my door yelling at me about my dog, and I asked her to not be rude, which caused her to yell even louder. That was when I told her to leave my property. It was pretty empowering, and I didn’t experience the thoughts afterwards of, “I should have said this, or I should have said that.” I find that the most irritating — stewing on the situation afterwards, wishing I would have handled it differently. As I said, my issue is worrying too much about how it will impact the other person, and I rarely allow myself to say, “This doesn’t feel good to me. Why do they get to impose their belief’s, feelings, etc. onto me, and why am I allowing this to happen?” And I feel you hit it right on, when you stated that a part of our culture has asked us to be silent. I have really worked hard towards allowing my girls to feel that they have a voice, and have every right to assert themselves in situations where they feel like they have been wronged or disagree. And boy do they EVA! Keep up the amazing work! I look forward to reading more.

    • Sara Luckey

      Dani, everything you’re saying makes so much sense to me and I totally relate. I think it takes a lot of reflection and introspection, or discussion with like-minded people to get to that point of feeling like our needs and wants are important enough or worthwhile enough to be primary instead of secondary or tertiary. I think we get conditioned in a multitude of ways to listen, to be empathetic, to not offend, to not make waves, and that often comes with subjecting ourselves to attention we don’t actually want. Getting to a place where we can tell ourselves that we value ourselves enough to put ourselves first is hard, but rewarding. I am happy for your girls that they have such an awesome mama!

    • hazelthecrow

      Dead right – Its really scary to put your foot down, but much worse is stewing for days after a ‘polite’ response wishing you’d said this or that! Im sick to death of that boiling anger mixed with disappointment in myself for not being stronger. part of the Nice Girl conditioning is to beleive that strength comes with enduring, being patient, accomodating and bearing whatever it is… and there is a kind of strength in those things, but its needs saving for people and situations who matter, not wasting on these entitled fuckwits!

      Thankyou Sara for lancing this personal and political boil on my back – there are more times than I can count that this has happened to me and people near me and I’ve just cringed away.Only in the last year have i started being even slightly mean -and its easier to do for someone else than myself, still. Nearly thirty, and way out of patience – and ready to back up the mortified silent, female or male .

  • Sarahphina

    This is an awesome piece, Sara. And it’s something I really struggle with. I want to be able to act like you did every time this happens. I find that I’m actually able to about half the time. I’m not afraid of being considered a shrill bitch (because I give no fucks about that), but I get scared for my safety very easily. I’m afraid they’ll be waiting for me outside and will hurt me or something. A few weeks ago, was walking to an doc appointment from my office, bopping my head along to my iPod. I had one of those moments you sometimes have with people on the street where you come around a corner, there’s someone right there, and you both move one direction then the other in a sort of awkward “shall we dance” type of way. I smiled, as these situations are usually funny, but instead of each going around me and I around him, he moved into my space, like he was going to corner me against the wall (broad daylight, public area). He said something, which I couldn’t hear because of my music. But I cowered, held up my hands submissively and said “I’m sorry I”m sorry” before I could even think to do or say anything else. A man who had been behind me got in his face and said “is there a problem?” and then turned to me and said “are you ok?” (I had the earbuds out by this time). The offender walked away muttering something about “fucking bitch.” And I nodded and thanked the intervener before bursting into tears. I was shakey from the adrenaline of feeling physically threatened, and also with the shame of having actually APOLOGIZED to that asshole.

    • Sara Luckey

      I am so glad you’re safe! I’ve apologized as a reaction before too, when I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m glad you’re ok.

  • nyssa23

    This is great, Sara! I need to be better about standing up for myself in that way. <3

    • Sara Luckey

      You can do it, Nyssa! Totes magotes!

  • Kara

    It seems like space invasion always happens to me in confined spaces, like elevators. I hate it so much and hate that I don’t feel like I have the right to tell some creepo dude to fuck off and leave me alone. I’ve exited an elevator floors early and taken the stairs to get away from leering fuckers how want to stand close enough to brush against me when there’s nobody else in the elevator with us. I don’t even like it when random dudes try to chat me up in elevators. Confined spaces with unknown males is automatically a knee jerk potential danger situation for me.

    • Sara Luckey

      I hear ya on the knee jerk reaction to feeling unsafe in enclosed spaces with a strange man in proximity. And Kara, you absolutely 100% do have every right to tell somebody that they are crossing your boundaries or that you need them to respect your personal space. It can be really scary to do sometimes, but I think that if we can do it on occasion, these small instances will make a bigger change in the cumulative.

    • http://twitter.com/edotwoods edotwoods

      I am forever turning around in lines to say to the dude behind me, “I need more space than this. Take a step back.” I don’t like being breathed on!

  • Redheadedlib

    This is amazing, & so empowering! I am 41, a feminist, well-educated, independent, etc.– but I struggle with this concept almost on a daily basis. I cannot STAND to make others uncomfortable, especially men, and it has led to me getting into some very precarious situations in my life. Being called stuck-up, snobby, high & mighty, bitch, lesbian, etc. has been a part of it, also. I think this is one of the most important lessons we need to “undo” in our daughters. To entitled men: Girls are not here to soothe you or make your life better. We are not your ready-made audience, here to stroke your ego & pump up your manhood.

    • Sara Luckey

      Absolutely! It’s discomforting to know how much discomfort we will take on in order to prevent another person from feeling that same discomfort. I agree that this is a lesson we need to undo in our daughters (and the sense of entitlement to women needs to be worked on in our sons). I’m also really glad you feel empowered!

  • Becca

    This really hit home for me. Until I was in my twenties I was very shy, especially around boys. I pretty much would just turn red and avoid eye contact when something uncomfortable was happening. Now that I’m older and I manager at my job I deal with guys (and girls) who don’t want to listen to me, or don’t think that I’ll do anything when they break rules because “it’s just me.”
    I really wish more young women would realize that they are strong and don’t owe anyone anything.

  • just_like_jen

    This is a fantastic article. I know this feeling all too well. This is an issue that affects me not only as a female but as someone who is young with a high percentage of my body tattooed. I do tend to attract quite a lot of (more often than not) unwanted attention. People find the way I look intriguing and want to question me about it, I can understand that, but beyond a 1-2 minute polite conversation it’s just invasive. I’m normally out with my friends as well which distracts me from my enjoyment of an evening. Having been brought up to always be as polite as possible (especially to those who are older than me) I often find it so difficult to speak up and tell some drunk, old man that enough is enough and I want him to leave me alone. I’ve never really thought about it before but you’re right. I’m the only person who is entitled to my time and I shall be sure to enforce this in future. Thank you so much!

  • EmilyRed

    I agree with a lot of this. From being in the military for almost 9 years, I had to deal with this daily. I hate how men feel as if they can say whatever to you and its fine, but if you take the time to stick up for yourself you are considered to be a rude bitch. When did this become the norm for men? To be so rude to women, and to expect something from it, who are these women putting up with this and enabling them? We all have to stick up for ourselves and help other women out if we see them in this situation. I don’t know what we are afraid of if we stick up for ourselves, why should we even care what these men think? We shouldn’t have to be in this position to begin with, men should not even be doing this to us. I would say they are the problem, so educate the men in your life, educate your sons, tell your male friends how situations like this make you feel and maybe this can make a difference. Sorry if I seemed like I was rambling, I liked this article a lot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaron.foster.98 Aaron Foster

    I think it’s great you told this guy to go away.

    What you have identified here is a piece of a larger problem. The larger problem is that people have been conditioned to avoid conflict at all costs, not just women. When you hear about the ‘pussification of men’, usually it’s talking about this exact thing. When you hear people complain about an overly politically correct society, that’s another facet.

    The ‘asshole at the bar’ problem is something guys deal with all the time. Many ‘nice guys’ will sit and take a bunch of crap from some jerk at a bar and not tell them to go away because of the conditioning they have received.

    People need to be told that causing some conflict, or making somebody feel bad, is not always some horrible thing that needs to be avoided at all costs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/GertieAnn Gretchen Addington

    i don’t really have a problem asserting myself in a bar or other situation where i can get a little liquid courage. where i have a problem is in the professional environment. in my field, which is typically quite male dominated, it is very difficult to remain professional and assert yourself, maybe not over your own space, but over your ideas as a scientist and your skills in the lab. demanding intellectual rights can be much more difficult because a shove or other physical gesture is completely inappropriate and can justifiably end your employment and ruin your reputation. to remain level headed in a room full of men, all of them jockeying against each other, after being conditioned to smile and fetch refreshments is outrageously difficult.

    • Michelle Britton

      Gretchen, absolutely! I have worked as a freelance photographer’s assistant for 6 years and the same problems arise in that field as well. Being a photo assistant requires physical strength and an ability to work quickly and with knowledgeable skill. I can’t tell you how many times I have been belittled for being a woman in this field in so many ways (not to mention all of the sexist shit I help produce… I’m now working on my masters in psychology and changing careers for a number of reasons). The amount to which a woman has to fight to be considered equal by a man is nearly laughable.

  • David Lewis

    Wow, that had to be the lamest stand ever made.

  • Missell

    I felt like this could have been any night in my life downtown in any city. Without fail, if I end up in a heteronormative bar, this will happen to me in some variation. I like to doll up and I guess guys think I do that for them? I’m so glad I took the time to read this article! I needed the food for thought. I am a 6 ft tall lesbian fire fighter and I still let guys get away with bullshit like this. Why???

  • Liz

    This reminds me of a time at work. A guy came in with a friend, and they were picking up an order. I asked how I could help him, and he looked at one of the girls, and said, “I’d like to put her on the tab!” I looked at him and replied, “Our employees aren’t for sale.” He didn’t have a comeback.

    Or the time my little sister was riding the bus home from school. A guy got on and sat next to her, trying to flirt. She was uncomfortable. He put his hand on her leg, and she told him to stop. But he didn’t. Luckily the bus driver noticed, and told the guy to move. The guy made a scene, saying that the bus driver couldn’t tell him what to do. Eventually the bus driver actually pulled over the bus and had to call the police, who escorted him off the bus. It gives me chills to think about anyone in this situation, let alone my little sister. It’s scary that in a public situation on a bus, this could happen. Thank goodness the bus driver did something. I don’t like to think what could have happened if no one had stood up for her. That sense of entitlement you speak of runs much deeper in some than others, I think.

  • Robert

    I’ve been working in bars for the past two years, and unfortunately this is a situation I see arise again and again, especially amongst the younger women. I’ve often had to step in when someone is putting off obvious body language that they don’t want to be talked to, yet are ignored because they do not outright state it.

    I do hope that plenty of others out there can learn from this article and your experiences, and that hopefully someday this sense of entitlement comes to an end.

  • Guest

    Can I just say thank you for writing this? I guess it’s technically nothing I didn’t know before, but your story about standing up and telling him to leave, rather than just slinking off to the bathroom, was extremely inspiring. I think it was because you also included the fact that for the previous 30 years of your life, you /would have/ just slunk off to the bathroom. But this time was different for you. I’ve always wanted so badly to be the person who stands up for myself and asserts my rights, but I never do. I secretly fear my socialization is too strong, that I won’t be able to overcome my meekness and fear. Seeing how you used to feel the same way, but were still able to be so strong, touched me. But you have inspired me to do this the next time a person inevitably inhabits my personal space, or the next time I feel the overwhelming cultural pressure to be polite. You are brave and wonderful. Thank you!

  • Ariadna Alvarado

    great post, a bit late over here, but I just want to share my experience, for the last few months my sister’s father has been acting weird with me, he hugs me and tries to kiss me, and tries to touch me BUT whenever my mom is not around, I mean am scared of arriving early at my house cause I don’t want run into him, and the other day he was checking my car and said that we should do a test drive and the whole time he was touching my thigh and I told him to stop and he didn’t liste,it was the worst car drive ever, I don’t know how to tell my mom,and I’m scare to do something like you did cause when he does these things we’re usually alone and I’m scared…

    • Sara Luckey

      Hey, Ariadna. That’s pretty concerning. I’m going to shoot you an e-mail and see if we can find a solution, ok?

  • Rebecca

    Very thoughtful article. I live in the South where the social pressure to be demure and respect others before ourselves is instilled into us as girls.

    My most recent experience with this was at a pool party (partygoers in their 30s-40s). I was sitting on the edge of the pool dangling my feet in – I didn’t want to get my hair wet – and an inebriated man from the other side of the pool started shooting me in the face with a water gun. I didn’t know him and, after each shot, he would duck behind the woman he came with and laugh. I firmly told him that I did not want to be shot in the face with a water gun (like it even needed to be said) and to back off. Everyone, including the hostess, acted like I was out of line. After accelerating his “attack,” we just decided to leave. I was (and still am) irritated with my boyfriend for not doing something about it; although he did not think I was out of line, he did not want to “make waves” (pun intended). It would have been nice to have someone back me up.

    Thank you for writing this article. I will use it to put greater effort into standing up for myself and my fellow sisters.

    • brookstyle

      it wasnt like a pool party was it?

  • http://twitter.com/Tonks07 Mandy

    Why does a drunk guy yelling sexist remarks and getting all up in a stranger’s personal space deserve respect? Sorry doesn’t change his actions. And actions speak louder than words.

  • brookstyle

    he who wants the earth shall inherit the earth and he shall live in one small room forever.

  • Frank

    I’m a male, and this isn’t a purely feminist issue, although there are definitely guys who impose themselves on girls. I took a self-defense class that focused on the situational aspect of self-defense, preventing yourself from getting into that situation in the first place. The way you (the author) talked to the impeding dude reminded me of my evening I spent there. Check it out if anyone is interested, I showed it to my girlfriend and my siblings as a means of protection in a crazy world http://www.fastdefense.com/

  • sam

    I once had a situation when I was 18 and working a secretarial and sales position withone of the sales managers. He thought because I dressed Gothic, it meant I was a plaything for anyone, I guess and while my clothing didn’t show off anything below an inch or so below my collarbone and I usually wore dark, loose, work jeans, he would call me a tease or a slut for dressing like that. One day he backed me into the wall while trying to grab at my butt and telling me that I’m legal and his type. What he didn’t realize was I also worked/lived on a horse farm and was studying veterinary medicine with a focus in livestock. I was plenty used to big dumb things trying to push me around, and I always carried a knife with me. After I told him to back off and leave me alone, I ended up having to pull my knife out and press the tip of it against his stomach, where I decided to point out his liver, pancreas, and stomach to him with the warningto not mess with me again unless he wanted to see them in person. He did end up leaving me alone for the rest of the time I worked there, but I never ended up filing sexual harassment charges or anything. Sometimes it’s better to have people fear you then like you.

    • David Lewis

      This didn’t happen.

  • LikesToKeepItReal

    I remember once that I was going to the laundromat in my apartment building. A man held the elevator and asked me to smile for him. I didn’t want to but I did anyway. It’s as if he felt entitled to this behavior. Another time, I was walking in the street and a mam said hi to me. I was going to say hi, yet he called me a fucking ugly bitch. I was confused. There was another time when I was 15 (I guess I was moving fast) and a guy who lives in my building (he was 20) tried to sleep with me. I did let it go on because he would pull me into the elevator and kiss my neck. So, my little sister had her JHS graduation. We were in the nail salon until after midnight. When we left, I went to a corner store to buy a hero sandwich. I saw the guy, so he walked with me. He lived in my apartment building with his mom. So, we’re in the building and he starts the whole kissing thing. I wasn’t interested in being with him. I wanted to go on. I guess I led it on a bit. Then he starts pulling my pants down. He tries to put his penis in my anus. I kept telling him no. It’s as if he felt entitled to having sex with me. I kept saying no, yet he wouldn’t listen. I was almost raped but he stopped. He said that he would ejaculate on my shirt. I was a virgin also. I am okay now but that experience was really bad. I’d never wish that on anyone. Some men are seriously something else.

  • Rafia

    I’m from Pakistan which happens to be a conservative Islamic country. My cousin tried to kiss me once and I never stopped him because I thought it would be rude and I was scared as hell. I have cursed myself since then for not being strong enough. Great article it really hits the hammer on the head!

  • Anon

    > But the thing is, we don’t have to be polite

    And neither do men. With that said: Go fuck yourself :)

    • pitchdove

      Oh, go back to reddit. Nobody cares.

  • Sophia Perry

    I like everything about your actions, but I do wonder one thing… what should you do if you encounter a customer who’s like this? I’m paid pretty much for them to be entitled to my time… but should I put up with this kind of crap, or should I start speaking up, with the potential of losing my job to some rude loser’s comments? Is there a line, and how do I know when it’s been crossed? My boundaries have been overstepped many, many times by customers, and frankly, I’m sick of it but don’t know what to do.

  • John Williams

    I’m a man and I’ve been “conditioned” to be polite, smile and not impose. Makes sense since we are all part of a society.
    The above notwithstanding, I think you were magnificent in your story at the bar. No one should be forced to engage anyone else in any undesired manner. Ever. Intruding on your personal space is a definite no-no.
    Too often, the assumption is that someone dresses up, puts on make-up or goes to a bar in order to “get some”. If that is not the case, then inform those who are mistaken. Politely at first and, if necessary, in as glorious a manner as you did.

  • Bryan Novaco

    I am so sorry that anyone has to go threw this. As a male, I’m embarrassed that men treat women this way. I was not raised like that by my mother. I was taught to have respect for everyone especially a lady. I’m just sorry that too many men do things like this to women. I will never just sit back and let it happen if I see it. I will stand and support any woman that I see in a situation like this because If it was my sister than I would want someone there to support her.

  • Lee

    I hope I learn how to do this soon. It’s not only women that experience this. I, for one, am ridiculously polite, to the point where I let people walk all over me. I agree to things I don’t want to do because I feel obligated to, and I feel obligated simply because the other person insists. I’ve been aware of myself doing this for so long, but still I find myself smiling politely while people take advantage of me. Working in retail doesn’t help either, as it’s basically my job to take shit from other people and not say anything about it, which only cements the habit elsewhere.

    I think the reason I’m like this is because I was treated badly as a child, and my revulsion at the thought of hurting anyone and making them feel how I felt has driven me to an extreme where I don’t want to assert myself for fear of becoming an oppressor. Irrational I know, but that’s how it is. Somehow, I have to find a balance between being compassionate and being firm when I need to be.