Monday, June 20, 2011

It's Not Rude to Say "Stop" When Enough is Enough

[TW for harassment, misogyny and socialized forced silence]

Every woman I've ever met in my life has had at least one instance where they felt that they were being harassed but felt incapable of stopping the harassment because they didn't want to appear rude. They didn't want to react because even though their gut was telling them that the person was infringing upon their boundaries, they felt that the people around them might think that they were overreacting. The women who decided to press on with their repeated requests for the harassment to stop, including myself, were told that they were killjoys, oversensitive, hysterical, overreacting, etc. This, in turn, resulted in them minimizing the person's actions in their own heads and questioning their reaction to the situation, ultimately deciding to just let it go because hey, maybe it really wasn't that bad.

I'm here to tell you that yes, it was that bad, and no, you weren't overreacting. You weren't being hysterical or oversensitive or anything else that they told you you were being. You were simply defending your physical, emotional, sexual, mental, psychological, etc. boundaries, and there is nothing rude about that. What is rude is taking someone's boundaries and treating them as if they are negotiable and/or nonexistent. 

Women have been socialized since the dawn of time to be demure, non-confrontational and passive. Any time we have stood up and protested an act of harassment, we have been told that we were overreacting, that we were being hysterical, that we were reacting over nothing. That is exactly what the patriarchy wants; it wants us to believe that we are being rude to say no to someone who is stepping on and over our boundaries. It wants us to question ourselves. It wants us to second-guess ourselves. It wants us to believe that every reaction to every instance of harassment is an overreaction so that it will be easier for harassers to get away with infringing upon our boundaries. 

The thing about boundaries is that they are different for every person. What works for one person will not work for another. My emotional, physical, sexual, psychological, mental, etc. boundaries will not be exactly the same as the boundaries of the woman standing next to me on the elevator at school. Her boundaries will not be exactly the same as those of the professor standing at the front of the room. Her boundaries will not be exactly the same as those of the woman sitting next to her on the train on the way home. Everyone's boundaries are different. However, these boundaries do have one thing in common: they do not have to be justified. Your boundaries are your own, regardless of the reason (or lack of reason) for them, and you have every right to expect other people to respect those boundaries. When someone crosses those boundaries, you are well within your right to tell them to stop, and if they don't, you are not being rude for being aggressive in your defense of those boundaries.

They are being rude for aggressively ignoring them.

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