This is not about workplace harassment.
This is not about the man who felt up my bare knee under the table during a meeting at work. This is not about the time he sat on me at another meeting, giggling as he crushed me with his body.
Neither is this about the time I blocked a colleague I hardly knew on social media after he sent me suggestive messages and a picture. I ignored his dozens of notifications until finally he flipped out and sent a series of vicious emails berating me for, among other things, my bad online etiquette.
I have more stories about these and other men who interrupted my right to earn in peace. We all do. Almost every woman I know has dealt with weird men who have crossed one basic common sense and decency boundary after another.
But this post is not about the creeps I had to navigate at work. This is about the men who helped me get through.
I’ve been sitting with this post for a while. The tipping point happened the other day when the latest in a long list of excellent male friends said he was examining his own past actions with women, wondering if he’d ever been disrespectful to the point of harassment. It’s kind of a #MeToo? movement which at first seemed okay. If only all men would examine their own past and present actions, apologize if necessary, make restitution if necessary, and resolve to be more aware of respectful boundaries forevermore.
The problem is, not all men are checking themselves. I’ve seen only the most decent of men do so.
There is a big difference between a man who abuses women and one who does not. Hurting and bothering women is not something men do, it’s something sociopaths and creepy weirdos do. Suggesting that the urge to impose upon others is an inevitability of being male lets the bad men off the hook. In fact, the creepy men I have had the misfortune of knowing would be the first to claim their behavior is a normal aspect of being male.
I dealt with each creepy man through the proper channels and met varying degrees of justice depending upon the place. Through each experience, I often dreaded going to work. Being harassed made me lonely as hell. Hardly anyone knew what was going on.
Here’s something else: Throughout each bad time, the consistent professionalism of the rest of my male colleagues reminded me that the behavior of the creep was strange and not my fault. And yeah, I needed the reminder. I especially valued the true friends who I knew would stand up for me physically if it came to that. Sad to say, I needed that knowledge too.
To the good men who are searching their souls in the aftermath of Trump et. al, keep self-aware, but also please know that the difference between you and the creeps is as vast as the ocean. Let’s let the waters close over the the abusive and the toxic. You are not them.
Help us drown them out.