I walked out of the locker room, and some boy called out, “You’ve got a nice butt!” I turned to find a group of boys huddled on the bleachers, looking my way. In response, I shot them a look of disgust, which turned into a nervous smile, and out of nowhere, a calm and clear, “Thank you,” escaped from my lips before I continued on my way. I left the gym wondering how a 10-second exchange that involved only seven words could make my head so screwy.
What Was Going on in My Head…
I felt angry. How dare they treat me like a piece of meat? I hated feeling powerless. My body and my privacy were violated, yet all I could do was shoot them a dirty look.
When I realized that they were all staring at me, my disgust quickly melted into self-consciousness. I felt exposed, vulnerable — like some carnival freak. I covered my uneasiness with a sheepish smile; meanwhile, my mind was racing…
I found myself thinking, “Maybe they’re not making fun of me. Maybe they like me. After all, I do have a nice butt.” I guess that’s why I said, “Thank you.” It felt good to get attention… to be noticed.
Girls find themselves faced with dilemmas like this every day. These situations are confusing and bring up a mixture of emotions.
It would be easy to dismiss this butt remark as trivial, but that would be wrong. Ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away. How violent or nasty does a comment have to be in order for it to be wrong? Or to be serious enough for people to discuss?
This butt remark shows a lack of respect between the sexes and lays the foundation for bigger problems… like sexual harassment. I think that makes it important enough to discuss.
Flirting or Hurting?
It’s hard to distinguish between normal flirting and sexual harassment. A basic definition of sexual harassment as “unwanted and unwelcome sexual behavior that interferes with your life. Sexual harassment is not behavior that you like or want.” Sexual harassment includes inappropriate jokes, gestures, leering, staring, sexual comments, touching, pinching, or grabbing.
Sexual harassment affects your self-esteem and interferes with your right to learn, study, work, and participate in school activities in a comfortable atmosphere. For more info check out: www.feminist.org/.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, try these suggestions:
- Think twice before responding with a witty remark or a nasty comeback. Resist the temptation to sink to the perpetrator’s level.
- Forget the old adage about “sticks and stones… ” Ignoring doesn’t work. However, you shouldn’t take the comments personally. One Web site suggests that you imagine throwing the comments into a garbage can instead of taking them inside your heart or your head.
- Tell someone you respect and trust — a teacher, parent, counselor, or other role models.
- Don’t blame yourself or feel ashamed. The perpetrator is responsible for his/her own behavior.
- Don’t think it’s all in your head, or that you’re being overly sensitive. Chances are if it makes you feel bad or uncomfortable, it’s probably inappropriate.
- Title IX of the 1972 Education Act states that sexual harassment is illegal in schools. Check out your school’s policy on sexual harassment. Know your rights.
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