It’s time for another episode of “what really grinds my gears.”
Today: why people need to stop dismissing sexual assault as “just…”
I hear it all of the time. It’s just a cat call. Just a kiss on the cheek (in the case of a reporter at Osheaga last week). It was just a friendly comment. Last year, I tweeted about an old man that catcalled me and numerous men on my Twitter feed told me it was a compliment. I should be flattered. Let me tell you, there is nothing flattering about being catcalled. It’s degrading to both parties. But they’re probably “nice guys” that just aren’t appreciated *cue eye roll emoji*.
This week, Taylor Swift is making headlines as she is in court, battling a lawsuit filed by David Mueller, a Denver DJ who lost his job after an incident where he allegedly groped her. Swift has countersued for $1, demanding an apology. While the trial is ongoing, a lot of comments I see online are “it was just a butt grab.” So called feminists who preach about defending women when forced to confront someone who assaulted them are notably silent (Demi Lovato, I’m looking in your direction. Maybe you’re matching on Capitol Hill…?). Feminists stop being feminists when Taylor Swift is involved it seems. No support for her. After all, it was just a butt grab. No big deal. Right?
A similar statement echoed through social media when a fan attending a live event commented that a child had slapped the posterior of WWE Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss.
The kid was praised, fans wanted to give the kid a high five. She wears such short shorts, she had it coming! Besides, he’s just a kid and it’s JUST a butt grab. No big deal! Calm down feminists, it’s not sexual assault. It’s just a playful slap on the butt!
Except it’s not just a butt grab. It’s not “no big deal.” It’s not “calm down.” It IS sexual assault. Taylor Swift is an entertainer, but she’s also a human being. She deserves basic respect. She doesn’t deserve to be sued because she didn’t stand for being molested by a DJ. All of the “she’ll write a song about it,” etc. jokes do not take away from the fact that this man allegedly sexually assaulted Taylor Swift. I commend this smart, strong woman for standing her ground, because the millions of little girls that look up to her are watching & she’s showing them that you do not have to dismiss sexual assault as “just a butt grab.”
I’ve been in situations where a guy took liberties. Last year a customer grabbed my ass while throwing something in my garbage can. I was furious, but when I called a friend back home & told him the story, he pointed out it was “just a butt grab.” I wear tight pants to work, right? I kind of accepted it, but I sometimes wonder how many women dismiss sexual assault or harassment as “just…” I’ve even been told by female relatives that as we age, the catcalls stop and we should be flattered that men still find us attractive. But is it flattering when it makes us feel gross? To me, flattering is something that makes us feel good, not super gross. I can’t imagine Taylor felt good, and considering she complained & Mueller was fired. I can’t imagine Alexa Bliss feels good when grown ass men teach little boys to slap her ass and catcall her. It’s not flattering, nor a compliment. We need to stop referring to this behaviour as such and refer to it as what it is; harassment. To those who do these things; it’s a funny story and a high five, but to the women involved, it’s a loss of trust, a loss of personal safety. As guys like Mueller become legends around the bar, women like Taylor become labelled as cold and standoffish, because they’re not comfortable in those situations anymore. Great trade off, right?
If it makes you feel uncomfortable, unhappy, or unsafe, it’s not flattering and it’s okay to stand up for yourself and say that this is not acceptable behaviour. It’s not okay to tell a woman that it’s just a slap on the butt, or just a friendly catcall, be flattered. The more we diminish this very real harassment, the more we embolden others to think it’s okay. I commend Taylor for standing up for herself, not settling, and making this man accountable for his actions. Maybe this will encourage other women to speak up about harassment in the workplace, at a club, or even among friends when a joke went too far. After all, the only way this sort of behaviour will be stopped is when we as a society stop tolerating it, and kudos to Taylor for not just shaking it off, but standing her ground instead.