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September 10, 2015

Standing Up Against Sexual Harassment: Be a Woman About It.

martinak15, Flickr

Her words are still ringing in my ears.

Her young face apologetic, embarrassed to be speaking about this at all.

As I sat there, watching her try to make herself smaller, inconsequential, I saw myself, 25 years earlier.

It was my first real job after university. I was standing in line at the fax machine with two male co-workers.

“Hey, Jeff, don’t Christine’s breast’s look great today?”

“They sure do, Dave. Hey, Christine, are your boobs growing or something?”

I froze, humiliated. The walls closed in, the sound of blood pounding through my head—I felt my face turn red.

I had no words, no comeback.

Listening now to my employee, I felt the blood rushing again. I felt her embarrassment as my own. However, something had shifted. The spark of humiliation ignited a fire.

I began to see red.

It was the red of the divine feminine warrior rising to battle.  It was the red of a woman enraged. It was the red of Kali, the Dark Mother’s tongue, stifling the war cry in my throat.

The details of the inappropriate sexual overtures, and unwanted touching that had created a hostile work environment for not just one, but three different young women in my department, were enough to get any empowered woman riled up.

When I asked her how long this had been going on, she told me it had been almost a year. When I asked her why she didn’t say anything to the previous management, why she let it go on for so long she said,

“I didn’t want to be a girl about it.”

I drew my sword.

As a 21-year-old woman, I had no idea that I was strong and powerful. I never thought that I could or should talk back, fight back, push back.  If that is what is meant by “being a girl about it”, then yes, I was “a girl about it.”

The realization that after 25 years, we are still sending young women off into the world without the knowledge of their power and without the strength of their voice, astounded me.

This young woman didn’t want to “be a girl about it.” So she just put up with it. Every day. For a year.

The ferocious mother goddess in me raged. Things must change for all of us, for our daughters.

Wake up.

This is not the same as someone stealing our swing on the playground. This is about personal power, our freedom. We are no longer girls. We are strong, smart, emotional, creative, brave, magical, caring, capable creatures.

We are women.

Be a woman about it.

All those years ago, I let those boys take a little piece of my power. Today, I share these stories with my daughters.

It is time to teach young women about honoring themselves—their emotions, their bodies, their sexuality and their innate strength. It is time for all women to connect with their power, and protect it, not give it way or let anyone take it.

We have all made up fake boyfriends, invented excuses, avoided lunchrooms, taken different elevators, walked through different doors, unfriended, and unfollowed people, all in an attempt to not be a girl about it!

Stop! No! Back off!

Use your voice. Find your power.

Be a woman about it.

The three young women in my office that day made me realize that we are not there yet. I may feel empowered in my life now, but so many women don’t.

As their manager, I helped them with this one situation. As a woman, I know there is so much more work to be done.

Whether it is a lewd comment on the campus, a hand on a thigh at work, the shaming of girls about their bodies or the horrible violence of sexual abuse—we are all victims.

The Dalai Lama said,

“ The world will be saved by the Western Woman.”

Well, game on. This is the starting line.

Our mission, our legacy is to:

Create a world where every woman walks in the brilliant glow of her own power.

Stand up. Speak up. Rage. Scream. Cry.

Until we are heard.

It’s time to be a woman about it.

~

Relephant: 

This is how a military commander should react when he or she discovers sexual harassment in his or her ranks. (Video)

 

Author: Christine Lumley

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

Image: martinak15/ Flickr

 

 

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