The situation has been rectified.
An apology extended and the words, however inexcusable, have been forgiven.
See, last night someone called me a prostitute. Okay, the actual words were “high-end call girl.”
I wasn’t scantily dressed, nor was I behaving in manner that would suggest my line of work was being governed by Heidi Fleiss and paid out by Charlie Sheen. I was, in fact, at a dinner party.
After wresting with how to respond most of the morning, I came up with this: I know the words spoken to me to be untrue, therefore, I was not deeply offended as an individual. But as a woman, a daughter, a mother and a wife I have a responsibility to respond not just for myself, but on behalf of my husband and my children and women everywhere who endure this kind of treatment on a regular basis. My silence does nothing for anyone. Here are a few things that came to mind:
- Using derogatory words (yes, “high-end call girl” is derogatory) to a woman or about a woman is inappropriate under any context. The statements usually reflect more about the person speaking them than the person receiving them. These words perpetuate negative stereotypes and can feed into a culture where men take advantage of women. In my time as a marriage and family therapy intern, I heard one too many stories of young girls who had been taken advantage of when the man’s behavior had been excused. Grown men excused of rape or sexual harrassment because the girl was to blame either for her clothes or her behavior. These young women were in therapy because of abuse or harassment against them. The men, who knows. So, yeah, maybe you think it was a harmless little comment at a dinner party, but the big picture here is not harmless and I bet you any girl who has been exploited by men on the premise of “just being men” or making harmless comments or harmless gestures would have a completely different opinion of this exchange.
- Silence doesn’t help anyone. I told my husband what was said to me. He was embarrassed that he hadn’t heard it and then he was sad that I had been spoken to that way. He placed a phone call. The person was instantly remorseful, even saying he knew this call was coming. He was also embarrassed. I got an apology. I believe we always have a chance to make things right and thanked him for the apology. I did not say “that’s okay” or “don’t worry about it.” Because it’s not okay and him worrying about it is probably a good thing. Nothing changes if I let him off the hook. Nothing changes if I stay silent. I did not apologize back, I did nothing wrong.
- I understand saying stupid things. I’ve said lots of stupid things. I’ve done lots of stupid things. I believe we all bond and connect at a human level when we admit to our own stuff and then share in that experience. I told this man that we seem to suffer from the same affliction, saying stupid and hurtful things and that’s usually a reflection of our heart. That’s where grace comes in. I only know of grace because of the vast number of times it’s been offered to me and so I give it back out. This man is human. I am human. We both need grace. End of story.
Was this worth fighting or holding a grudge over?
I know who I am.
But it’s important to speak up when we feel there is a bigger injustice. It’s important to speak up when you know that letting something slide because it’s easier to sweep it under the rug than embarrass yourself or another person is not the right course of action.
These comments weren’t really about me, but more a peek into the heart of another person. But, I’m also not going to let people treat me without dignity and respect. I spent years being silent, that time has passed.
I hope this makes you think. Whether you are a man who thinks degrading a woman is funny or you are a woman who thinks it’s okay to be treated like a punch line or if you are someone who has witnessed various forms of harassment and have remained silent, it’s okay to speak up.
Even if you think what you have to say is insignificant,
it has significance for someone.
“…the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim,” Elie Wiesel, in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peach Prize, December 10, 1986.
“…one person of integrity can make a difference, a difference of life and death,” Elie Wiesel, in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peach Prize, December 10, 1986.