Boundaries

PSA I posted on Facebook a while ago:
Don’t touch someone without their permission. Do not grab someone without their permission.
If you have already grabbed someone, and they try to pull away, let go; they clearly don’t want you touching them. Someone pulling away is not an invitation to grab tighter.
Some people will not verbally tell you to let go. Some people find it difficult to assert boundaries. If you are obviously making someone uncomfortable, you need to stop, even if they haven’t explicitly told you to.

This happened to me.  I would have been less bothered by the whole thing if:

1. They’d let go when I pulled away.  That they didn’t tangibly demonstrated that they had no understanding of the notion that many people are unable to establish or assert boundaries.  Since I’ve struggled with establishing boundaries before, this is something really important to me.

2. It was the first time that they’d displayed inappropriate behaviour or the first time they’d been called out on it.  The fact that this person consistently only ever does it to girls and that this person tends to treat any girl’s objection to this behaviour as not-to-be-taken seriously bothers me.  I can understand ignorance, especially in a society that fails to show people what boundaries look like, but when someone has told you before that your level of aggression makes people uncomfortable and that it’s inappropriate, the correct response is to look at your own behaviour and your own attitudes towards other people’s rights to see what needs to change, not to ignore the other person because girls just overreact.

3. If this wasn’t part of a pervasive attitude held by people, particularly guys, in our society.  I wouldn’t have posted it on Facebook if I was directing it at the person who grabbed me.  I would have settled it privately (I did, actually).  By posting it on Facebook, I was trying to tell a wider group of people that this is an attitude that needs changing (in hindsight, I should have hid that Facebook post from the person involved…but what’s done is done).

Long story short, though, for all the people who think feminism isn’t an issue, this is why it’s important.  Because women want to be safe in their communities, and they aren’t.  I was lucky, this person only grabbed me.  But people need to be taught that other people’s right to personal space and to not be made to feel uncomfortable by another person’s actions are important.  People need to be taught that women don’t actually overreact, and that if a woman says no, she means it.

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