It Starts With Us...
There is a memory I have from my childhood that has stuck with me all these years and I'm not really sure why. Perhaps it was just one of those random moments that stick or perhaps it was the utter shock at the entire scene that caused it to stick around all of these years.
I was eleven years old. It was early in the morning and I was walking to my bus stop when I heard a truck start honking and I heard yelling. I turned around to see a truck full of men, probably four or five, rolling down their windows so that they could whistle and yell at a female classmate of mine. I didn't hear everything that they were saying, but what I did catch was suggestive and obscene. There are a few important facts to pull out here. I am eleven years old and my classmate was about the same age. We have an eleven to twelve year old girl waiting at her bus stop being sexually harassed by a truck full of adult men. The truck lingered for a minute and then proceeded to drive off with the men still staring at her and yelling things as they drove off.
Thinking about this I can pinpoint being witness to scenarios like this my entire life. A lot of times people tend to say things like "Oh, those men are pigs" and then laughing or "boys will be boys" followed by a shrugging of the shoulders and moving on.
Over the years there have been numerous accounts of harassment that I have witnessed on the internet, in the workplace, and in my community both in person and online.
This is a call to all men. Not only do we personally need to do better with how we conduct ourselves, but we should expect more from our fellow man and call out this unacceptable behavior when it happens. We must stand up against this and let our communities know that this behavior will not be tolerated. This is not about being a feminist or not. It is about being a respectful person and an overall good human being. Making sure that all persons feel safe and respected by their fellow human.
As a parent with a daughter I want to do everything within my power to make sure that my daughter has every opportunity I can possibly give her. If she desires to go in a STEM field I don't want to have to worry about her having to swim against the current while dodging harassment from men who believe they can treat someone a certain way simply because of their gender. I worry about the encounters that she will have and whether or not she will have to deal with walking down the street or through a store and have a man or a group of men make obscene or suggestive comments to her.
Since science and technology tend to be male dominated fields, if this behavior is present within our communities it is simply because we are either turning a blind eye or even worse participating and supporting such behavior. This is why I support unbreak.tech, created by @whitep4nth3r. This is a movement to raise awareness to all persons in the science and technology community and a pledge on my behalf to stand up and call this behavior out for what it is whenever and wherever it is encountered and put an end to it. For too long I have been guilty of standing on the sidelines and not getting involved when I knew better. That was my mistake but rather than dwelling on my mistakes I'm making a change and looking to today and the future. We can be the change in our community and it starts with us. Yes men, I'm talking to you. You can be a part of the movement in building a better and safer community for all persons in science and technology. It needs to stop and it starts with us.