Women, It’s Time to Get Angry

He had her by the wrists. He was clearly incredibly intoxicated. His girlfriend seemed upset (as she should be), but did not fight back as he repeatedly used the leverage he had over her to shove her backwards, then yank her back towards him. At several points, he had her pinned against the stage at the crowded club. But nobody stepped in to help.

My friend stepped forward. She pushed through the crowd to ask the girl if she was okay. The girl said yes, but her boyfriend had yet to let go of her wrists. In fact, in his combative state, he had begun to start fights with many of the men around him. When he eventually let her go, the girlfriend was trying to push him off of the dance floor. My friend was trying to help her. Men were beginning to join in on the fight. When it finally defused, the man’s friends stepped up, patting him on the back, congratulating him on not escalating the situation further. His girlfriend was nowhere to be seen.

DJ playing music to a crowded club. Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash

Was I surprised that the man’s friends didn’t try to stop him from physically assaulting his girlfriend in the center of the dance floor? I was — but perhaps I shouldn’t have been. After all, my friend and I had spent the night having our asses grabbed by random men, having people touch us simply because we were there, having our hair ruffled and mussed, being seen as objects rather than people. At one point, a man was so insistent on following me across the dance floor that we had to move multiple times; I was so uncomfortable with the prospect that this man was willing to ignore my fear and discomfort because to him, I was not a human. I was an object.

People may say it’s the culture of night clubs, but why is this something that we should be content with continuing? In fact, studies have shown physical and sexual violence is rampant in the clubbing scene — and something that many men are aware of when the violence is perpetuated. When I go out to a club, I go to enjoy my time with friends, to have a good time, and to dance until I can’t feel my legs. Sexual assault and harrassment have been so ingrained in our culture, so normalized, that we now see certain places as hubs for it — and think that it doesn’t matter.

Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

But on top of sexual and physical violence in these places, whether it be clubs or bars or any of the numerous other areas in which this type of behavior has been normalized, there’s another problem. Out of fear of retribution or further violence, or out of fear of being labeled as a “bitch,” women are afraid to fight back.

When the man in the night club was following us, I said nothing. I asked my friend if we could move. I pushed through the crowd. I tried to talk to other people. When someone grabbed my butt, I moved forward, turned around. My friend is much better about speaking up for herself, saying no, yelling.

But the response from the men who perpetuate these actions? “Damn, why are you so mad?”

If someone grabs my butt — “why are you so mad?” If someone forcibly touches or pushes or grabs a woman and they react — “why are you so mad?”

In today’s society, these type of predatory individuals do not expect for you to raise your voice. To fight back. To step outside of the box that they put you in in their heads. Although the #MeToo movement is going strong, many women (including myself) still have a difficult time telling our friends — much less going to the police — about incidences of rape, sexual assault, or groping. When it does happen out in public, the perpetrators want you to fear them. They want you to be afraid that you will be injured if you argue, if you yell, if you hit. They want you to be afraid that they will overpower you. Sometimes that is enough.

Something that I do not talk about very much is the fact that I was raped in college. I was sober and in my apartment with someone whom I thought was a friend. We played card games and drank Sprite. We wrote poems. I said no so many times when he first made his move that he covered my mouth with his hand and I thought I would suffocate. At the end, he said it didn’t count because he didn’t get to finish.

And I said nothing. For months. I was afraid. I cut off the world. I am still dealing with that. Getting groped in a nightclub, having my butt grabbed by people who think they have a right to it, is not as bad for me as what I went through in college. But for some women, that can bring back horrific nightmares — or start new trauma. Some people say it isn’t a big deal because women still go back to clubs, but there are reasons why that isn’t true.

“We don’t need athletic bodies, or weapons to be able to defend ourselves. Just our hands.” — Martha Mejia

Sexual assault — whether in clubs, in your own life, at your school, at your job — is not okay. Neither is harassment. Or rape. So why do we normalize it? Why do men who publicly harm their girlfriends, or touch women inappropriate, still get dapped up by their friends in the clubs? Men, you need to do better. And women, we need to get angry.

Sometimes it can be scary to raise our voices. I know I still struggle with it. This is one of the first times I have put myself out there publicly. But we need to raise our voices. Yell “NO” if someone grabs you inappropriately in public. Ask them why they think they have the right to do that. Tell someone that you don’t want to dance with them, that you don’t want to hang out, that it is NOT okay to manhandle their romantic partners.

If we raise our voices together, if we focus on changing the world and stopping this behavior, if we band together — we can make things better.