Why Women Smile at Men Who Sexually Harass Us
Hanna Brooks Olsen

Your story brought back many not so pleasant memories. I too once used the polite method when being harassed and I too found that it was the only thing that worked and made me safe. I am a Vietnam vet who experienced some of the worst harassment by men while on active duty. The ratio of male to female was about 50 to 1 on military bases. We woman were thought of, and actually told by men, that we were either lesbians or whores. Since I wasn’t a lesbian, well then….. Not that the harassment started or ended while I was in the military. I think I first became cognizant of it at about age 12 and it lasted for decades. It didn’t matter that I was married or had my children with me. The harassment just took a different form.

I say that I “once” used the polite method because the harassment has finally stopped. All I had to do was to grow old. The men who harass women don’t think of a white haired grandmother as “worthy” of their time or effort. We older women become invisible to society, male and female. The downside of this invisibility is obvious and a topic for another discussion. The upside, however, is that we no longer have to put up with this type of nonsense.

Growing older has many benefits besides ending harassment. You have a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you. You realize that you can’t control how others behave, you can only control how you react to that behavior. It really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of your reactions to a situation. You know what’s best and works for you.

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