What If?

De Nederlandstalige versie van dit bericht is te vinden op mijn Nederlandstalige site.

Dear fellow man*,

What if it’s your sister? Your daughter? Your wife or girlfriend? Or let’s for argument’s sake make it your mother, ‘cos we all have one of those. What if these women, who are dear to you personally, are the subject of lecherous locker room talk? About whom you colleagues wonder out loud which one they’d most like to take a shower with**?

What if your teenage daughter gets catcalled in the street? What if she gets stalked, harassed, not left alone despite her desperate requests? What if her butt or breasts are fondled in an elevator? If her mentor hovers over her way too closely? What if at every training she feels her trainer’s eretion against her back?

What if your brother-in-law forces himself on your sister, because he feels it’s his marital right? What if her boss locks the door during her performance review, puts his hand on her bare knee, presses his mouth on hers, forces his tongue between her lips? What if her dance instructor demans sex in exchange for the opportunities she’s always dreamed of?

What if he doesn’t demand, but takes by force?

And what if the men around them know, or suspect, but hold their tongue? What if they shrug, think it’s not that bad, it’s just how it goes, and that maybe, just maybe, your sister, daughter, wife, girlfriend, mother did something to provoke it?

How would you feel about all that?

Every woman, every girl is your sister, your daughter, your wife, your girlfriend, your mother. It’s always bad, not just when it happens to the women you care about. Always. And for the vast majority of women, these questions are not hypothetical, but daily, painful, humiliating reality.

And if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. If you’re not that jock, that colleague, that road worker, that stalker, that lecher, mentor or trainer, that partner, boss or dance instructor, then at least you’re that silent bystander.

So open your mouth and speak up.

* This letter is addressed to myself as well.

** I’ve witnessed this conversation at work. I kept silent then. Never again.