I had to yell at two tween boys at the park today who were using vicious, nasty, violent language about women and women’s body parts in full view and earshot of my six year old daughter. They called me a bitch. I stood my ground, but it stuck with me, made me uncomfortable and angry for hours afterward.
How is this still happening in 2017? How are these boys, whose voices have barely dropped, taught that’s what a man says, that’s what a man sounds like?
Where are their parents? Do these boys act normal at home and put on this disgusting posturing when they think they are alone? Or do their parents not care to correct them? Do their parents encourage that kind of behavior?
And why am I, as a 36-year-old woman, provoked to a visceral flight or fight adrenaline response by two kids less than half my age?
Because I read the news. Doesn’t matter that they probably weren’t more than 13. Doesn’t matter that it was a public park in broad daylight. I’m not ashamed to admit it: some visceral part of me was afraid to confront these boys, afraid of what they might do.
But I stood up for myself. I called them out, demanded that they watch their language, said they were being inappropriate. My dog growled at them when I raised my voice. It didn’t stop them; though they left us alone, they kept swearing and shouting at the top of their lungs. I gave them the stink eye. It made them uncomfortable. And then D was done playing and we left.
And when D asked why I was so upset about it on the way home, I had to figure out how to tell her that words are just the beginning. Words lead to actions. And I have to be constantly on my guard from men and boys in particular to protect myself and her. My heart breaks, but I have to teach her that boys like that could be a threat — now and later. Always.
She told me she was glad I stood up to the “big boys” who called me a bad name.
This is what it means to be a woman in 2017. And it is shameful.