22/10/2012

By Giovanna Forte

We’ve all been there. We’ve all received unwelcome comments about our looks, our sexuality, our dress. As younger women, we are often unsure how to field these baffling and unnecessary attacks. Over the years, I’ve grappled with my response to such sexual harassment and with the topic currently prevalent in the news, I’d like to share what I hope is valuable advice.

Firstly, ask yourself: who are these men who feel qualified to pass judgement upon us? I’ll tell you now. These are men for whom a mirror reflects uncomfortable truths; for whom self- esteem proves elusive; for whom confidence does not come naturally. Once you know and understand this, you’re 99% towards blunting the instrument of your offence.

One’s reaction to harassment is usually to take affront. Perhaps complain. Perhaps retreat and harbour fantasies of sweet revenge. Do none of these things; be confident in yourself and confront the aggressor, for only by facing up to the bully can the matter be settled, however “mild” the transgression. Know that insecurity lies behind this behaviour — and that knowledge is power.
Below, are just a few responses honed and adapted over the years that have succeeded in stopping my culprits in their tracks. Not only have those in question never bothered me again but have I hope, thought twice about pestering other undeserving women. The trick is to respond tongue in cheek, with knowing, unruffled charm … and the utmost open-eyed candour:

"You look better in shorter skirts you know. You should get those legs out more often!"

Really? I’ll bear that in mind. Do you have time for a chat about your look? How long have you got?

"You could do with a more feminine look. Have you thought about growing your hair?"

Ohh! (laugh) That’s fantastic! Advice from someone with such bad hair (or no hair)?!

"Wow, you look sexy today. Who’s the lucky man? (Leer)"

There isn’t one — but thanks anyway. So sorry I can’t reciprocate.

"That top’s nice. If you undid another button or two, we’d get some cleavage."

Actually, I don’t have any. But, hmm … I see you don’t have the same problem.

"I like those fuck-me shoes. They are fuck-me shoes aren’t they?"

No. These are I’ll-fuck-you-if-I-choose-to-shoes. And I don’t.


Ok, so that’s five, not fifty. But you get the drift.
Of course, some comments are well meant and should not be misconstrued. The gentle chap, for instance, who offers a cheery “You look lovely!” intends no harm; a hearty smile and “You’ve made my day” really doesn’t go amiss. It’s important to recognise kindness when kindness is intended, for this is exactly what builds a better world.
Less sure was I of how to respond to one more left-field comment I aroused in a gentleman as I waited, upon my bicycle, at red lights. Well-turned-out, handsome and of uncertain age, he paused momentarily beside me, and whispered:

“Lucky saddle.”

He clearly wasn’t expecting the response that gurgled from my throat. Why? Because he fled as forgive me, Sisters, I laughed so hard I nearly fell off.

About The Author

Manufacturesse, Bon Vivant and Mother. From Thames TV to launching her own business, Giovanna’s life is a very full and happy one.

This article first appeared on Platform 5. For your weekly delivery of inspiration, thought and discussion subscribe to their newsletter here http://www.platform505.com/news-letter/