Dos and Don’ts

In my previous post I wrote about male intimidation. I think part of the time, people don’t intentionally intimidate others. In many cases, they are unaware (mostly men) because most have never had to worry about feeling unsafe.

I previously stated I receive friend requests, emails, and private messages from random men I have never met. None of them were even friends of friends. I understand that as a writer and photographer it opens the door for people to reach out to me. I love hearing from people who share my passion for words, art, and abandoned places. There is a fine line, and people need to understand that. One man attended an event where I spoke about my book. He was the first person to arrive, and he told me he was there solely to see me. A few months later, he sent me an email asking if I could meet him in person to discuss publishing and how to move forward in his own work. I explained I was not comfortable meeting anyone I don’t know in person, especially while alone. I offered to discuss these things via email, over the phone, or even on video. I never heard from him again, which leads me to believe he had other intentions.

I have had others contact me and ask me to meet with them in person. They have asked if I would go exploring abandoned places with them. I assume most men think once I meet them I would feel more comfortable with them. The truth is due to a lifetime of trauma I am only marginally comfortable alone with the men I already know (excluding my husband, I am comfortable with him), and I will never be comfortable alone around men I don’t know, even acquaintances. The person who sexually abused me as a kid was a close family member, and that was only the first person who assaulted me. So if I learned at an early age someone close could violate me, why would I think I can trust strangers? Does that make any sense? No.

I had a business meeting with a professional who was going to display my photography at his place of business. The first time I met him (he was in his 50’s, and he wore a wedding ring) he told me we should go to lunch sometime. He asked many personal questions, and kept standing extremely close to me. I tried to explain it away to myself, but he made me very uncomfortable. The second time I went into his business, he acted the same way. The last time I went into his business, he told me how great I looked. I’m pretty sure he would not have told another man how good he looked.

I think we have been conditioned as a society to excuse certain behaviors. It starts when we are children. When a boy picks at us, such as pulling our hair, tries to touch us or tease us, people say, maybe he likes you. Little boys don’t always know how to express their feelings. This is bullshit! We need to teach kids that if someone makes them uncomfortable, it is safe to tell us. When we excuse this behavior we are reinforcing this of bad behavior pattern. I have heard men and women say, boys will be boys, and that is also bullshit. Another example of excusing bad behavior is if an older man says or does inappropriate things, people say, he’s a harmless, dirty old man. There is no such thing. I have had older male friends (who I met through other friends or through work), and none of them made me feel uncomfortable. They did not say anything inappropriate to me, so that statement is just another excuse.

What NOT to do:

Comment on how good a woman looks in a business meeting. If you would not say it to a male colleague, don’t say it about or to a female.

Stand closer than three feet apart.

Ask a woman you do not know or even one you don’t know well to do anything alone with you. I realize some women are more comfortable around people they don’t know, but pay attention to what she says, and her body language.

Walk up to a woman’s car while she is in the vehicle alone. This happens to me quite often. I think many are just oblivious.

Friend request someone you don’t know (especially when the person is not a friend of a friend).

Send someone you don’t know messages unless about business. As a photographer and writer, I am okay with messages regarding my content.

Stand closely behind a woman anywhere for any reason. Think about how it makes her feel.

Follow a woman on foot or in a vehicle. Women walk to and from their cars with a key sticking out of their fingers in case they need to defend themselves. We walk with mace, tasers, and other weapons. Every single woman feels unsafe when walking, especially after dark. We always watch for signs of danger.

Follow a woman around a store, the gym, the mall. Just don’t. We have to go and do all of the same things you do, and we just want to do them in peace. Imagine you were having the worst day ever, and you are out running errands because you had to. Then imagine being stared at the entire time, having people comment on the way you are dressed or your appearance in general. You want to be left alone, but you can’t even do the most basic things without being harassed. We feel this way when we work, shop, exercise, pick up groceries and prescriptions, when we are driving in our car, walking to our cars, when we are home alone, even in our own homes or on our computers.

Honk at at a woman because you think she is attractive, especially when she is on foot.

Whistle and/or shout at a woman because you think she is attractive.

Talk about a woman’s body in a professional setting.

If you ask a woman out and she says no, stop asking!

If one of your friends is being an asshole and treating a woman/girl inappropriately, it is YOUR job to step in.

If you have friends or acquaintances who are creepy and don’t treat women well, stop talking to them! If you associate with creeps, you ARE a creep!

Stare. Once we notice you staring, STOP! That is so uncomfortable for us.

If you step up and treat a woman decently, never expect a pat on the back. It is not our job to point out when you do the right thing.

Don’t joke about women. Example: women belong in the kitchen. Darn female drivers! That’s just like a woman. Etc.

Touch a woman you don’t know in any way! When in a relationship with a woman who has been traumatized, ask before you touch her, especially from behind.

Try to scare a woman who has a traumatic history.

When in a conversation with a woman, don’t interrupt them or talk over them. It makes us feel you do not value what we have to say. It also makes us feel unheard.

Don’t send photos of your penis unless she asks for them. Seriously.

Never ask a woman to smile. We don’t ask men to smile. If we don’t feel like smiling we don’t have to!

Don’t tell a woman to calm down. Again, we can feel or react however we want.

Don’t call a woman crazy especially in a business setting.

Women do not owe you anything. We don’t even owe you respect if you don’t show us respect. You are not entitled to anything.

A woman can say no anytime! No matter what has happened prior to that moment.

Never start doing anything sexual to a woman while she sleeps, especially if she has a traumatic history!

If a woman is really intoxicated in any way, or asleep she cannot consent to sex. Back off!

When you feel guilty after messing up, don’t expect the woman to make you feel better. Be vulnerable with her.

Never assume based upon appearance.

Never use your power in the the professional world to get a woman’s attention.

Don’t tell children it is okay if another child is touching them or bullying them. It is NOT okay for a boy to act this way because he likes a girl or when roles are reversed. End the whole, boys will be boys mentality.

Do not call crude talk locker room talk. I know many men who would NEVER speak this way about women. It also doesn’t matter if a guy talks about women this way in front of them or behind their backs, either way you are putting down women and it is not okay.

What to do:

Behave professionally in a business relationship. A good rule of thumb is if you would not say it to a member of your family or to whatever sex you are not attracted to, you should NOT say it.

Ask before you touch a woman. When in a relationship with survivors of trauma even a loving touch can be a trigger.

Be aware of your power as a man, and use it to protect her, stand up for her, advocate for her.

If you are walking or jogging outside, and you come across a woman, cross the road.

If you see an attractive woman, it’s okay to simply say hello or smile, and then move on. If she is interested she will reciprocate. If not, it is not her job to stroke your ego. Would you behave this way toward another man? Probably not.

If you overhear another man interrupting a woman, step in and tell him to let her finish what she was saying.

Watch a woman’s body language. Better yet, buy a book on body language, study it, and then watch to see when you are making them uncomfortable.

Rather than compliment her appearance, compliment her sense of humor, her intelligence, or creative talent. This should start with our daughters, don’t fixate only on looks.

Treat women the way you want your mother, grandmother, sisters, and daughters to be treated.

If you see another man treating a woman poorly, step in!!! This includes locker room talk.

Treat men and women the same in a business setting. Don’t diminish her capabilities because she is female.

I also must add I know so many amazing, respectful men and boys. Thank you so much for being great, and holding people accountable for their actions.

**Feature photo by Jakob Owens**

**Other photo by Sam Burriss**

Trish Eklund’s first book, Abandoned Nebraska: Echoes of Our Past, was released in November of 2018. Her second photography book, Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Nebraska: Decaying in the Heartland will be released on February 22, 2021. She is finishing up her third book; Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Kansas: Home is Where the Heart is. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska, Raw Abandoned, ListVerse, Nature Takes Over, Grime Scene Investigators, and Pocket Abandoned. She has a photo on the cover of: Fine Lines Summer 2020: Volume 29 Issue 2. She is the owner and creator of the photography website, Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed. Trish has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz, and another essay in another anthology: Voices of the Plains Volume III by Nebraska Writer’s Guild and Julie Haase. Her writing has been featured on The Mighty, Huffington Post Plus, Making Midlife Matter, and Her View From Home. She owns, moderates, and writes for the blog: Trigger Warning: Surviving Abuse. She has written four young adult novels and is hard at work on her first adult novel.

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