Many women have asked me how to stop others from insulting us, trying to bully & push us around–a common problem for women & many men. We aren’t acculturated to be tough cookies–it’s a gender, ethnic, & a class thing that any who are “different” also face–& we are often passive to abuse when we are internally seething about it. We just don’t know how to stand against it without going ballistic & then demeaned as an irrational woman.
In the 1970s, General Electric, a mostly white male factory, was under an affirmative action court order & hired me along with other women, Blacks, Latinos. For the first years, until I learned how to defend myself, it was a living hell where I was subjected to verbal abuse, threats, physical aggressions of all sorts with the encouragement & participation of management.
Learning how to defend yourself isn’t easy without mentors & mine were fellow male co-workers, most often the older white men with union traditions who detested others being treated unfairly. Women got abused in a particular way, different than Black & Latino men who already knew the arts of intimidation. They became allies & mentors but were fighting their own immense battles for dignity & respect.
Once you understand what abuse is about, why it is not your fault in any way, learn some of the techniques for ending it, dignity becomes integrated into who you are & is not just a battle shield you wear at appropriate moments. There can be weak moments when you get thrown for a loop & fumble against abuse but soon your sense of dignity & belief in yourself will come to prevail & it is monumentally empowering.
This piece was written in 2015. Trista Hendren posted it on her blog & included in one of her books–an honor beyond measure. My sole purpose is to mentor young women & men to avoid the hurt, the anger, the self-reproach that comes when you don’t know how to tell someone you will not allow anyone, including within your family & closest friends, to treat you with disrespect.