Kat’s story: “Is this more of an ableist/opportunity thing, or do you guys think there is a sexualized element to it as well?”

Ok, this isn’t exactly a story. Well, it is, but it’s also a question. Sorry if it’s a little long!

So, I am a women who was born with a disability. I am a little person, but I am a proportional one, so I basically look like a little kid. (I think it’s due to an auto-immune disease). I also have Crohn’s disease, which is unrelated, but results in me being unable to eat and digest food properly, so I’m pretty skinny as well. (Now I’ve got some meat on my bones, because I’ve been in remission for almost two years. Go me! But I also swim, so I’m still pretty tiny). Besides that, I’m pretty conventionally attractive. I don’t say that to brag, but just to sort of give a context for my life–as in, I think I would have it worse if I wasn’t conventionally attractive, and it also draws more people to me. (Because society sucks that way)

People often compliment me on various things–my complexion, my hair, my body. Or they will ask/remark on my differences–which is annoying, but tolerable. However, they will then sometimes reach out AND TOUCH ME. They’ll stroke my cheek, or try to run a hand through my hair, or put their hand on the small of my back (still can’t figure that one out). It happens a lot at work (I’ve actually posted about it before.) The worst was a few weeks ago when a man grabbed me on both sides where my neck and shoulder meet and SHOOK me. I don’t know why. Everyone asks, and I honestly could not tell you what the fuck was going through his head.

It’s sometimes women, but it’s mostly men who do this, and my question is two-fold. 1) Is this more of an ableist/opportunity thing, or do you guys think there is a sexualized element to it as well? (When it’s men) 2) Do you guys think that I would experience the same thing if I were a man? (Are there any male posters with experiences of this?) I’m not sure why it matters–I guess I just want to be able to identify the type of harassment, in order to respond properly.

Thanks and sorry this was so long!

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6 Responses

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  1. admin says:

    Hi Kat —

    I think that’s the tricky thing about harassment. You never know what’s causing it exactly. My guess is that it sounds sexualized in many of these cases — but either way it’s a) totally not OK, and b) totally worth holla’ing back.

    We’ve got your back! Thanks for sharing your story.
    Emily

  2. Kat says:

    Cheers! It’s an interesting dichotomy…the asshole/perv dichotomy if you will…it’s a tricky thing to navigate. It’s also hard to explain to your coworkers when no one else(I have almost all female co-workers) has ever experienced even a clap on the shoulder.

  3. Christy says:

    Hi Kat,
    Agreed, it is a strange dichotomy and so not ok! I am baffled that people feel it is acceptable to touch you like that… especially the man who shook you! Ummm…. I am trying to think of what could be going through their heads, as you mentioned.

    Wish I had something more insightful to say. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Christy

  4. Marzia says:

    It there the possibility that they see you like a baby? Children get to be touched a lot by adults, the personal space they are allowed is usually much smaller (I think).

  5. rurux says:

    It was never easy for those who were smaller in appearance than others. Appearance is everything. With the right appearance you can fascinate people even by telling complete bullshit and with the wrong appearance no one is interested to you even if you tell some smart things.

    It happens to me that other men twinkle with one eye to me. They are not gay or so and they arent doing that with bad purposes.. I think they just want to show me that they find me sympathic on one way or another. It’s like, hey, we are fellas.

    The thing is, it makes me feel as a kid when one twinkles to me with one eye. They would never twinkle to their boss or to an authority. Its more like a gesture an adult man can do to a young kid. Even if it is a non hostile gesture, it is still a gesture of lack of distance and therefore a sort of lack of respect. The first time I remembered such a twinkle I was about two to maximal three years old. It was a guy who helped us (my parents) moving. I would never twinkle at anyone and embarrass him or her.

    I am not complaining about, I can deal with that but I could also have a good living without this. lol

    Now I am 29 soon but look younger with my 168cm male-height.

    • Kat says:

      I’ve always been curious as to the experiences of short men–it’s a whole different series of expectations and therefore a whole different series of harassment experiences. Thanks for sharing that!

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