The majority of the injustices I have suffered or witnessed are related to sexual assault or harassment. These incidents are so common in my experience and among many of my close friends that unfortunately, I have come to see them as a matter of course.
Injustice can take many forms, but as a queer woman in America, the sort I am most affected by is sexist and homophobic rhetoric or actions. Of course, words are common tools to try and hurt anyone who is different. Name calling and petty bullying is something that I try not to engage with. That is not to say that words cannot be powerful; may people are driven to suicide or depression from cyberbullying or social rejection. However, sometimes people take their hate and act on it, which is when people can be truly harmed.
Many instances of injustice are evident due to the racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic slurs that a perpetrator may use. The person will try to insult the victim and make themselves seem superior by citing a way in which the victim is different or doesn’t “fit in” with society. These words give perpetrators power as they threaten violence or reinforce oppression.
I have often witnessed mild forms of injustice in catcalling when I am in public. This sort of behavior is demeaning and makes a woman feel objectified and often physically insecure. I have also dealt with unwanted groping, kissing, and touching from strange men. With each incident, I knew it was unjust because the man was using a threat of force to exert his will over mine. My wishes and feelings were disregarded, irrelevant, and I was made to feel uncomfortable and embarrassed in public.
When I am harassed, sometimes I choose to ignore it, but other times I respond. Sometimes I will call a man out on his BS and respond to catcalls or comments by letting him know that it is inappropriate. Other times I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of a reaction. If it progresses to physical contact, I will certainly defend myself and make it clear that I am not ok with it.
Other incidences of injustice take the form of microaggressions. When I hear someone make a harmful generalization or say something that contributes to an unjust mentality, I try to engage with them and question their intentions. Trying to find common ground and work from that viewpoint is a better way of trying to change people’s minds and prevent future injustice from occurring. If people have never had reason to question their beliefs or do not have the experience or education to help them see things from another point of view, how can they become better unless someone gives them a chance and tries to teach them?
While some people are truly beyond help, I do believe that some can be reached and we can try and prevent injustice by positively changing their perspective. Maybe providing a counterpoint could open someone’s eyes to a whole new way of life they could not understand or even imagine before. By treating others with kindness, we can open a door to build bridges rather than walls.