Featured Writer: Nicole Fuchs
Through personal stories from age 13 to age 29, comedian NICOLE FUCHS discusses a lifetime of dealing with harassment as a woman and why more men should strive to be like her brother.
I am 29 years old, and I’ve been sexually harassed ever since I was 10 because that’s when puberty started for me. I mostly experienced street harassment and objectification with words. I’ve also been sexually assaulted, but that wasn’t until later in my life, and it was pretty tame compared to other stories I have heard. I’ve been thinking a lot about when I was younger and how it made me feel, and it kind of inspired me to write this because I have never really talked about this story publicly.
My brother is two years younger than I am and ever since I can remember, he would stand up for me. He would yell at men on the street and in their cars who would honk their horns and yell, “Nice ass,” “Slut,” or, “Hey sexy.” He would flip them off and scream, “Fuck off!” So, naturally I started doing it, too. This was almost a daily occurrence when we were together. We grew up in California, but my mom died when I was 11 and he was 9. So, I had to move to Maryland to live with my biological father while he stayed in California with his adoptive father. We would visit each other in California and Maryland every summer and the same street harassment always happened, and he was always there standing up for me.
I was about 13 or 14 and we were in a mall together going clothes shopping. I was wearing a skirt, and we were standing in line at the food court. My brother noticed a man trying to take a picture up my skirt. This older man had a stick with a camera that he would put on his foot, then he would stick his foot out and take pictures up women’s skirts and dresses. My brother caught it happening to me and immediately blocked so the picture would be of him and not of me. I don’t think he really totally understood what was happening, but he immediately felt the need to protect me in the best way he could. The guy ended up moving to another line where another girl was standing, and she was wearing a dress. We couldn’t believe it. As it was registering in our brains what this creep was doing, the guy started to leave. So, I told my brother, “We need to report this. You have to follow the guy so we don’t lose him.” So, my brother immediately ran off to go find the guy who just so happened to be leaving the mall. Luckily, I got a security guard in time, and we reported it to the police. I pressed charges against him. Turns out, he was some sort of family man with an “up the skirt” fetish.
To this day, if my brother and I are together and a man even looks at me as an object or says something degrading towards me, my brother will go out of his way to make him feel uncomfortable.
It was then that I realized that no one ever told him to watch out for me. I think he just innately knew that it was not right to speak to women or treat women the way men spoke to and treated me. Every time, he took it upon himself to make sure that he made the other man know that it’s not okay to treat any woman like that.
There are a lot of times when I wish I had him with me, especially as I got older and things became increasingly difficult with dating and sex. I wish he was there the time I decided to drink a little too much and accidentally hit my head so hard it cracked open and started bleeding at a party. The group I was with decided to take me back to my friend’s car so I could go to the hospital and on the way, some creep took on the role of watching over me. He only did it so that while I was bleeding and vomiting, he could stick his hands down my shirt and feel me up. I wish my brother was with me then because I couldn’t speak up for myself.
I wish he was in the audience when I was performing at an open mic a year ago and a male comedian walked on stage during my set, while I was telling a joke, and whispered in my ear, “I could fuck you so good. Let me fuck the shit out of you.” I wish my brother was there because I couldn’t speak up for myself then either.
I know a lot of people will think two things about what I have just written.
1. You put yourself in a situation where you were too drunk.
2. You should have said something after the comic talked to you like that. You should have made fun of him and called him out on stage right then and there.
Those opinions are completely valid. However, what is not valid is the fact that I am 29 and this has been happening since I was 10. It is so much easier for me to pretend like it never happened. It is so much easier to forget about it. It is so much easier to just stop wearing makeup (which I did for about eight months after that). It is so much easier to wear unflattering clothes. It is so much easier to consider gaining weight or to blatantly try to become undesirable. It is so much easier for me to just not go to that open mic anymore.
As a comic of two-and-a-half years, I don’t feel like I can say anything without being labeled as a bitch, a slut, a nobody, or whatever.
I don’t feel safe saying anything because I am afraid of those who won’t stand up for me.
I am afraid that not one of you are my brother in this fight.
What’s even worse is that most women feel this way.
Everyone keeps saying, “Worry about being funny. Then, nothing else will matter.”
It’s really hard to worry about being funny when you have to worry about politics in the comedy community. The comedy scene is male dominated and many of these men support each other greatly. There is a brotherhood in comedy. If you speak out about one of the brothers, you had better watch your back. As a female comedian, this is my current conundrum.
I just want as much time as I can get so I can worry about being funny. The problem—and what worries me even more—is when a man brings me on stage and one of my “credits” is how big my ass is, and everyone laughs. Who do I tell?
Where is my brother?
If I confront that host, will I lose stage time? Will I have to put another unsafe room on my list? Will I warn all my sisters in comedy to watch out for that host?
Men, if you want to help stop sexual harassment, be like my brother. Stand against objectifying women. Say it out loud. Close it down, immediately.
What I’ve come to learn is that women need powerful allies. Some of those allies are going to have to be well-respected men within the community. If a woman can get a powerful and respected man on her side, someone who is willing to stand up for her and help her with her voice when she is nervous about speaking out, she will have a chance at this fight. Men are more willing to listen to other men than to women who are speaking out against men.
So, men, what I am asking is this: use your voice for a good cause. If you see a woman getting objectified/harassed/assaulted, please say something out loud. End it now.
Be a Brother.