We’ve recently seen a huge change in how we talk about sexual harassment. Once someone tentatively opened the door it was like that scene in The Shining where all the blood comes flooding out of the lift, you couldn’t move on social media for #metoo stories.
And now we have The President’s Club. You know, the event that nobody can even remember going to, while simultaneously being 100% certain that nothing bad happened anyway.
There has been outrage this week, and rightly so. Women were fondled and groped and propositioned in an organised event where it almost seemed like part of the entertainment, part of the reason people go. And by people, I mean men. (Insert your own notallmen disclaimer here).
And while I’m pleased that you’re all really cross and shocked by this, I also can’t help feeling a little bit cross that it’s taken this to make people stop and think, because this kind of thing is so common place, so much a part of going out as a woman that I wasn’t surprised at all. What these women experienced is the kind of thing lots of women experience just on a normal Saturday night out in a normal town.
We need to accept that this happens a lot and it isn’t the preserve of wealthy bankers in a one off event.
This is how women are treated in every day life by men in any kind of job, with any kind of salary. I remember being in a nightclub one night with some friends and actually having to summon up the courage to run the gauntlet of walking across the club to go for a wee. That walk probably took less than two minutes, but it felt like forever and there seemed to be hands everywhere, touching me everywhere. And this happened to every one of us. Nobody batted an eyelid. It was just part of being out on a busy Saturday night and if you made a fuss then you were accused of not being any fun.
So this does feel a little bit like faux shock that’s expressed with the knowledge that we won’t really have to deal with it because the majority of us won’t ever be in that situation, there is even some judgement about the women who were working that night, because we are trained to look to the women in these situations, to see what she did to provoke the men, surely any woman working at that kind of thing knew what would happen? It can’t be the poor men who are to blame, they just follow their instincts.
But this ‘show’ concern that looks like you’re on our side means sod all because until you all start challenging the behaviour that confronts women on a daily basis, then we are no closer to moving on than before we read about the Eyes Wide Shut scenario at The Presidents Club.
Please listen to us when we tell you that this shit happens all the time, without undercover reporters and NDAs. Why does that grab your attention but when your colleague/wife/friend tells you about something that happened you justify it as a misunderstanding on our part. We read it wrong. We got the wrong end of the stick. We can’t take a joke.
This stuff happens all the time, from upskirting and downblousing to being harassed as you walk to buy some milk, this is a huge thing as women go about their everyday business. What do we have to do to be taken seriously?
The shock about all of this is also tinged with a hint of unspoken blame. What kind of woman would work that kind of gig? Nobody has said ‘asking for it’ but this phrase taints every report of sexual harassment in a time where the tabloids routinely talk about women ‘flaunting their legs/assets’ , next to a photograph of some female celebrity actually just looking as though she has actual legs. I’m not even sure how one goes about flaunting your legs. Our legs are just there, what are we supposed to do with them? Tuck them into our pants?
But yes, absolutely, let’s look at why anyone would work at one of those gigs. Could it be because those kinds of jobs offer shorter hours, better pay and more flexibility than a lot of jobs available to women who want to earn money while also look after their families?
If anything, this highlights the need to look into current working practices, and I say that as someone who has recently gone down from three jobs to two because it’s a real struggle to find something that earns you enough money while giving you the flexibility you need to be with your family.
I wonder how many women feel vulnerable in the workplace but don’t feel they have any rights to make a stand about it. This is 2018, it’s time the traditional 9 – 5 idea had a re-think.
So get angry and stay angry, really hold onto it. But also listen to us. We are fun, loads of fun, and we can take a joke but all of this shit means that we have developed an ability to read and trust our instincts, so we know what we’re talking about. It’s time to properly open your eyes.