I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You A Lady Garden…

Ladies, ladies, ladies.

How does that word make you feel? Do you like it? Does it make you feel nice? Special? Or does it make you want to rip out your ovaries with a rusty spoon?

Let’s see if you can work out which camp I fall into.

To me it feels patronising and condescending. It suggests fragility when women are anything but fragile. We push whole people out of our vaginas. Also, waxing.

It attributes certain characteristics to us that we have no control over. It’s old fashioned and harks back to a different time when society was different, and women were viewed differently and seen as inferior to men. I know, imagine that, what a ridiculous idea. Thank god we’ve moved on and now have jetpacks and spaceman food and equal pay and oh…

But this word is out of place in 2019 so I think that even if you’re not bothered by it, even if you quite like it, you need to realise the impact. They are never just words.

What image comes into your head when you think of the word ‘lady’? Now compare that to the image that comes into your head when you think of the word ‘woman’. Are they the same?

It’s a watered down version of the word Woman, because woman is a very strong word. We need to reclaim these words and use them, own them if you like, because we are not taught to refer to ourselves in that way. We have to almost hide it away, in the same way that lots of women use other, less direct words for periods and vaginas. Sometimes having a conversation about these things is like doing a cryptic crossword. You had a what where? We teach our children ridiculous words for their genitals, programming them from an early age that there is something to be ashamed of. 

The male equivalent, Gentlemen, is not used as much, or in the same way, you wouldn’t substitute the word Man for Gentleman unless you were specifically trying to convey a certain message.

My hatred of the word Ladies touches on the whole chivalry debate. Whenever you mention the word chivalry a chorus of men tell us how difficult women are. Jeez, do you ladies want a man to open the door for you or not? What are the poor mens to do? All they want to do is hold a door open for a young lady without being garotted by a burning bra brandished by a feminazi!

So let’s clear this up.

Yes, please hold the door open for me, help me on with my coat, do all of that shit, but do it because you’re a nice person, not because I have a vagina, because holding doors open for each other is what we should all do for anyone. Sorted.

It does make me smile though that the men who complain about not being allowed to hold doors open anymore, are the same men who bulldoze their entitled way along the street, refusing to move out of the way, forcing us all to play a daily game of Pavement Skittles that we’re never going to win.

So don’t refer to us as ladies, in the same way that at the age of 46 I don’t want you to refer to me as a girl because however you mean it, it just keeps us in our place, it infantilizes us and has certain connotations which we have been conditioned to believe. It doesn’t make me feel young and protected and special. It makes me want to use your testicles as nunchucks.

So that’s all I have to say about the word ladies, although I will just say though that despite my hatred of vagina synonyms (vaginanyms?) you will of course have to prise my favourite vagina synonym, Vajanus, from my cold dead hands.

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One Hand in my Pocket….

So recently I bought a dress with pockets.

I’ll just leave that sentence there for a few minutes and let it sink in because a lot of men reading this might think, what’s she banging on about now? ALL my clothes have pockets, in fact even my pockets have pockets, that’s how OK I am with pockets.

But, men, you’re probably reading this blog post on a phone that you have just taken out of your pocket, so bear with me because if you’re a woman reading this, chances are you haven’t just taken your phone out of your pocket, unless maybe it was the back pocket of a pair of jeans in which case the last time a mobile phone fit properly into one of those was in 2004 when everyone had a flip phone. (which, by the way, need to come back. It is nowhere near as satisfying hanging up on someone with just a swipe).

The stuff men carry in their pockets, we have to hold in our hands, or put in a handbag that we have to lug around with us, or, and please tell me this isn’t just me, we put them in our bras.

There are lots of reasons why our clothes don’t have pockets; for example, they apparently spoil the line of our clothes (mate, in my experience, having the set of keys for a 1989 Volvo 240 tucked into your bra is not exactly streamlined or elegant).

Historically, without pockets to put things in, women were less likely to be independent and do crazy things like travel alone or own property, because you can’t get very far if you can’t carry your own money. Thanks, The Patriarchy.

It’s testament to how ingrained this kind of nonsense is that we’re still struggling to find an item of clothing that lets us carry keys/phones/tampons/snacks around with us. The fact is that clothes have always been caught up in sexual inequality.

Women are still accused of ‘asking for it’ because of what they were wearing when they were attacked. Open any tabloid newspaper after an awards ceremony, for example, and read about how a young female actress was ‘flaunting her assets’. For ‘assets’ read ‘just normal legs’ and for ‘flaunting’ read ‘just walking along, using those legs because that’s kind of how legs work’.

We’re taught to adapt our clothing so as not to excite the men, because one thing women must avoid at all cost is exciting the men, because men will be men and it’s only natural manly instinct and it’s not their fault they can’t control their urges and it’s almost a compliment and as you’re reading this you know it’s bollocks, it’s massive, hairy bollocks, but you will still look at the picture of a scantily-clad woman in a newspaper and make a judgement about her.

We tell young girls that they can be whatever they want to be, but hey, do it in a school skirt that comes below your knee because we don’t want to distract the boys.

Snap decisions are constantly being made about someone based on what they’re wearing, and by someone I of course mean women, because nobody really gives a shit about what men are wearing. Men are never accused of asking for it. Maybe women can’t be trusted to take responsibility for their own money or property or pocket snacks, but they seem perfectly capable of taking ownership of their own sexual responses.

We need to get rid of the idea that a woman’s value is measured by how many items of clothing she has on. As well as the idea that if we’re showing some flesh it is society’s right to comment on, and maybe even touch, that flesh.

And we need to do something about the fact that some men seem incapable of hearing us when we say no, or that we’re not interested, or that we don’t want to be kissed or touched, or that it’s over, yet these same men can somehow read the most subtle messages in what we choose to wear. They read our breasts and our hair colour and the length of our skirts based on some out-of-date phrase book and end up getting it completely wrong.

The whole #metoo movement has shaken up a lot of things, and fashion is one of them. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that for the last couple of seasons the midi dress has been hugely popular, particularly with high necks and long sleeves.

So give us our pockets. We might use them to spread leaflets around, encouraging rebellion, or we might use them to carry around an emergency snickers, you’ll never know. But we do know that having pockets is a whole new world. So women, go out and buy all the pockets. Then wait for the signal. You know what to do…

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Some people make an ad saying that men can be nice, then some men try to prove them wrong.

So look, turns out The Mens are a bit cross about an advert. It misrepresents them apparently.

For a start, don’t even begin to try to explain to us how annoying it must feel to be clumped together with your whole gender and viewed in a certain way; society has been telling women for years that we’re too fat, too thin, too old, too hairy, too messy, too sweaty, too bloody. That we don’t want sex enough (what are you? Frigid?) or that we want it too much (you slut). We’re constantly being told to get our tits out, but woah, not like that! Go and feed that baby in the toilet, you animal, but smile while you do it. So forgive us if we’re a little bit rolling our eyes.

The ad plays with the well known Gillette tagline ‘The best a man can get’ by showing examples of bullying and sexual harassment, of women being objectified, and it asks if this is the best a man can be. It mentions the #Metoo movement and encourages men to hold each other to account. It’s corny, yes, it plays on our emotions with the right music and cute looking kids. But it’s an ad, that’s what it’s supposed to do, that’s how they work.

The irony is that the men who are complaining don’t quite understand that if they’re feeling like that ad is having a go at them, they’re probably exactly the kind of man the ad is aimed at. Also, if you’re going to be pissed off, get pissed off because your wives and daughters and sisters and mums don’t feel safe walking home at night, get pissed off because upskirting is so common now that it’s been made a criminal offence. Don’t get pissed off by someone telling you to be nice.

Quite a few men instantly declared that they are going to throw away their razor. Yeah, you go, beard man, you show ‘em! Don’t forget, men get to choose whether or not they get to keep their body hair, without being shamed for it, without being put on a front cover accused of making a ‘statement’. Because we make statements whatever we do. You’re making one right now with the length of your skirt, the tightness of your top, the redness of your lipstick. Apparently you can tell what a woman is like in bed by what she’s wearing *looks down at tracksuit bottoms* (Shit.)

But back to the upset men. They feel degraded and upset and they’re wondering what will be next. Because now it looks like you can’t even approach a woman on the street and the world is going to END! (Can we just define ‘approach’? Because shouting at our tits in the street is not part of normal social interaction, a man would not start a conversation with another man by shouting ‘Nice nads, bro!’ and winking).

But this ad is not so much about being anti-male, but about being pro-not-being-an-arse. It’s about changing the way we see, talk about and portray masculinity, it’s thinking about how we’re modelling being a man for our sons and friends.

The phrase ‘Toxic Femininity’ has been used quite a lot but let’s just get something straight. It’s not toxic femininity that’s causing a rise in male suicide. It’s not toxic femininity that’s created a climate where women are only now coming forward to report sexual harassment cases that go back for years, and are still not being believed. It’s not toxic femininity that has drip fed men a sense of superiority and arrogance over women. It’s not toxic femininity that tells men that emotions are weak, that the only acceptable emotion is anger.

We need better male role models, and while we have someone like Trump in such a prominent position of power, getting away with all the things he’s getting away with, we need them more than ever. The world is a mess, days after this ad came out we saw a video (that they filmed themselves) of a group of teenage boys from a private Catholic school in the US taunting a Native American man, chanting ‘build that wall’, while wearing Make America Great Again hats. There’s one shot that’s everywhere of a boy stood in front of him, smiling. And it’s that smile that sums up the whole over-privileged, arrogant nonsense that needs to stop.

Imagine if we could channel all that passion and energy into doing something that could make a difference.

So the moral of the story is: men, don’t get cross with the ad, that just makes you look like a bit of a dick.



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2018 – The Year That Just Kept On Giving

So, that was 2018, in all its MeeToo, Brexity, Trumpy glory. And now we have 2019, which feels weird to type. 2019 seems such a futuristic year, so in the future. If you’d asked me about this year back in the eighties I’m pretty certain I’d have said that we’d all have jetpacks by now.

Instead we’re seeing a real-time production of A Handmaid’s Tale being played out, homelessness is on the increase and more people are having to turn to food banks. Happy New Year indeed. But hey, we can order food from our beds while flicking between 150 different shows on Netflix, we even get to choose the ending of some of them, (I think the confusion and inability to choose caused by Bandersnatch is a pretty good indication of why we should never have been allowed to vote for Brexity McBrexit Face) and when things get really bad, they just post a video of Theresa May dancing and we forget all about it, like distracting a cat with a laser light.

But it’s not all doom and gloom; we celebrated one hundred years since women got the vote, in Ireland they voted to repeal the eighth amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, (which had more or less banned abortion), and we have a female Doctor Who. Yes, an actual woman has been allowed to drive the Tardis. (And for all the men who are currently jumping out of their seats ready to explain that you don’t ‘drive’ a Tardis, sod off, it’s a fictional vehicle, I’ll use whatever word I like). This, of course, caused uproar. The fact that we’ve spent the last fifty odd years watching a programme about an alien with two hearts is beside the point, there’s a vagina in the tardis?! Anarchy.

We can’t talk about 2018 without mentioning the #metoo movement. As I type this I can sense men (but hey, not all men) rolling their eyes. I’m sorry, are we boring you with our inability to take this shit any more?

(I know you don’t know how to talk to women anymore, but it really is very simple. Just don’t grope her or offer her sex while you do it. Sorted. Next!)

So while it’s sad that we’re going into 2019 still questioning women who speak out, and still wondering why they didn’t say anything at the time, and still warning our daughters about walking home in the dark while walking home ourselves holding our keys in our hands in a certain way that has just become instinct after the millionth time some bloke in the street asked to see our tits, it also means that it is still being dealt with and eventually women will learn that this is not just how things are, or how men are, but that it is wrong and there is another way.

Plenty of men manage to be around women without molesting them or making them feel uncomfortable at all. And we need to stop this indignation when it turns out that a well-known celebrity has been accused of sexual harassment. But we always liked them, we say, they always seemed so nice. Well yeah, that’s the point, this doesn’t happen because all victims are a bad judge of character, it happens because these people are very good at what they do, which makes it so much harder to make a fuss about, makes it much harder to be believed.

So yes, we still need to be talking about this because things aren’t that different for our daughters and if we can’t change the men who do it, we can change how we react to those men. Our daughters are going through all the nonsense we did, the groping, the name calling, it just happens in a different form now, thanks to technology.

Chances are your teenage daughter has seen more scrotums than you have. Think about that for a second. I know, it’s New Years Eve, nobody wants to think about scrotums while they’re tucking into their party snacks, but sending unsolicited dick pics is the new cat-calling. Something like 46% of young women have been sent one before the age of 18. And we laugh about it, we brush it off and delete and block and joke about how funny-looking scrotums are, but this is not harmless fun, not some poor young man being misguided in his innocent flirting, this is about power and reinforces the idea that women are there for your pleasure and are ready at all times to receive your sexual attention. And the boys doing it probably aren’t even aware of it, they’re just playing out the roles they’ve been shown on TV, and in computer games, and films, in their own families even.

While we’re talking about this, here are a few pointers for any men out there unsure of how to get a girlfriend. I shall call this: Things That Are Never Going To Make Us Go Out With You. Ever.

  • Sending us a photograph of your penis, out of the blue
  • Loudly complimenting us on our boobs/arse as we walk past you in the street
  • Whistling at us from across the street like we’re a puppy
  • Telling us to smile

So I’ll go into 2019 still banging on about all this, still getting cross about the pay gap and the health gap and the fact that our daughters can’t walk along in their school uniforms without being harassed, still only smiling when I damn well feel like it.

I will also continue to play Woman-on-the-Internet Bingo. Want to know the rules?

It’s simple really, you just need to have a drink every time one of these things happens:

  • Someone calls you a feminazi (a gateway name on the way to you being called a c*nt, like being a seconder in Brownies, or wing attack in netball)
  • Someone mansplains your own blog post to you (if they use the words ‘well actually’ you get to take two shots)
  • Someone tells you that they can tell from your Instagram photos that you are ‘filthy’. (In case you were wondering, most of mine are either of my feet or a beach. No, I don’t know either.)
  • Someone tells you that you’d be much prettier if you smiled (No, YOU get over it)
  • Someone tells you that you can’t even take a joke (I can, I’m well funny, I still laugh when someone, i.e.me, burps)
  • Someone asks why you’re so angry and tells you to calm down (two words guaranteed to result in a swift blow to the aforementioned scrotum)
  • Someone asks why you hate men (I know loads of brilliant men)
  • Someone posts an analogy that basically explains a situation a woman may find herself in, but it involves men and is devised by men, so that men can understand it, it’s so men can be sympathetic (because it’s a little know fact that the male genitals are positioned in such a way that it renders them incapable of hearing a woman’s soft, feminine voice. Or something, either that or we are conditioned to think of men’s voices as more important, but that would be ridiculous)

It’s not a game for the faint-hearted, and you’d do well to line your stomach with some party snacks before you start.

So there you go, that’s it for 2019. As it’s New Year’s Eve you might like to play a game of Scrotum Bingo while reading this, again, line your stomachs.

And on that note (scrote? See? I’m hilarious!) I’ll wish you a Happy New Year! X

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Won’t someone think of the men??

I’d decided not to blog about this as it seemed too huge a subject to tackle, but then yesterday I saw that Donald Trump has apologised to Brett Kavanaugh, on behalf of the nation, for the pain and suffering he’s been through. The Brett Kavanaugh who has just been sworn in as a Supreme Court Judge. And then today, a man in a white van called me a slag and a man outside a cafe asked me to get my tits out, and I remembered how bored I am of all this shit.

So back to Kavanaugh. Bless his little privileged socks. He’s graciously said that he’s not bitter and hey, he’s even hired some women as clerks. Actual women, working for him, and he hasn’t even assaulted one of them, see? He can be around women, his own mother was a woman, all those assault rumours are obviously nonsense.

I will just say that we’re all talking about this as though he’s been cleared in a court of law, he hasn’t, it wasn’t a criminal trial, just an investigation.

But I keep hearing what a horrible time men are having now. Those poor men, they just don’t know how to be around women any more. The rules have changed and all the #metoo nonsense has made women, especially those feminist types, really touchy. Some men daren’t even approach a woman any more, imagine that! How on earth are we going to remember to smile without some man reminding us to? We’re all doomed.

When you can’t even compliment a woman on her legs and brush away a bit of dirt from her top, what is the world coming to?

By the way, my own bit of personal advice for any man having this dilemma, is to just make sure you don’t assault anyone, but what do I know?

But the underlying theme of all this is the suggestion that women are just trying to catch men out, it’s all a trap. Because women have nothing better to do than accuse innocent men of assault, because that always goes so well, doesn’t it? We all saw how Christine Blasey Ford was listened to and treated with respect. We’ve all seen how young women are portrayed so well when they accuse men in positions of power of assault, why wouldn’t we want a bit of that ourselves? Isn’t it the women who always come out on top?

(Meanwhile, Christine Blasey Ford hasn’t been able to move back into her house because of the death threats. But Trump isn’t apologising to her, and why would he? His own past is littered with accusations of sexual misconduct. Personally, I would say that the day you are praised by Donald Trump as an upstanding citizen is the day you really need to have a good, long think about your life, but again, what do I know?)

The worrying message we’re giving out this week is that even if you do assault someone it doesn’t matter (and hey, it’s easily done, who hasn’t accidentally pinned a young woman to a bed and groped her without realising? Boys will be boys, especially boys with alcohol inside them.) And it doesn’t matter because society has your back.

Whatever you do, chances are she won’t be believed anyway, and there will be so much noise, so much male outrage and indignation that she won’t really be heard. Men will stand together and protest because one day this might be them. And once men start to close ranks, women don’t stand a chance because despite all the talk of equality, what it comes down to is centuries of male dominance and they can switch that back on in a second.

You can tell from the way it’s reported; the language used, talk of women as animals, reference to them being ‘handled’. It’s so subtle, so ingrained in our society that we don’t even notice, we just take it in without realising.

In the Kavanaugh case we had an intelligent, professional woman stay calm in the face of an outburst from what looked like an overgrown toddler, yet women are still described as being over-emotional, and over-emotional is the one thing you must never be as a woman. Keep it in, control your emotions you weakling, emotions are bad. If you are going to have them, make sure they’re the sexy kind that men can deal with. It is a weakness and should never be used as an excuse because then you’d be letting womanhood down.

Yet intelligent, professional men can claim to be so taken over by the urges triggered by a woman’s outfit/attractiveness/lack of sobriety that it can be used in their defence. Emotions are like alcohol in cases like these, for men it’s an excuse, for women it’s one of the reasons they were attacked. What did they expect to happen?? We all know what happens to drunk women.

But this message is going out all the time and it’s fine, isn’t it? Because we know that it’s not all men, so it’s all under control. Except that while it’s not all men, it’s certainly enough men that we still automatically make sure we are always on the alert when out at night, always scanning our surroundings for somewhere to run to for help/to hide/for places a potential attacker might be waiting. We walk along with our keys in our hands, not looking at our phones and not wearing headphones because that’s how we’ve learnt to be. It’s how I teach my daughters to be, without even thinking about it. Social media recently has been full of posts comparing the things women do to protect themselves from attack, compared to the things men do. But is all this really a surprise?

There’s a great post going around at the minute in which a man uses the analogy of a man being kicked in the balls to try to explain to other men why women are so angry. Try and find it if you can, it’s good, but it also annoys me. Why should it take a man explaining it to other men to make men take us seriously? It should bloody well be enough that we’re telling you this. The very fact that it has to be explained in terms a man can understand is all part of the problem, and again gives off the idea that men’s voices are more important. We are telling you these things are happening, that should be enough.

Until we sort this out, these things will keep on happening. This week a report has come out that says one third of British girls have been sexually harassed while wearing school uniform. From the age of 12. Think about that for a minute. 12. In a school uniform. I can tell you that having things shouted at you as a 46 year old woman is really unsettling and can change how you feel about yourself in a second, so imagine having to deal with that when you’re 12. And yet young girls are told that they should be flattered, or that it’s just part of growing up. I can tell you now, being leered at is never about attractiveness, it’s about entitlement and an almost subconscious assumption of power.

We need to think about the message we’re giving out to our children, because when I was young I really thought that by the time I had daughters things would have changed, but if anything, they’re getting worse. Because when you have one of the most powerful men in the world step up and publicly belittle a woman and her experiences, without anybody making a fuss, that’s another blatant step towards a future we really don’t want.

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Eyes Wide Shut

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.

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#MeToo – This Should Be Enough

I’ve had a bit of a blog/social media break recently and it’s been good and useful and I’m almost reluctant to dive back in. But then I ventured onto Facebook and read a post about a recent high-profile case of sexual harassment and saw the #MeToo hashtag, and some man commented that women were being paranoid and that was enough to fire up my ranty blog fingers again.
So here I am.
Of course, (time for the disclaimer because I have talked about this before and know how people react, and by people I mean men), it is not just women that this happens to. The #MeToo thing has resulted in a lot of men coming forward about this happening to them. And before I get bombarded with a chorus of people yelling ‘Not all men’ at me, yes, I know this too. But there are enough men to make it too many men so let’s move on.

One thing I hear over and over again is, ‘why didn’t they speak up at the time?’ (and before I go on I just want to point out that a lot of the time we bloody well do, we tell other women who never look shocked because as you’re telling them they are making a list in their heads of all the times something similar happened to them.)
But the ‘why didn’t they speak up’ thing, this is often the first thing that’s thrown at a woman who comes out about something like this, before any sympathy even, it’s almost an accusation. It’s like they’re saying ‘but if it was that bad you would have said something at the time. Therefore, it can’t have been that bad.’
But let’s think about that shall we?
So you’re in a situation where a man, often someone in a position of power, often someone who’s either related to you or a friend, does something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Now these men are usually good at this, they’ve done it before because it’s not about you or how you look or how friendly you are, it’s never about any of that, it’s about them and power. They do sometimes just make a grab for you, but they’re usually much more subtle and they are doing it before you even realise what’s happening. And as you don’t expect men to just randomly touch you, and you don’t want it to happen, it takes a while for it to register. It’s almost slow motion as you reconcile what’s happening with what’s been said to you.
Is he really just brushing fluff off my jumper/moving my hair out of my face and then accidentally brushed my breast? Which is ridiculous, I don’t think I have ever removed fluff from someone’s clothing, or moved their hair out of their face if they were over the age of ten. But all this is going on in your head as it’s happening. Then there’s a feeling of confusion, shame, then anger, then of helplessness.
‘Please don’t do that.’ you say. And they step back, smiling, feigning confusion, hands up, a look on their face of disbelief that you would misinterpret something so innocent. What’s wrong with you??
So you check yourself. Maybe it wasn’t intentional after all. You almost feel relief because the alternative is to admit that some bloke just touched your boob. And what would you do anyway? Who would you tell? Would you actually raise your voice in the pub and tell everyone around you what just happened? If you were in a group of people in a pub and someone in your group did exactly that and accused somebody else who’s also a friend, what would you do? Would you call the police? And say what? Or would you laugh awkwardly and ignore it?
And so it carries on, subtly, stealthily. Hands on your hips as they squeeze past you, a foot brushing against yours under the table at a dinner party. Do you make a fuss then? Do you interrupt the conversation and say ‘Hey everyone, John just rubbed his foot against my calf.’
A lot of this is always so fleeting and as you say it in your head you know it sounds so pathetic. You know it makes you feel uncomfortable, and, from the look on their face as they do it, almost challenging, you know they know it makes you feel uncomfortable. But it is never concrete enough to actually act on.

There are other situations where you find yourself unable to speak up.
When a man you trusted has you up against a wall with your arm twisted up your back, you’re really not thinking that you should tell him you don’t like it, that you want him to stop, partly because you assume he knows that anyway from the way that you’re struggling and crying. But also because at that moment you’re terrified, and he’s bigger and stronger and has a look in his eye that you’ve never seen before and the only thing in your head is how you’re going to get through this without being hurt and your instincts are telling you to not make him more angry.
But also, it can be someone everyone knows and likes and respects. And you know from past experience that you will either not be believed, because people don’t want to believe this kind of thing of someone they know because that is difficult, and people want easy lives that fit in with the stories they tell themselves about who they are and what kind of lives they lead.
Or you will be blamed and you really don’t want to be that person, because this has happened a few times and you know what it looks like, what the common denominator is, so it must be something you’ve done. And the fact that the common denominator is men does not even enter your head because this is how society has brought you up.
We are told that men are not in control of their urges, that it is up to women to modify their behaviour/outfits etc. We’re numb to this, it’s what we’ve grown up with, we don’t know any other way.
You know that you will be told you misread the situation, that he didn’t mean it, that he was just having a bit of fun and can’t you take a joke? That it was a mistake, that he misread the signals you were giving out by wearing that outfit, or by having big breasts, or by being friendly, or whatever else it was that you did to encourage him.

And again, this isn’t all men and it isn’t the men I know and spend time with, or the ones I’ve spoken to this week or read about, the ones who feel helpless in the face of all this. It’s the other men, the men with no self awareness but who have the inherent arrogance and entitlement that has been drip-fed them throughout their lives which has led them to believe that women are purely sexual objects, here to smile for them on demand. I get that signals can be misread, I get that we can make mistakes. Human relationships are incredibly complex and we will mess up. But the times I’ve been harassed haven’t been because someone messed up, they’ve been intentional power plays.

And we’re not being paranoid, or not able to take a joke, or misunderstanding those people who are, as someone described themselves to me this week ‘someone who is very tactile’. And unfortunately, this isn’t a big news story this week because it’s so out of the ordinary, it’s a big news story because of the high-profile people involved and because once you start talking about this, other people start talking. This week I’ve heard so many stories from women who have been through similar things. Ask any woman and most will have had this kind of experience, we are telling you this and you might not understand it, and might not have experienced it yourself but by not listening to us and respecting our views you are belittling us and making us feel more and more isolated.
This happens all the time, the brush across your breast, the feel of a strange man pressing up against you on public transport, the hands reaching out as you walk through a nightclub or at a concert, the male relative who wants you to sit on his knee, the suggestive comments from a man in a van as you walk down the street.
The sheer, shameful horror as you sit on a bus and realise the man opposite you has his hand down his trousers as he stares at you, daring you to say something. The way you brace yourself as you walk down the street alone at night with your keys in your fist and you hear a noise behind you. The man who won’t take no for an answer and pushes and pushes but it’s okay because hey, there’s no harm in trying and he does it in a jokey way and don’t all the films show men pursuing women and women eventually caving in and going out with them so what’s the problem love? And if you will wear that dress, what do you expect?

I could go on, but I shouldn’t have to. These are all things we experience regularly, things we see our daughters start to experience. Don’t ask why we didn’t say anything before, that’s not the issue here, ask how you can help now, ask what you can do now, it is the responsibility of us all to deal with this and we are telling you what is happening. That should be enough.


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