So, this weekend, a group of teenage boys (they couldn't have been older than 20) decided it would be cool to shout some really vulgar things at me from across the road. I'm not usually one to complain, but in the wise words of a close friend, this year is "No bullsh*t 2016". Therefore, I’m not going to sit back and accept it and it's about time that people felt confident enough to speak out when they get sexually harassed - because, believe it or not, it is sexual harassment.
If you want to know what they said, read this section. I was pretty offended, so if you don’t want to know, skip the following paragraph.
The conversation went a little something like this: “Hey, give my mate your number yeah?” “No, sorry I’m seeing someone.” “Want to see my d*ck, it’s bigger than your boyfriend’s?” *Silence* “Come on, I know you want it. I’ll c*m all over your t*ts, because I know you’ll like that. Then I’ll do you up the a*se, because that’s clearly where you take it. Yeah, you would like that. Why don’t you add me on Facebook?”
Maybe it’s not something that shocks you, but it was the kind of language I haven’t heard directed at me in years, and it’s something that I thought society had “grown out of” but I was clearly wrong (and I’ve cleaned it up because I didn’t actually want to say all of the things that they said to me). Oh and just for your reference this at was 14.00 in the afternoon on a casual walk into Manchester city centre. Nobody was drunk (not that that should matter), I wasn’t wearing anything provocative (not that that should matter) and it’s a walk I take everyday without any hassle.
As a result, I'm going to split this blog into 3 different sections:
Some notes for blokes:
- Crude and vulgar language is not going to make me want to date you. Eg. telling me how big your d*ck is doesn't impress me, particularly after I already said that I didn't want to give your mate my number and also, seriously, what are you thinking?
- Telling me how you want to use your d*ck isn't going to get me to go home with you. It just makes it seem like you have no idea what you’re doing. Soz.
- Shouting at me from across the road doesn't get my attention - funnily enough, I don't answer to honey/babe/sexy or whatever you think is appropriate. That’s not my name and why are you shouting at me from across the road?
- Commenting on the size of my chest or butt doesn't make you sound clever, it makes you sound pathetic. Don't do it. This is my body not yours.
- Don't get offended when I laugh in your face. If you're going to be rude to me, I'm going to be rude to you.
Some notes for women:
- Don't be ashamed of how you look. Nothing more to say than that. Own it.
- You don't have to be okay or just accept people saying horrible things to you or people touching you. It's not alright and it is not okay and you have every right to be annoyed, upset and angry about it.
- Don't accept people telling you that you're over reacting. React however the hell you want and no one can tell you otherwise.
- Don't be intimidated. When someone shouts something at you, chances are it's because you're alone. As soon as there are other people around they'll stop and that just shows how pathetic they are. If you’re intimidated they win. Be the strong person that you are.
- Don't let it go. Things aren't going to change if we all just sit back and keep letting them happen.
Apologies for sticking to the gender binary here. I've done to so to help accentuate the points of what I experienced but don't want to detract that this is something that happens to everyone, of every and any gender.
Why it matters?
It’s so important because everyone needs to realise that there are people out there that don’t realise how bad situations like this are. Not just for me, not just for women but every gender. These kind of issues happen to all genders and there’s no excuse for it, not any more.
If we want to see things change, we need to keep educating people on what’s acceptable language and behaviour and what we can all be doing about it. I wouldn’t want to be bringing up children in a society where stuff like this is the norm, where it’s accepted and worse, often celebrated.
And there are things that we can all do to make a difference. Call it out when you see it or hear it. Tell people that it’s not okay. People often don’t realise that this kind of attitude is often rooted in the most simple of comments, or judgement, from saying “Oh, they’re well fit” under your breath or to your friends, whether they hear it or not, feeds into the stereotype, through to commenting on someone’s weight on TV. It all adds into a judgemental culture, where we’re led to believe that what you look like defines who you are, and means you can be commented on and talked about at the will of anyone in society. For the majority of people, it doesn’t mean anything, doesn’t lead to being rude to people, but for the few it gives them the power and justification they need, to voice their thoughts and make comments - like the ones I was subjected to and it is just not cool.
There’s clearly a long way to go. It was only a couple of months ago that I went out and got pushed up against a wall and kissed “because [he] thought I wanted it”. Seems legit. I hadn’t spoken to or seen this guy before, but clearly because I’m a single girl out on a night out and having fun, I must want to be kissed against my will. Just let that sink in. It’s actually ridiculous that things like this still happen, and no, I’m not saying all men are the same because I know they’re not. But gheez, sometimes it’s just ridiculous.
There are things we can do everyday to make things better, to empower people who have their strength taken away from them and to effect change. For starters, you can check out these sites for some witty comebacks (I wish I could have thought more quickly on my feet - I was dumbstruck!):
Like I mentioned. Call it out. Make a point of it. Don’t accept it and let it be known that is not okay. And that works in all instances, in all situations, for all genders. Don’t let people offend you, don’t let people put you down and don’t sit back and let it happen to other people.
I don’t normally write pieces like this. But, for too long I’ve just sat back and accepted that this kind of crap is just a part of growing up, of life, and worse, a part of being a single female in a city. It’s definitely not something that should be accepted. It’s up to us to change things, to educate and to put a stop to harassment. It's about educating the people who don't know it's wrong and it shouldn't be up to the vulnerable to change their behaviour. We shouldn't teach people how not to get harassed, but stop people from harassing.
Just to let you know, I didn't do much at the time, but I'm taking the steps to make sure I don't let it happen again. I hope you do the same.
I'm really interested in hearing your thoughts on this and to share your stories about similar situations.