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Archive for the tag “harassment”

The List

This blog was planned to be about how there is limited protection/support for harassment or sexual assault victims in nightclubs. I was going to give you a lovely piece on how the SIA does nothing and requires nothing when licensing companies to train security staff with regards to preventing and reporting sexual assault. In fact, one of those training companies told me that any mention of sexually related crimes was paid “lip service” during their training programme.

But then I realised what a silly feminist I was being, because why should there be a cultural shift away from our bodies being seen as fair game when we all know how easy it is for women to prevent sexual assault and harassment. Here’s a helpful list:

  • Don’t wear short skirts
  • Don’t wear jeans
  • Don’t show cleavage
  • Don’t cover up your cleavage
  • Don’t wear a burka
  • Don’t wear a hijab
  • Don’t wear hot pants
  • Don’t wear heels
  • Don’t wear boots
  • Don’t wear school uniform
  • Don’t travel on the bus
  • Don’t travel on the tube or any train
  • Don’t go to work
  • Don’t walk down a street at night
  • Don’t walk down a street in daytime
  • Don’t jog publicly
  • Don’t cycle
  • Don’t love sex
  • Don’t hate sex
  • Don’t be drunk, especially not “too” drunk
  • Don’t take drugs
  • Don’t be alone
  • Don’t be with female friends
  • Don’t be with male friends
  • Don’t be in mixed company
  • Don’t go to the supermarket
  • Don’t love men
  • Don’t hate men
  • Don’t go to bars
  • Don’t go to nightclubs
  • Don’t dance
  • Don’t go on holiday
  • Don’t fly
  • Don’t be single
  • Don’t be married
  • Don’t date
  • Don’t be gay
  • Don’t wear make up
  • Don’t leave the house without make up
  • Don’t eat in public
  • Don’t be thin
  • Don’t be fat

I had some help compiling this from @WeekWoman and @opinionatedpavs on Twitter during a particularly liberating rant session (apologies if others were involved and I missed you). I then added to it via a brief glimpse at the Everyday Sexism project and Hollaback London. Feel free to add your own; this is about helping women change their behaviour in order to avoid harassment after all. It really didn’t take a lot of work to find places/situations where women and girls are being harassed.

Perhaps there is some perfect balance of wearing the right thing, being in the right place, with the right people and acting in the right way that will prevent sexual harassment. Certainly being in the wrong place at the wrong time will mean that you are partly to blame for being assaulted. So, once we have eliminated all of the above, what is left? Stay in, don’t answer the door and never interact with another human being, ever.

Or maybe, just maybe, we could start to address the culture that perpetuates the myth that all women, everywhere, are sexually available. That we want this attention, are flattered by it, dress in order to achieve it and are constantly asking for it. Because (and I hate to burst bubbles), that’s simply not the case. Some women, on some occasions, might enjoy male attention, might even dress to achieve it. But it is illogical and dangerous to extrapolate that to all women, all the time. How is a school girl on the bus asking for it? Why does sitting opposite you on a Tube give you the right to stare at a woman’s tits? How does a woman being in the same bar as you give you the right to put your hand up her skirt?

Let’s repeat it again and for the record… She’s not here for you.

Tube Tales

So yesterday I dressed myself (I know, high fives all round) in an outfit that I felt had answered all of my outfit selection questions; is it clean, do I feel comfortable, is it professional enough for a Friday at work etc. When I left the house for work I was feeling good, it was Batman day, it was Friday and my in-box wasn’t looking too painful. I didn’t even have to wait very long for a Tube. Happy days!

I don’t know if it was the case or just my perception of the case, but I felt like the only woman in my carriage – or at least the bit of my carriage that I felt part of. Instantly, without anyone saying anything, I became incredibly aware of the length of my skirt (about an inch maybe two above the knee). When I got a seat I felt the need to put a scarf across my knees to cover up a little bit more. Over the course of a 30 minute or so journey, I became increasingly self-conscious and uncomfortable. Frankly I felt hideously exposed. I just want to repeat, no one said anything (or at least not that I heard), there was no obvious harassment – not in the way that people talk about anyway.

What did I experience? Because I think I’m confident enough to have not felt that way without an external cause. Also, I’ve worn that skirt before and not felt anything other than fabulous.

So there must have been something else… Yes there was, there were looks and exchanged glances. Looks at me, looks at my legs, knowing looks at each other, raised eyebrows and smirks. Could I have been paranoid? Of course I could. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t after me… Because there is an assumption that women get dressed thinking “will I attract a man wearing this?” followed by “do I look fat?”. Therefore when I wear a skirt that shows a bit of leg it must have been because I want men to stare at my legs. So it’s fine for them to stare at my legs and have their little “nudge nudge wink wink” moments, after all that must be why I chose to wear that skirt in the first place.

But it wasn’t fine, it was horrible and degrading and I spent the rest of the day feeling self-conscious and kind of sad. Was I supposed to feel flattered? If so, it was a massive fail.

Now I just want to be clear about this, there are times when I choose to dress sexily and that’s because I’m feeling sexy. But first and foremost I choose what I wear because of how I’m feeling and what I want to look like that day. Just as some days I want to look hot, other days I want to look professional or scruffy or warm.

There was a time when I would have just accepted the looks; maybe I wouldn’t even have noticed them. Then I had my eyes opened to slut shaming and victim blaming and all the things that feminists are trying to tell you about the world out there. How I dress is not an invitation, it’s not a signal and it’s not an advert. It’s an expression of who I am, how I feel and also probably about the weather.

So here’s what I’m going to do every morning (well, afternoon if it’s a weekend), before I put any other clothes on, I am going to put on my feminist armour and then my outfit. That way, you can stare all you like, but I’ll have the secret power because I’ll know that it’s you who are wrong, not me and I’ll keep pointing out how wrong you are until maybe, just maybe, you’ll realise it too.

Gorillas in the (red) mist

I’ve been playing with a few ideas for blog 2 over the last week but nothing was quite working; maybe the weather was making me too happy, maybe one blog had got it all out of my system, or perhaps I just hadn’t had quite the right thing to rail against. But fear not, this evening I paused at the supermarket on my way home and came face to face with (brace yourself) a man wearing a t-shirt which appeared to show a young woman being raped by a gorilla (or possibly a man in a gorilla suit)… Just play with that visual image for a minute… Got it? Now put it on a t-shirt, in broad daylight, on a normal looking man. Anyone else feeling the need to have a little yell with me out of the window?

Let’s just break that down for a second or two before we all run for the gin…

So, the first thing that happened there is that a t-shirt designer took an image of a gorilla and an image of a beautiful woman bent over with a pained look on her face and put them together. Without thinking “Too rapey for a t-shirt? We’re okay with the bestiality are we?” or if they thought it, they answered “no”.

Next a retailer saw that design and thought, “that fits a gap in our product range, we’ll buy some” and that’s what they did and then stocked them in their stores. Without thinking, “is this a little bit offensive?” or if they thought it, they answered “no”.

Then someone walked into that shop (let’s assume it was the man wearing it) and looked at the slightly rapey/definitely bestiality inspired t-shirt and thought, “haa haa haa, look at that gorilla and the pretty girl he’s fucking, that’s hilarious, I need that t-shirt” at no point did he stop and consider if it was at all inappropriate or vile or sexist or just not a nice t-shirt, or if he did think that, he answered “no”.

And then he wore it… He wore the rapey/bestiality t-shirt…

For those out there who question the concept of a rape culture and its impact on the victims of sexual violence, I point you towards the comedy rape t-shirt. I’m not going into the whole rape joke thing here, that’s for another day. My point is that if you can treat rape so casually that you put it on a t-shirt, what hope is there?

Dear T-Shirt Designer/Retailer/Man Wearing T-Shirt

Please, go and look at http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/ see what an amazing thing they are trying to do. Women are subjected to the worst possible violence in the name of war and we’re just starting to tackle it.

Now, how do you feel about that t-shirt? Because I know how I feel and it’s furious.

Kindest regards

Sarah

My First Blog

Today I finally reached my Network moment, as I read the Indie’s article on public harassment(http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/catcalls-whistles-groping-just-another-day-for-a-young-woman-7786185.html) I could think of nothing better than yelling “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore” from the nearest window. So, rather than terrifying my parents’ neighbours, I thought I would use the internet as my window and write my first blog. Brace yourselves…

I might be outside of the study’s age group, but my experience as a woman living/working/playing in London is all too familiar. Here are some things that have happened to me in public (this excludes bars/nightclubs as that’s a whole other blog): 

  • Subjected to verbal harassment by a group of about 10 men for around 20 minutes on the Tube, the only way off the train was passed them, they blocked the exit so that I had to squeeze passed, at least 2 put their hands up my skirt – this was a Saturday afternoon
  •  Followed home by a man who was angry that I hadn’t responded to his comments to me on the bus which I genuinely hadn’t heard. I had to walk away from my front door as I was so worried he would find out where I lived, he eventually got bored of walking round in circles and just yelled what a bitch I was at me as I walked away
     
  • Conversations along these lines are frequent:

Him:               Where are you going?
Me:                *stony faced silence*
Him:               Bitch

Or

Him:               Where are you going?
Me:                Home
Him:               Where’s home?
Me:                *Look that says, ‘none of your business’*
Him:               Bitch 

  • Eyed up and obviously talked about by two young guys on the platform. I get into a different carriage on purpose. They walk through the train to sit in my carriage so that they can carry on discussing me.

 Those are on top of the almost daily staring, whistling, gesturing and commenting that we all live with.

 Which is what is making me so angry today (despite a rather wonderful massage this morning), that women in London and I suspect the rest of the UK have just learned to live with this bullshit. We sigh, we roll our eyes and we tut at the lower level stuff and then I hear stories of women changing how they dress, travel and socialise in order to avoid the bigger stuff. Did you notice that, it’s the women changing their lives to accommodate men’s bad behaviour?

I completely understand why any woman would choose to protect herself from the harassment she suffers while out and about, but to all my friends and family who might be reading this, I’m not going to be one of those women. I will not accept this as the way life is and I will not change what makes me happy in order to avoid it – I might keep having massages to calm me down though.

Maybe I am over-reacting; a lot of women enjoy a compliment… But if it’s okay to stare down my top on the Tube, does that mean that you don’t believe I deserve your respect? If I don’t deserve your respect, then why do I deserve equal pay? Or the right to do with my body whatever I want? Or how about protection from unfair government cuts? Because if my gender gives you licence to treat me differently than a man while I just happen to walk passed you, then why not treat me differently everywhere?

So, that’s my shout out of the window today. Do I feel better for having a shout? Not really, but I’m working on it.

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