17 October 2017

Lets Talk About #MeToo

I wish I could stay that I was surprised at the allegations that have come to light in relation to Harvey Weinstein.  Disgusted yes, but shocked no.

I won't talk about the allegations made against him here given that there are potential criminal charges against him.  But I will speak about the culture that we have in society that enables, encourages and protects men like him.

A culture where women who speak out are called liars, whores; attention seekers and those that don't are blamed more than the perpetrator.  A culture where men who report abuse "Aren't supposed to talk about it, man up!" and those that don't, live in misery.

I'm a woman and as this predominantly happens to many more women than men, I am focusing on the women's side in this blog.  If you are a man who has experienced sexual assault or rape or wants to talk about the effects of what happens, write about it, I would read it, but your story isn't for this post.

The thing is, women do experience harassment, sexual  assault and rape at a far larger scale than men.  There are things that women are just supposed to accept, behaviours, actions and consequences.

We are supposed to keep silent.  

Reactions to reporting that you have been harassed or assaulted many times ends up with "It isn't such a big deal, why you making such a fuss!", "He is a lovely guy, are you sure? Maybe you misunderstood?" and the favourite of the MRA/MGTOW section of the internet: "Prove it or it didn't happen".

I'm sorry, but I do not carry a bodycam on me and cannot prove that the man last year fake tripped and fell into me, conveniently grabbing on to my breasts to "lever himself".  My life is not lived on CCTV.

When I was fifteen and two boys at school decided to wrestle me down at the bus stop after school every day for months grabbing at my breasts, my reporting it to a teacher received a look at my chest and a suggestion to wear a baggy shirt.

I stopped it myself.  How? I paid them.  I cannot remember the figure now, enough probably for them to buy a pack of cigarettes.  The thing that kills me now is that I stayed friends with them.  Society had already taught me that my large breasts were public property.  It was not their fault, it was "their hormones".

23 years later it only now strikes me that no one stopped to help me. Ever.  No one in the dozens of cars passing the grassy knoll next to bus stop on that busy road ever stopped.  People must have seen.  I guess they thought that I was "asking for it".

The hashtag #HowWillIChange was started today and whilst a few good and on the point comments were made, it was quickly overrun with angry men who missed the point completely and of course, as usual, those there just to throw vitriol at women.  Their daily game.

I have seen so many tweets saying "I have never assaulted a woman so I don't need to change".  Well done.  Have a cookie for never assaulting a woman.  But let me ask you this.

Have you ever had a friend or a family member hurl sexist slurs at a woman?  Have you been in a car and your friend has shouted out something sexual at a woman in the street?  Have you been there in a bar when a friend has grabbed at a woman's breasts for "a gag".  Have you been speaking to a male friend after a night out when he tells you that "she was totally passed out but I went for it anyway".  Have you?

If you have experienced any of these things and not said anything, not called out your friend or relative, let me tell you, you are complicit.  You are enabling the behaviour to continue.

Your silence is deafening.

 I was an early developer.  I remember being around 12 and going to a local playground.  I was on the roundabout when a group of older boys approached me.  The leader of the pack starting making sexual comments about my breasts and asking if he could "feel me up".  The other boys, whom I looked to in the hope that they would pull him up on his behaviour, looked uncomfortable, but ultimately, said nothing.

Would they have let him says those things about their sister?  I doubt it.  But whether teenage boys or older men, it still seems that a value has to be placed on a woman before she is seen as a human being.  If you have to think of a woman as someone you can relate to in order to see that someone's actions against them are wrong, you are also part of the problem.

So how do we ask men to help change this culture we live in?  Listen to us.  Take responsibility for your actions and own up to those people around you who behave in that way.  Just because he is your friend, your relative does not excuse him from common decent behaviour.

Women should not have to share their stories, like the couple of examples I have shared today in order to highlight that we have a big issue in society. 

We are not Hansel and Gretel, dropping the crumbs of our experiences on the floor until you find enlightenment.  

We have been silent.  We will not be silent any more.  You make not like it, it may make you uncomfortable.  It may make you question yourself, your actions and those of people who you know.  But we are not going away and the wall of shame that women feel about what happens to them is coming down.

Don't be that guy.  Be better.  We can all be better.

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