I was considering writing a post about this topic at some point since it came about a few days ago, but wasn’t sure quite what to say.
However, today walking to my gym, in my work clothes, in public, I got catcalled. And I’m angry. Really fucking angry.
I consider myself a proud feminist. I understand there are struggles for women all over the world, many of which eclipse this experience; something many people would say is trivial, that I shouldn’t be so sensitive, that I should take it as a compliment.
But it’s not just one catcall. It’s hundreds, that start so young we often can’t even recall when we first became aware of it. It’s being brushed up against and groped on public transport. It’s having to wear shorts under dresses when we go to bars or clubs to protect us from wandering hands. It’s feeling unsafe to walk alone at night and in secluded places – and even in public ones. It’s feeling anxious to go for a run because men call out, they stare, they slow their cars down and pull up alongside us. It’s having to text our friends when we get in a taxi, and when we get out, so people know we are safe.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. I have never met a single woman who hasn’t shared any of these experiences. I read something recently about a study conducted with both men and women about the worst thing that could happen to them on a first date (I apologise, I can’t remember where I saw this or who it was by). The men said that the worst outcome would be that the woman was fat. The women said being raped.
There are millions of women coming forward with their #MeToo stories, ranging from the everyday experiences we all have, to horrific stories of rape and abuse. But for every one of these incredibly brave women speaking up, there are going to be thousands more than don’t feel safe enough to do this. They should not be considered any less brave. To survive any form of abuse is brave in and of itself, and not sharing that experience doesn’t make it any less so.
I have some conflicting thoughts about the hashtag. I think it’s wonderful that so many people have come together to try and fully convey how often sexual harassment, assault and abuse occurs. But there are inevitably going to be women who find this very distressing, and who feel guilty for not being able to speak out just now.
People don’t report burglary, car crashes, violence, and often get doubted or told they are lying. But this happens time and time again to victims of sexual assault. The statistics are harrowing; so many assaults go unreported, and those that are reported are often withdrawn or don’t have enough evidence to pursue. That’s why overall, I feel that #MeToo has been helpful by drawing attention to just how prevalent an issue this is.
Finally, I’d like to add that I completely understand that sexual assault is not exclusive to women. There are thousands of men who are survivors, and who suffer their own challenges with coping with and disclosing this abuse. However, I do feel that this is a different conversation to be had (although a conversation that absolutely should be had). This is about us, as women, not only having to experience harassment and abuse so frequently, but having these experiences consistently minimised, trivialised, or disbelieved altogether.
This is not acceptable anymore. We have to fight, not just as women, not just as men, but as a society.
This has to stop.