These five letters have been making a lot of impact the last few days. Lots of women have been sharing their stories about the sexual harassment they have experienced in their life. If I think about it I could also add my name to it as well. From the ‘harmless’ cat-calling to some random stranger grabbing my arse. I’ve had so many comments from strangers about the size of my breasts I’ve lost count. Being a lesbian I’ve been told countless times how I haven’t just met a ‘real man’ yet, whilst being leered at and sometimes cornered.
And I’ve just accepted it.
Because I was always told words can’t hurt you. To a certain extent I believe this. I think a lot of the time words can be brushed aside, we can’t take everything to heart, otherwise we would be always be offended and end up confining ourselves to our house so we can avoid it all. Unfortunately, the world is full of mean and somewhat pathetic people and we have to learn how to deal with it. The odd comment from strangers about my appearance, my social interests or my choice of clothes, doesn’t bother me that much any more. Doesn’t mean they are right, but we all like what we like and that’s just the way it is. Do they have to be an arse about it? Of course not, but a snide comment will not do me too much damage. I’ve adopted this thinking to the way I have been treated by some men in the past. I think it hasn’t affected me. But the truth is, it has. If I’m walking alone at night and see a man coming towards me, I mentally prepare myself. I make myself walk with a bit more confidence and conviction, to show that I am not intimidated by them. Now, I am not a man-hating lesbian, I actually get on better with men than I do with women, but there is a small minority of men, who think we are beneath them. That we are pieces of meat, just here for their entertainment and pleasure. That they can do anything they want to us and there will not be any consequences. These range from the leery vultures walking down the street or in the night club, to the high-powered businessmen. The leery one’s in a club or pub are easier to deal with. They don’t have any hold over you. You can tell them to fuck off and walk away from them. The strangers on the street are scary, especially if you are on your own and there is no-one else about. You don’t want to say anything to upset them, on the fear they might become aggressive or violent. I think most women have said the go-to line of ‘I’ve got a boyfriend’, hoping that the threat of another male might make them back off, because us telling them we’re not interested is not good enough for them. I don’t tell them I am gay, as I think they’d then see me as a challenge or someone who needs to be turned.
But I think the scariest men are the ones who have some kind of power over you. Whether it be your boss, supervisor, potential boss or someone who has power or status within your community. These men are predators. They manipulate you. They use their power against you. They usually have enablers, people who are aware of what they do and don’t do anything to stop it or play an active role of putting a woman into a horrible situation. They feel as though as they are untouchable. They make it seem as though you don’t have any other option, that you are not allowed to say no. If you say no, you will lose your job, you’ll never get a job in that particular field as they ‘know people’ or you will become a social pariah. And unfortunately, it appears that a few of them have been untouchable in the past, and there are probably many more who are still getting away with it. Well we need to show them they are not untouchable. They are accountable. They will be held accountable. They will face what they have done. They will face what they are. They will face the backlash and punishment. They will face the shame. They will own the shame. Because it is not ours to have. We should not be ashamed of what has happened to us. We did not do anything wrong. They have the problem. They are despicable, pathetic excuses for men, no, for human beings. We all need to tell our stories. We need to rise up and stand up for our rights. Our right to live without fear. Our right to not be violated. Our right to be treated with the respect we deserve. Our right to be women.