I thought long and hard about whether I’d join in on this hashtag, but in the end, I thought it was too important to let the opportunity pass by.
Most of the time the header goes something like: “Me too… If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Please copy/paste.””
I count myself fortunate to have never been sexually assaulted, unlike the women who made the statistics on this CASA fact sheet. However, I have most definitely been sexually harassed. Multiple times as I grew up, multiple times as a teen, and then continuing on into adulthood.
Like pretty well every woman I know, I’ve had unwanted leers, comments, and unwanted casual sexual comments that denigrate directed at me. Add to that some condescension and targeted sexism, and you can see why the problem is so systemic.
My daughter and I were talking about it some time ago. Both of us sit around the F/G cup range, and we’ve both been built like this since our teens. Comments like: ‘Are those real?’ and ‘Can I touch those?’ are too frequent an occurrence. Conversations that consist of a man staring fixedly at your chest while you try to converse are awkward affairs at best, and completely denigrating at worst.
I remember as a teen, finding a pair of lacy undies on my bed when I got home one day. I shared a room with my sister, and she and her friends would leave undies around that went through the wash with whatever else required washing, when they stayed over at the other person’s place, so I didn’t think much of it. But then, some time later, she and I cleaned out what we fondly termed as the ‘throw in bit’ of our wardrobe, and discovered multiple pairs of undies that weren’t ours.
That was when we realised that someone had been inside the house, putting them in the wardrobe. Cue moment of horror.
As a young teen, there were the endless bra pings and accidental brushings past, and as many women have said, the discomfort of walking alone at night, or travelling alone on public transport. I remember coming home on the train one night as a young adult, briefly back in Perth from the Pilbara, and deflecting the sexual slurs of a man on another young woman, by physically sitting between them. Clearly I was self possessed enough at the time that he subsided. Thankfully.
I’ve written previously on this blog about the experiences that young women seem to expect when they go out. I find it frustrating that now, in the twenty first century, we can’t seem to get beyond this particular form of male entitlement.
And what astounds me the most, is the complete blindness so many men have towards this kind of thing. I’ve seen Facebook posts over the last few days where men comment about how ‘men get assaulted too,’ (please see the CASA fact page above for the relevant statistics), which no-one denies, and saying #notallmen, which is also something no-one denies, as if by pointing out that it does happen occasionally to men, that therefore it isn’t a problem for women.
To turn things around, consider this: If you’re a man reading this, how would you feel if the first thing someone did when they met you at work was to stare fixedly at your crotch, while you were trying to carry on a work conversation? Would you consider it normal to be casually groped, while a pack of other people laughed about it? Would you consider it normal to have the size of your testicles or penis judged and discussed in public? Would you consider it normal to be requested to provide sexual favours/acts while you walked past a building site? Do you fear rape or assault if you walk alone at night? Do you feel the need to dance near the bouncer at a night club to avoid unwanted sexual overtures?
And these are only a few of the things that most women have experienced repeatedly. Let’s try on a few more.
Have you been asked for sex acts in order to advance your career? Have you been told that your testicles make you unfit for certain types of work? Did your boss ask you to wear a G-string to avoid visible panty line at work? Have you been required to wear uncomfortable, painful shoes at work and only skirts, not pants, so that you look more attractive to the clients who might visit your office?
Once you get going, the comments, questions and suppositions start to add up.
So, #metoo, is sadly something that many, many women can very unhappily place on their social media statuses.
This will only change when we change an entire culture of thinking – when those men who so casually laugh it off, stop laughing and start challenging the thinking behind it. It’ll stop when those who do it make a conscious choice to stop doing it, because they understand that the person they’re doing it to is a human being, who just happens to have two X chromosomes, and not one.
That same person has a brain, feelings, and is much, much more, than simply the sum of her body parts.
And that’s why it’s important to stand up and say #metoo