Last week, I was heading home from a night out. I had disembarked the bus and was three minutes away from my front door. Crossing the road and making a sharp left, I suddenly heard a man’s voice saying: “Cheer up lady”. I didn’t acknowledge this, which is an old habit. Years of being hooted and shouted at from moving vehicles countless times from the age of twelve has turned me oblivious.
I carried on walking and suddenly the anger swelled and burned in my chest. I really wanted to turn around and challenge this man – but as many women do – I made a choice to be silent and decided to just get home to be safe. Having had a few drinks, confronting someone at midnight in the middle of the street meant it would ultimately be me facing the ‘blame’. Hysteria and all. It’s a ridiculous reality, an awful and frankly unfair fact of life that needs to be addressed.
I then found myself explaining my actions. I told myself: “Oh worse has happened so don’t worry about it”. Really? How is this acceptable? I had justified sexism and simply accepted it.
For the first time in ages I was suddenly thinking about the cab driver that once tried to pull me into the front of his car, the man who tried to pull me into a nightclub toilet where I could see one of his mates waiting, and the guy who changed direction to follow me home and then grabbed me in the street. This list is not even exhaustive, and at the time of all these incidents I told no one. Why should I make myself even more vulnerable when there was a likely risk that I would be blamed for these guys attacking me?
There is something very wrong in this society if I can count myself among the lucky ones because ‘that’s all’ that’s happened to me. It is harder to find a woman who has never experienced a form of harassment than otherwise. This is what makes the #MeToo hashtag on social media so important. Not just for women but for all survivors of any sort of unwanted and traumatic encounters.
I commend the bravery of anyone who tells the truth and stands up against any sort of attention that makes them uncomfortable. I am thankful to all the allies who take the time to truly listen and undestand. I ask a small favour of our male allies though. Please don’t stand with us because you have a daughter, a sister or merely just value your mother. Stand with us because we are all human and deserve to be treated with respect regardless of how we dress, act, what time of day/night it is or simply because of gender.
In the wake of the Weinstein allegations, this epidemic has become a matter of urgency and we need to keep this conversation going.
I was weary about wading into this conversation, but being quiet is part of the problem. Confiding my doubts and fears to my sister she simply replied: “Enough is enough” – and I cannot agree more.