First published in Tales from Lockdown.
I don’t doubt this is something I’ll still be writing aboutin ten, twenty, even thirty years’ time. It’s an issue socommon it becomes a daily occurrence. A simple trip tothe supermarket is enough exposure to endure sexism.
The age really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make it any lessintimidating and uncomfortable. From the first commentswhen you are twelve to a good decade of experience withsexism, it still hits the same.
I’m 22 now and I still feel a wave of discomfort hit mewith every little inappropriate comment or sexist slur firedat me. The classic “smile love” comment that makes youreyes roll so far into the back of your head it almost hurts.They call it unwanted attention but it’s more than that – it’ssexual harassment.
I’m never going to change the way I dress or makemyself too warm on purpose during a hot day at thechance it may reduce the chance of an intrusive commentabout my body. I say ‘at the chance’ because usually itdoesn’t matter what you are wearing.
One of the things I enjoyed about being engaged wasbeing able to use it to block unwanted attention in barsand clubs. It’s incredible how many people use the excuseI’ve got a boyfriend. It’s absurd you would need to have anexcuse to avoid being accosted by a stranger. But the sadtruth is it’s a common reality for young women across theworld.
More absurd is often the excuse ‘I’ve got a boyfriend’isn’t even enough. Having an engagement ring was a solidexcuse that could not be argued.
Pre drinks are a ritual for a girl’s night out. But alwaysmuddled in with a quick strategic plan for the predictedevents ahead. When living in halls we had a code word forwhen we needed saved from uncomfortable situations.Why are we this used to being groped, stared at andharassed?
As soon as the topic is brought up justifyingoften follows closely. Almost gaslighting yourself intobelieving that somehow, something you did is the reasonthis happened to you. Its what society has engrained intome as a young woman growing up in Scotland today.
Sex education shone for so many reasons. A coupleof scenes stand out and have stayed with me. A womanworking at the food truck says, “You should be carefuldressing like that” Mae replies, “and you should becareful perpetuating old-fashioned patriarchal ideology,it’ll make it difficult for people to like you.” Addressing thewhole telling girls to be careful how they dress insteadof teaching men not to rape women perfectly.
A strong dialogue follows, “This woman told me it was my faultbecause my shorts were too revealing” “So I went homeand cut them even shorter, because fuck them.”Fuck them.
Gone is the time of excusing ourselves andhow we dress for the sake of toxic, sexist and severelydamaging ideologies. It’s never just a comment and it’snever okay. A rant in the form of an article may make mefeel better, it may be a way to deal with it. But its biggerthan that. Its continuing to address it and let people knowit still happens and it’s still not right.
In this instance my focus is subtle sexism women faceon a daily basis. It doesn’t even scratch the surface tohow many women are sexually assaulted and raped. Thesexual assaults so atrocious they are over in minutes forthe perpetrator but stay with the survivor forever. Eventswhere somehow me being unconscious makes someonethink it’s okay to sexually assault me because I physicallycannot say no.
A couple weeks back a tweet emerged. The type oftweet that before you have finished reading you knowwhats coming next. “I’m not racist but..” “I’m totally againsthomophobia but…” It started just like that.“Slightly controversial opinion coming up: it is never thevictims’ fault if they get raped but actions can be madeto alleviate the chances of getting raped in certainscenarios i.e not walking alone at night; this shouldn’t becontroversial to say.”
I wanted to scream. There are so many things wrongwith this statement, it is never their fault if they get rapedbut if they didn’t walk home alone at night it would be lesslikely to happen. No, people get raped in all circumstancesand it has fuck all to do with whether or not the person isalone or what time of day it is. It is simple the only causeof rape is rapists.
Any sexist behaviour and discourse excusing that or trying to consider the situational factorsmake your chances of being raped more or less likely,it just reinforces rape culture. It makes people who trulybelieve that short skirts, having too much to drink orsimply walking home alone is a reason for someone to getraped.
The fight is far from over, but continuing to standtogether, speak up and challenge sexist behaviour are allsteps in the right direction.