As I’m sure most of you are aware, right now, there’s an entire movement across social media, calling for women who have experienced sexual harrassment and/or sexual assault to stand up collectively using the hashtag #metoo to try and display the enormity of what many, many women are exposed to on a day to day basis, just living their lives.
The response has been huge, and rightly so.
When I first started seeing the #metoo posts, my initial thought was that I was so lucky to not have been through the experience of sexual assault. I’ve never been raped. I’ve never been coerced into anything. No one has ever physically hurt me, and removed my right to say no.
As I gave it more thought, it occurred to me that simply growing up as a woman invoked a certain degree of sexual harrassment, which seemed to be almost default behaviour. Going as far back as early high school, the bra strap flicking, cat calling, unwelcomed comments on my physique, the occasional sleazy, sneaky grope on public transport by some leering arsehole, and multiple occasions where I’ve had to use my relationship status as protection against unwanted advances (because, you know, if I am seen as HIS girlfriend/fiancee/wife, then I’m safe, because you don’t go messing around with another bloke’s woman).
Like every other woman I know, I’ve learned, intrinsically, to avoid going out alone at night, to take down the details of cab drivers before getting into a taxi alone. To go to the bathroom in groups, or avoid public toilets at all costs. To carry keys like a weapon, to be prepared to fight like hell and then run like hell, to never leave our drink unattended, to wear clothing that covers us up so that we don’t invite anything untoward.
How many women do you know that haven’t experienced these things??? Yet we are the lucky ones, who “haven’t even been sexually assaulted”.
While men around us share their stories about their successes in the bedroom, with much high fiving and jocularity, women are sharing warnings about places to stay away from, people to avoid being alone with. Yeah, yeah, I know. #notallmen. But seriously, what is this world???
Now, before people get a chance to get cranky, let me say, I completely acknowledge that men and boys are exposed to sexual assault and harassment too. No matter what sex a person is, or their sexual orientation, this abusive behaviour is wrong, hateful and abhorrhent. I know women can be perpetrators of this stuff too. But there’s no denying the statistics. The vast majority of sexual assault victims are women. And the vast majority of perpetrators are men.
Raising kids in this messed up situation hurts my heart. I don’t want either of my kids, ever, to be victims of this stuff. I don’t want them to think any of this is ok. But it’s already evident, even in the age brackets that they are in. This stuff is so ingrained in our society that we can’t even see where it begins to fester. Is it when we tell the girls that the boys are being mean, because they actually like you? Is it when we tell our girls to sit with their legs together so the boys can’t see their knickers? Where does it start??
If nothing else, this #metoo campaign has got us thinking, and it’s definitely got us talking. The conversations have to start somewhere, and if this provides another avenue to drive home the message that sexual harassment IS NOT OK, then I’m all for it. These views are strongly modelled in our home, and I intend to keep pushing it forward, in the hope that my children never have to say #metoo.
To my friends, who are abuse survivors. I see you. I hear you. I believe you.