Eyes open

An inevitable part of fatherhood is striving to ensure that your children’s future is a bright one. Today I realised that, without a very substantial change in how the world presently works, my girls have looming out of the future at them fear and upset that they will find it almost impossible to avoid.

I am ashamed to say that this comes as news to me. I know that is easily said, but I really am, at this very moment, gripped with shame.

The lack of input on this blog is a function of the amount of time that I have been spending over the last two years or so on Twitter, initially as @moobs but now using my real name. I follow an account called @everydaysexism which is linked to a site which allows women to submit the own experiences of the sort of sexism they regularly encounter. Today they have focused on casual public sexual harassment. If you want to read the material, search on twitter using the hashtag #shoutingback. At 9 am this morning, had you asked me if women encountered harassment on the street I would have readily acknowledged that they did. Of course, I would have said, some women might, if unlucky, find themselves in uncomfortable situations from time to time. I had no idea.

Half an hour of browsing through the tweets made four things very plain: First, it is a universal experience. The overwhelming weight of testimony was moving, terrifying and eye-opening. Second, it is a frequent thing. Women described harassment as a day to day experience. Third, its nature was of the utmost seriousness. It was not a creepy wink from a passerby but frightening abuse from men in vehicles; men invading personal space at bus stops at night; 13 year old girls being molested on trains; drunken men angry at rejection … Fourth, the effect was profound – many of those tweeting talked about living with fear constantly. Experience had taught them to see men as dangerous. This plain-speaking blog summarises the message in many of the tweets.

Shame on me that I could have got to my age, surrounded by women I love and have been ignorant of this. Shame on me. This is not the world I want for my daughters. It is not the world I want for anyone. I will do my part. I will not let harassment go unchallenged.

8 thoughts on “Eyes open”

  1. I’ve gotten pretty used to it, but I’ll tell you, it shapes my life. For example, I don’t work out in public gyms because I tend to get followed around. It’s pretty gross. I get a lot of it in reviews to books, but that’s more like the war against women, you know?

  2. I don’t know why, but I can’t relate to a lot of the examples I’ve read. I mean, I do believe them, but they’re not things I’ve had experience of directly. Obviously, your example of bus stops late at night is one I recognise more, but a lot of them not.

    Is it luck? Is it my look? I wonder if actually it’s more likely to be my grumpy, unapproachable demeanour. The comments I’ve attracted a lot of on the street have been ‘cheer up love! It may never happen!’. I find these intrusive enough.

  3. @Susan Yeah I don’t get approached by men /catcalled etc etc much either. I think it might be that I am fairly tall 5ft 9 and most men tell me I am ‘scary’ – so I guess I have lucked out there. I do have friends who are hassled a lot though and it seems like it is a right pain in the arse.

  4. Thank you for saying you won’t let harassment go unchallenged. If there were more men like you, I’d feel safer out running. What really hurts isn’t so much the men yelling obscenities at me, it’s the fact no-one challenges them. I feel very alone.

  5. Sara – other men might want to say something but be too scared. It could quickly turn to violence of another man became involved. I’ve specifically told Big Boy that he should only intervene if he believes a woman to be at risk :(

    I’m sorry you go through this. It must be horrible and scary for you.

  6. Susan – I can understand that, but I don’t think the circumstances where it happens to me would become violent. Another man simply saying “stop” or “that’s not ok” would be a reminder to them that it’s not acceptable to harass women, and make me feel so much better.

  7. This is why I’ve been reading your blog for a million years and a day. You are an awesome person. You “get” things, and when you don’t get them, you work your hardest at getting them. Speaking as a feminist and a citizen of the human race, that is the most anyone can expect of you.

    I don’t go outside past a certain hour at night, unless I’m about to hop in a cab. And I live in a relatively safe neighborhood. I hate that reality so much. And I do believe, after all I’ve seen and experienced and read, that it IS reality.

    And the day-to-day stuff is true. I don’t feel physically unsafe every day, but harassment in one form or another is fairly commonplace. And I only feel safe most days because I tailor my life to remain that way (as in the example above).

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