Saturday, 21 October 2017

Is it me too?

Living a life, as I do, where social media features daily in my life, I suspect I'm living in something of a bubble. In fact, I know that I am. And most aspects of that bubble are clear to me. I am largely surrounded by people of a similar age, race, nationality, class, political outlook, education level, and social interests. Largely. Obviously, there are variations, but they're not massive. I know some Americans for instance. And Canadians. I really mix it up.

Because I'm aware of my bubble, I do venture outside it, to read and see what other people are thinking, saying and doing. But there's one aspect of my bubble that I'm not sure about - I can't discern whether what I've been reading and hearing inside my bubble is also occurring outside my bubble.

It's the #metoo movement. The movement whereby women are standing up to be counted, declaring that they have been the victims of sexual assault or harassment. Declaring publicly that their experiences are not unique, not one-offs, not aberrations, but the everyday lived experience of huge numbers of women.

Has this really been as widespread as it seemed in my white, middle-class, female bubble? Has the awareness of #metoo spread outside the people who are participating in it?

I don't know. And therefore I don't know whether what I'm going to write is going to make me look utterly abnormal, or utterly absurd for drawing such attention to my very normality.

Because I haven't been sexually assaulted. I haven't experienced inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. I haven't been shamed into keeping abuse silent. I haven't been groped, manhandled or interfered with at any point in my life. I watched, horrified, as more and more of my friends simply wrote "#metoo" on their Facebook pages, and I began to puzzle over why my own experience has been so different.

And I thought some more.

And I thought of all the things that don't count, because it's just what happens. The wolf-whistles from building sites. The requests to see my tits from pissed men at parties. The men in clubs and bars who wouldn't accept that it was possible to dance with other female friends, and that no, I didn't need a man to dance with. The hoots and yelled obscenities from white vans. The guiding hand in the small of the back to "help" me through doors.

But that doesn't count does it?

That's just the way life is if you're a woman, isn't it?

I haven't been sexually assaulted, so I don't need to write #metoo, do I?

And then I just felt rather depressed.

Because, no, those things aren't OK.

Just because I haven't been raped, doesn't mean every other form of verbal abuse and harassment is OK. And the very fact that I simply shrug it off as "just how life is" is not OK either.

I didn't claim #metoo, because by the time I'd considered the issue, and my own life experiences, it felt as though to speak up was to devalue those who've suffered real abuse, assault and pain. It felt like saying, "ooh, I know how you feel losing your leg, I broke a fingernail once." But actually, I think it's kind of the point - that every day, countless women face a constant barrage of sexism that ranges from "only" a wolf-whistle all the way to traumatic physical assaults, and that it is all part and parcel of the same thing, the treatment of women as lesser beings, as objects, as things.

And I'm not a thing. None of us are. And none of us should sit back and say, "being talked to like an object isn't real sexism, so as long as I haven't been raped, it's not a problem." It is a problem, and it's one that can't be fixed by one or two people speaking up. It will take all of us to speak up, all of us to say, "enough", all  of us to say "no more", to refuse to accept a society where women are afraid on public transport, where women accept being yelled at on the subject of their bodies every time they go for a run, where women think daily insults and contempt are normal. And I mean all of us. Women and men.


No comments:

Post a Comment