I’m sure there isn’t a woman reading this who hasn’t been harassed in the street by men. From lewd comments, to inappropriate touching or full on groping, I am yet to meet a woman can’t recount a tale of feeling scared/petrified/unsafe/stressed/belittled/ashamed and plenty of other adjectives by those situations. I was sexually harassed last week in my local corner shop and virtually had to run home to escape the two men who were doing it. I vented a little on Twitter about how I loathe having to watch my back and always be aware of those situations. I ended by saying to parents who were raising sons, to please ensure they’re being raised to respect women. And with that, naturally, I got some backlash from men. We have now reached a stage where you can’t talk about women’s rights or sexism without men chiming in to try to make things ‘equal’. News flash fellas – IT’S NOT!
The most obvious response was ‘nonsense! I’ll raise my kids to respect people.’ Ahh yes, very clever boys. How equal opportunities of you. And of course the ‘disrespect isn’t just men towards women.’ Well, actually in the case of being sexually harassed in the street, sexual assaults and what have you (which is the type of behaviour I was specifically referring to), the vast majority of cases are actually. It was also said that my tweet insinuated all men were monsters. *Sigh* No it didn’t – if I thought that, I would just say it.
One of my least favourite arguments on any topic where a generalisation is made is ‘not everyone’s like that!’ – what a completely useless point to add to a debate. That rather goes without saying, doesn’t it? I obviously am aware that not all men are disrespectful oafs who sexually harass and assault women in the street – I have a father, brother and boyfriend who are all wonderful examples of gentlemanliness. By pointing out negative experiences that myself and a rather huge number of women have had with men, I am not tarring all men with the same brush – I have obviously not met every man alive.
What irks me is that we now, as women, cannot speak about our experiences, feminism, equal rights and what have you without men chiming in implying that certain things work both ways or we’re demonising men. One comment I received was that ‘most pro-women points alienate men and I can just see it hurting the positive efforts of men, making them resentful.’ So we can’t speak about the trials we go through as women now, because it hurts men’s feelings? You feel left out?
GIVE ME A BREAK.
That attitude to me is actually very symbolic of sexism itself. The fact that women have a voice now is clearly making a lot of men uncomfortable. Men are struggling to figure out their place now as over the decades, women’s roles in society have come out of the kitchen and infiltrated what were once, very male dominated arenas.
I understand there are a ton of men who are pro-women and I thank and applaud you for your attempts to understand our plight on the equal rights front, but that doesn’t mean that we should now shut up about our trials simply because some men are on our side. When we get equal pay, when the domestic violence statistics aren’t absolutely abhorrent to read, when there aren’t entire websites dedicated to the degradation of women, when the way a woman dresses isn’t cast as the reason she was raped, when we don’t have to fear walking down a street alone in case we’re harassed (this list could go on and on) – then we can all rejoice. But in the meantime, as much as you may sympathise with the plight, you do not understand it, you do not understand what it feels like as a woman, you do not have to live it.
It’s kind of like whenever there’s a discussion about racism, there’s always some white people who want to talk about reverse racism, implying that it’s even remotely the same thing. IT ISN’T. Seriously, white people, chill out on that. It’s an insanely offensive thing to even imply that our experience as white people can ever correlate with the discrimination faced by ethnic minorities in this country. Stop it.
If you are a straight, white male, you basically experience discrimination on zero fronts, let’s be honest. I’m not sure if you just complain whenever women speak of the sexism etc we experience because you want to feel ‘down’ or what, I feel the energy would be better spent trying to understand the perspective of women rather than endlessly hammering the point home that ‘not all men are the same’ or ‘we sometimes go through stuff too.’ We get it.
When those kind of comments are made, whether it’s deliberate or not, what it does is discounts and devalues our experience. It implies that what we go through isn’t really that serious. Saying boys should be raised to respect women doesn’t mean they shouldn’t respect all people, of course they should, but given the state of affairs, it is hardly a wrong point to make.