I have never been harassed. I’ve never been grabbed, groped, followed, or catcalled. But, I grew up in a quiet corner of a small city. I now live in a rural area. I have never been harassed, and I’m thankful for that. But I know my lack of negative experience in this area doesn’t negate or diminish what other women have gone and are going through.
For those just tuning in, a video was posted of one woman’s experiences. She walked New York for 10 hours with a camera crew recording the catcalls, the lewd comments, the guys who followed her for several blocks at a time, and other forms of street harassment.
Of course this video has started a lot of controversy online and has spawned the hashtag #NotJustHello. Women are banding together and coming forward, using this hashtag to share experiences of street harassment. Look it up on Twitter, or check out these sites for examples and back story:
There are some good questions coming out of this. Men saying “I’m not a creep, I’m just being friendly when I say hello” and the response “But she may have had one to many bad encounters to trust your simple hello” and “The jerks are ruining it for the nice guys.”
Discussing this with a friend today she said “It would go a long way if the ‘nice guys’ stood up for women, if they slapped down men who were being inappropriate”. She has a point. ‘Nice guys’ aren’t on Twitter saying “this has to stop” they’re saying “why are you picking on me?” even though this isn’t about them.
(Disclaimier: I have read and retweeted tweets from males who are supporting #NotJustHello – not all nice guys are twisting this into a conversation about men.)
“But this is just one woman’s experience” has been said multiple times, to the woman in the video, and the woman who started #NotJustHello. But women are proving that wrong. And as my friend said “One woman is still one woman too many.”
A lot of good points have been raised about psyche and culture – Men are raised as hunters, women as prey; the double standard between genders; tough guys seduce women; women must be polite and entertaining and sweet, even to strangers, even to creepy strangers; stranger danger, which we teach all children, no longer applies to grown women who are expected to give their home numbers to complete strangers on demand; girls as young as ten are targets for grown men.
This comes along side allegations against Jian Ghomeshi, a radio host at CBC, and allegations of sexual misconduct by two Canadian MPs on Parliament Hill. It comes alongside a friend of mine being asked to speak out about why women who are raped don’t come forward.
Maybe women don’t come forward because they are faced with comments like “Be grateful for the attention” “Appreciate the compliment”. Now it’s a compliment to have someone touch you without permission? It’s a compliment for a stranger to follow you home, putting you and your family at risk?
We’re so busy worrying about Ebola, and ISIS, and Russia taking over parts of the Ukraine. We’re worried about human rights in the far reaching corners of the globe, but what about human rights in our own backyards? What are we doing about grown men who tell ten-year-old girls that the have “dick sucking lips”? Or groping twelve and thirteen-year-olds on the bus?
This isn’t the only place where the culture of the Western World is falling apart. The situation of African Americans was recently spotlighted by police violence in the Southern States. A three-year-old boy was killed by his mother and her boyfriend only days ago. Phoenix Sinclair was killed years ago in Manitoba and CFS is still trying to fix its system. In Canada Native American women disappear at an alarming rate, or are abused. There is a class action law suit against the Alberta Child and Family Services Agency for failure to act on reports of abuse. There are outrageous double standards between the genders, and it goes both ways.
I know I’ve been focusing on my book launch and bullying in my last dozen or so posts and this does tie in. In NOTHING EVERYTHING NOTHING Molly has shirtless and topless photos of her shared without her permission. She has strangers making sexual requests of her. For a socially awkward, insecure 16-year-old girl, this is more than she can handle.
This is bullying. This is abuse.
Thank-you for speaking up and speaking out. Nothing changes if we don’t know there is a problem. Awareness and conversation is always the first step and I greatly admire the women who are taking that first step even though it means being bombarded with hate and abuse.