Sexual harassment - time to cut it out
Sexual harassment: Time to cut it out.
Sofeminine Staff Writer Maria Bell argues that sexual harassment has become such a normal part of our society that we can’t always spot it but only together can we stop it.
Ever been walking down the street, mindlessly wondering what you’re going to have for dinner later on when some guy starts shouting ‘Nice tits luv’ from across the street? Despite the fact they’re covered by 2 layers and a coat…
How about when you were at school? Ever get some horny adolescent guy slap your arse as you were walking to down the corridor to your next lesson?
Chances are you’re thinking yes but don’t worry about it darlin’, think yourself lucky. C’mon take it as a compliment. You’re obviously looking pretty damn hot today right? No-body’s going to be looking your way by the time you’re sixty, just enjoy it when you can and lighten up.
Um well - this is embarrassing - how can I put this? How about - get a grip?
Because in this day and age, in 2012, it is just not OK, not OK in any way that at 8AM on a Thursday morning I can still get verbally harassed and jeered at by 4 separate guys on my walk to work wearing nothing more seductive than a pair of jeans, boots and a bashed up old coat.
But the thing is this situation is not a one off. This is the very real situation that we women are told to just shrug off on a day to day basis. It might sound small but it’s part of a whole lot of a bigger picture of institutionalised abuse that we as a society have come to almost expect, foster and ignore.
Abuse does not necessarily have to be sexual or physically violent. Although the United Nations states that violence against women is the most prolific violation of human rights across the globe, it is the attitude that allows this –even in the smallest comment - which arguably does the most damage and I’m not the only one who is sick of it.
Over the last few weeks there’s been a lot in the media about things concerning us girls.
The ‘revelation’ that on average women will still earn £423,390 less than a man in an identical career, despite the fact it’s illegal - as well as ridiculous, misogynistic, unfounded and morally off the scale, plain wrong. Oh yeah and even after 20 years of women being ordained we still can’t be bishops.
*Yawn*, you know, those small things in life.
But not just that, that’s old news, there’s been a fair few campaigns popping up too.
Things like Everyday Sexism - where on a daily basis they receive a constant stream of tweets and submissions on their website from women all across the globe, just like you and me, describing the little things that have happened to them in life which just don’t sit well.
Things like getting called a slut for no apparent reason. Getting bills handed to their boyfriends in restaurants, even though they’ve asked for them. Jokes about maternity leaves, biological clocks, inability to drive or do anything remotely technical.
That classic banter we all love. It never gets old: 'Oh women, your incompetence is such a laugh you thick slags...'
When protesting against Page 3 last Saturday, the card they presented to The Sun displaying their images of topless women was not allowed to be shown on the News before the 9pm watershed and was removed from Facebook for being flagged as ‘inappropriate content’.
But it's fine to put it in a newspaper.
The original images were allowed to appear in a national FAMILY newspaper readily available to millions across the country. The irony and idiocy of such things is endless.
It might all seem like a bit of fun but when you start looking at the reality of what's happening out there to women and girls, it becomes harder to swat it off as just banter.
Yesterday the interim report from the Children's Commissioner revealed that a total of 2409 children and young people were victims of sexual abuse from August 2010 to October 2011. A further 16,500 were at 'high risk' of sexual exploitation between April 2010 and March 2011. The true figure believed to be significantly higher because of other evidence not being received.
Still don’t believe we have a problem on our hands? Let’s have a big dose of reality with some of these tweets:
@daisy_and_me @EverydaySexism Man sitting opposite me, talking about his secretary. 'She's totally a 10, but she's thick as shit'.
@velcroshoes @EverydaySexism Was assaulted on the night bus by a drunk man. People just giggled and went "aw what a shame" when I ran away. Was terrified
@Jenandalfie @EverydaySexism man in a club this weekend PICKED ME UP & took me outside, saying "i promise i won't rape you" & laughing. awful experience.
@racybaldhero @EverydaySexism I was called a bitch this morning by a random binman while on my way to the bus stop. I was just walking by.
The 2000+ children being sexually abused, the 1 in 4 women being victims of domestic abuse, the 1 in 3 teenage girls admitting to being abused by their boyfriend, the fact that 400,000 women are sexually assualted each year and 80,000 are raped (British Crime Survey).
These figures start to add up. But these aren't just figures, they're real people.
The underlying issue:
As a whole, our culture does not take it seriously.
The Deputy Child Commisoner Sue Berelowitz was quoted in The Guardian speaking about the findings of the interim report:
“Above all, we need to ask why so many males, both young and old, think it is acceptable to treat both girls and boys as objects to be used and abused. We need to consider why professionals still miss the signs of abuse."
To some degree men do think it's acceptable to behave this way, to abuse women and girls (obviously not all men I'd like to add). The ‘why’ in all this is because we’ve done nothing to stop it.
I don’t even need to mention the Jimmy Saville scandal, where not one of the many people who admitted thinking something wasn’t quite right even thought to report it, didn’t even cross their minds to tell their bosses let alone the Police. And don’t blame it on the BBC, or 'seventies culture’, it’s still happening now and from every angle.
These incidents, these campaigns should not be viewed separately but as a collective siren blasting out the dangers and epidemic proportions of the acceptance of abusive attitudes towards women in our society right now and we'd be stupid not to listen to them.
What can we do about it?
I’m not going to lie, it’s a big job. One that is going to take a lot of time and even more effort from everyone.
People need to stop looking for a scape-goat. The mid-set of 'maybe if George Entwhistle steps down from the BBC it will all go away' , maybe if we overhaul the Police, investigate care-homes, have an enquiry, although is a step in the right direction, it still isn't good enough.
This abuse is happening in schools, in the workplace, at home and on the streets and it is up to us as a society who have let it happen to sort it the hell out.
Things are starting to move. These campaigns are important. It’s only by re-educating an entire generation, re-jigging society that we can move forward. So sign the petitions, speak to your children and get involved in the debate.
Now it’s more important than ever to speak up.
Four campaign's I'm right behind:
No More Page 3
Schools Safe 4 Girls
House of Lords petition
Article Plan Sexual harassment - time to cut it out