I had to give it some thinkage before posting the #metoo hashtag. I don’t think I know a woman who has NOT been affected or harassed at some stage in her life. Every single day we hear of murders, serious assaults, and abuse of women and girls. And I can’t help but wonder if the men involved in the incidents I encountered in my early teens went on to do worse things. That is a haunting thought. And let us not forget that boys and men experience all of this too. And it’s even more difficult for them to tell anyone, or to report incidents and assaults to the authorities. I’m only going to share a fraction of my experiences, but I’m sure that many women, and men, will relate to them.
When I was 13, I was walking home with a friend, when a grown man overtook us. He disappeared and we paid no attention, until a little further down the road, he appeared again, fully exposed and w*nking off, his eyes fixed on us. My friend became hysterical and we ran all the way home, me chasing after her to calm her down. I was so angry, but I didn’t tell anyone. Why? I don’t know.
When I was seventeen, I said a very polite ‘No thanks’ to – again – a grown man, who asked me to dance, up close and rubbing up against me. He didn’t like that I said no, and grabbed me by the neck, pushed me up against a wall, and with his hand still gripping tightly to my throat, spit obscenities at me – until his ‘friends’ pulled him away, though not one of them checked to see if I was okay – I wasn’t! There were other incidents of course, lewd remarks, gropes, but again, I never told anyone. We all just carried on, didn’t we?
Another almost, but really NOT funny incident was when, still a teenager, I was out for a walk in broad daylight, pushing my infant son in his pram, when I passed a gang of boys (8 -10 year olds) and they were wolf-whistling at me. I almost laughed until one of them starting to rub his crotch and asked me to give him a blow job! That’s worrying! Where the fuck does a little boy learn to do that!
Like most women, I am blessed to know some amazing male friends. I am proud of my sons, love my brothers, and cherish my most amazing better half (long-suffering, some might say!) but we all, men and women, know that there are predators out there. That there are cretins out there. We need the good guys to help weed them out. Not through violence, but through calling out the bad behaviour and derogatory talk of their mates and work colleagues. And if that’s not possible, then at least remove these fuckers from your social circles. Diminish their warped sense of power. And, maybe we should consider creating a more inclusive hashtag — for women and men — in solidarity and support of all victims.