Today I went on a ramble on my Instagram stories which I have since deleted as I made no sense and no point. I’m not good at getting my ideas across verbally, I have to write it down. I do it with arguments, with apologies, with important phone calls.
I’m a writer, not a talker. Always have been.
I was talking about the Me Too discussion that’s been dominating social media. If you haven’t seen it (where have you been?) women who have ever been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted, to any level, are sharing the simple phrase ‘me too’.
At first glance this seemed like a simple, accessible movement, that would allow us to try and share just how wide the impact of male sexual dominance and force is across the board. It is showing the world that no matter who you are, you have probably been the victim of sexual abuse, verbally or physically, and probably from a man.
However, as the day has gone on, and I’ve thought more and read more the feeling I’ve had towards the whole thing has changed. As my friend Sian said, ‘why do we have to stand up and be counted’ again?
Any woman reading the seemingly endless stream of ‘me too’s isn’t surprised. Or shocked. We know. We already know that there is nobody amongst us who hasn’t faced something. Whether it’s the weird remarks from school teachers when your boobs grow, or men shouting from their cars to you when you’re barely even in secondary school, or not being able to walk through a busy bar without being groped, or not being able to walk home from the pub without your keys between your fingers, or not being able to say no to your boyfriend when he wants sex for fear that he’d do it anyway. We know.
Not every woman posted ‘me too’. That doesn’t mean they haven’t experienced it. Maybe they have but were so trained to just ignore it that it never stuck in their brain. Or maybe they did and they don’t feel comfortable sharing even just that short phrase. That’s ok, they don’t owe you their story.
I understand that the idea of it isn’t to shock us. It’s to shock them. The would be perpetrators. The men who would otherwise not realise the impact of their words and actions. The men who are never just told, simply, not to treat women like they are merely here to be objectified (if there is a man who was ever told this, please let me know, I want to high five your mum/dad/teacher/hamster).
Something that has been going around my mind with the sharing of ‘me too’ isn’t the level of women who have been abused, but the level of men who have been abusers. Because it’s not just a few men affecting all women. It can’t be. There’s not one guy running around the country ensuring every woman gets her arse grabbed in a sticky-floored night club. Recently on Twitter I talked about a man who tried to put his fingers inside me as I ordered a drink at a bar, multiple women came forward with almost identical stories. They weren’t all the same fingers.
Where women are taught to be careful, to cover up, to not be too loud, to not ‘ask for it’ – men are taught that to be a Real Man he must chase after girls, he has to be sexually ‘successful’, and of course he has control. The sexual narrative is aimed at him, his pleasure, his choices, his story. So can we really be surprised when we’re treating like the object? If he is always the subject?
There are many, many good men I have seen and heard treat women the wrong way. I would guess that if 99.9% of women have experienced some level of sexual harassment or abuse, then 99.9% of men have been the perpetrator to some level of sexual harassment or abuse. I’m not saying all men are rapists (and for the love of God lets not start a #NotAllMen conversation here) because that would be ridiculous. But what I am saying is I can guarantee that pretty much every man has, at some point, spoken or acted in a way that made a woman feel belittled, objectified, uncomfortable, and unsafe in their presence.
It’s so easy to excuse things with ‘oh, well that wasn’t a thing then. It used to be fine to grab a girl’s arse in a pub. It was a compliment. They used to like it when we called them love as we put our hand on the small of their back to stop them moving away from our fag and lager scented breath too. Good old days!’. But guess what? Women felt sick then too. Women felt used and dirty and ashamed. We just weren’t allowed to talk about it. Because it was just ‘boys being boys’, we just had to ‘get over it’, it was just ‘banter’. Maybe for you, it never was for us.
If you’re a man reading this just stop for a second and think back. You know I’m right, there’s been a time where you treated a woman how nobody should be treated. Maybe you made a passing comment about the way a friend was dressed, maybe you were more physical with somebody than they showed they wanted, maybe you loudly discussed a stranger with a group of friends. Maybe you did worse. There’s something, and I know that you know there is.
I’d rather see a male version of ‘me too’. Where men admit that there’s been times where they fucked up. Where they admit that they can do better, they need to do better. By admitting that it’s wrong things can change. We can shout all we like, but it’s not our behaviour that is wrong.
You need to speak up for us. You need to tell your mate to shut up when he says something inappropriate. You need to get rid of the idea of ‘locker room chat’, or ‘bantz’. You need to be our voice too. No, it doesn’t win you any friends. Yes, there will be people who call you a twat. But have you seen what we’re called?
I will raise my son to understand that a woman is more than an object. I will raise my daughter to understand she is more than an object.
What can we do now? Help us out. Be better. Be shocked. Say you’re shocked. Shout with us. Shout for us. We’re all the same. We’re all people. We need each other. You need to change. Yes, all men.
(We’re here to support you too – feminism is not just for women, it’s for us all. It’s about making all things equal. I’m as sickened by the high suicide rates of young men as I am by the high sexual assault rates of young women. A lot of the blame for both of these issues can be placed on the crisis of masculinity we have in our society and the expectations of how men ‘should’ behave. I didn’t want to write a ‘disclaimer’ here but I think sometimes it’s important, I’m tired of the idea that feminism is all man-haters, I’m tired of the word ‘Feminazis’, I’m tired of people thinking that feminism is ‘too extreme’. Feminism can help us all, so stop being twats about it.)