***If you have a female relative, please read this, and then go give her a hug***
This summer I got to waking up early and was super proud of myself. I reduced the amount of ‘snooze’ presses on the alarm to two or three and was out of the house refreshingly early, between 8-8:30am.
I left the flat and began my 8-10 minute walk to work.
After a minute, I saw a group of five men, around mid thirties to fifties all stop and look my way. I’m alone. And there’s nothing else but the cars whizzing by. They keep staring. I put my sunglasses on. Not because it’s particularly sunny, but I’m glancing sideways at them behind the lenses. At least two of them take long looks at my chest as they shift their washing machines into big white vans.
I wish I had a big jacket or a jumper that I could wrap myself tighter into. I felt like my personal space had been invaded. Like they had touched what they shouldn’t and laughed as they left it dirtied.
I walked briskly onwards. Up towards campus.
Half way through my walk, there is a construction site at the top of campus. A couple of men in high vis jackets and hardhats are ahead but I think I’m safe. I’m on campus. This is a place of respect.
One of the workers, an elder man probably nearly sixty, blocks my path and won’t move. Staring at me. Thrown at this action, I walk over the bit of grass on the pavement side.
How am I still alone?
As I walk away I can hear them saying comments like “well that was rude, darlin'” and “bye then babe”. I feel sick. And angry.
Finally I could see my office. I’m a minute away. Hmm, maybe I’ll grab a coffee once I put my stuff down.
I walk round the edge of one more construction site. But this is the one I was already nervous about.
The previous week I had been walking towards the campus shop – as you would when you’re hungry – around 3pm. I get hungry later in the afternoon so once again I had found myself alone. But I didn’t think of myself as alone because there were buildings on all four sides.
I have this tendency to zone out when I’m walking/travelling between destinations. I haven’t used my iPod in over a year because it kept blocking my thoughts.Lost in my own thoughts about work, I didn’t realise until I got a significant way across the lawn, and the noise got louder, that the men on the site had been shouting at me.
I look back. There they are staring at me.
So every time I am in this space. I am once more on my guard. Because sure enough a couple of them will be watching me.
Now couple this along with on campus facilities workers yelling comments at you while half-hanging out of moving van windows just after you’ve got your morning coffee, and you have my walk to work.
Never mind other instances where I’ve been walking to the train station, passed four groups and pairs of guys and been catcalled by each one. Been beeped and smiled at by men in cars while I wait for the bus. Been walking down the street late for a seminar and one maybe two guys will walk slightly away from his group just to walk into my space. My bum been grabbed by strangers in pubs.
“But Han, why don’t you just stick up for yourself?”
What, when there’s one of me and more than one of them?
Believe me the amount of times I have wanted to shout back, tell them to have some self-respect or confront them. Tell them they would hate it if it was the other way around so why do it to me? What would they do if I was someone they knew or cared about?
You seem to have to constantly be on guard. Clench your jaw and walk with a disgusted look. Or alternatively look down at the floor as you pass them. Living on edge and never quite relaxed.
“But you’re kind of drawing attention to yourself with that kind of clothing.”
“Oh but men like to look at pretty things.”
Look. But know the line between clothes and body.
And yet the worst one so far I would say is another woman telling me to enjoy the catcalling “while it lasts”, which happened today, or a woman generally congratulating me for it.
If you’ve followed my previous writing then you may recall I’ve addressed harassment in different ways a couple of times in the past. Each time I do I feel worried for the backlash I will inevitably get. From the people who stumble upon my blog, to the ones who can only have found it by searching such keywords.
But enough is enough.
“But you’re beautiful! How do you not have confidence?”
“How are you still holding yourself back!?”
“Yeah I spose the whole menstruating thing makes it a bit tougher for women”.
“Han but don’t forget about your body clock. Don’t you want a family!?”
“How many catcalled you!? Well done!”
“Trust me honey! When you get to my age you’ll be wishing you could go back”.
All things people have said to me.
Now, I’m not saying these things to feel sorry for myself. I am in no way a victim!
Why? Because I refuse to be.
But do you know why I hold back from my human potential? Because I am bloody terrified that once I do, I will be subject to more of this.
This and jealous people – which you get anyway.
The world has not been kind to women who have recently stepped out of ‘the box’ and shone a light for people.
Human nature to tear down or not. Dreaming big is a subtly dangerous game for a woman. Deny it all you want, but it’s true. Otherwise a bunch of us would be making it big and helping others to join us. It saddens me more when women do it to other women as well.
Equality ideals aside, women are sadly still not quite up there with men.
I walked into a central London square around 6pm and all I could see were men in suits with the very odd exception of one woman to a table of about four men.
Yes I get that men are too but women really are held to such subtle double standards:
Live big! But don’t forget about babies and marriage.
Be a boss! But don’t be a bitch/have an opinion/work people too hard.
Urgh I feel sick and tired of talking/thinking about it! So d’you know what? I’m going to stop here.
My intention with this blog was, yes I admit to get some frustration off my chest, but also to make you think of your community. I’m talking all levels from your family to friends to geographically-based residents around the area you live.
Please can we begin to accept all opinions and lives are valid?
That everything is not as it seems on the surface?
That words have meaning? Please use them wisely.
Can I invite you right now to hug those around you, tell them you love them and how you much you support them just the way they are?
Fear is not the answer. Fear starts war and keeps people in oppression.
There is enough dream for everyone.
Instead of trying to tear each other down or assert dominance, encourage success in others. And in turn you will create success for yourself.
Now go be loving and successful!