Everyday sexism

20 October 2013

I’m going to talk about something that happens too often, I haven’t blogged it before, but I think it’s important, I should probably say ‘Trigger warning’.

Everyday sexism ruined my Diwali festival experience this weekend.  It started out so well, I had the kids, we found some delicious food, I enjoyed a masala dosa, kids had mango lassi’s, and even some green candy floss.  We bumped into friends, watched the great dance performances by children and adults, in fabulous costumes.

Then in the crush of the crowd, Luna in one hand, Blake in the other, I turned around just in time to see a man reaching both hands out to grope my backside.  He and his friend were walking, hands out, making grotesque noises. The guy was not looking in my direction, he must not have noticed my shocked look.  In the crush of the crowd, keeping an eye on where I was going, where my kids were, I turned around three times, there he was laughing, reaching.  I bee-lined out of there, dumbstruck, feeling a mix of humiliation, rage and powerlessness, wondering where my voice was.

I know that could say loudly, “Keep your hands to yourself!” or, “You should be ashamed of yourself!” or “Hey that guy just tried to grope me!”  But I didn’t.

Back in the car, picked up by Rob, I was upset.  Bursting out with “Some guy just tried to grab my backside in the crowd!” Luna asked what was wrong, I explained why I was upset and angry.  Luna immediately says, “I would tell hem, Go Away!”  Blake said, “I would push him over!” they know what to say, they know what they could do, they have not yet been tainted by the culture around us all, that objectfies women, and makes this kind of behavior ok, normal even.

The thing that feels very raw is, along with knowing that Luna would have to deal with this shit one day, is that I was probably a girl who would say the same thing Luna said, “Go Away!” “Leave me alone!”  But somewhere along the line I was silenced.  Was I heard when I told another child not to chase me?  Did an adult stand beside me, when I needed to be heard?  Did an adult listen when I begged them to stop tickling me?  Did someone try to dismiss me when I spoke up about something?  This is a something to reflect on in how I am am with children and their boundaries.

Luna and Blake have inspired me to talk about this, especially with them.  They have also inspired me to find my voice, next time, because it will happen again, I’ll have a voice, I’ll think of Luna.

This isn’t the first time, I have been groped in concerts, I have been cat called numerous times, I have had those blatant up-and-down looks from men when I have walked past, I have had comments like “Nice legs!”  ”Hey sexy!” when I’m actually just out getting on with my life.  I have had sleazy remarks, and those almost lip smacking smiles when out running or walking, and so I haven’t jogged at night for years.  Because it’s frightening.

I was also inspired by the Everyday Sexism Project, where women can share their experiences, and over on twitter where you can read a live stream of real women’s experiences.  Be ready, though.  You can also read more in this guardian article.

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