I was groped on my way home from work today. As I walked past two guys on the street, one of them veered towards me at the last minute and grabbed me in an intimate place.
I went through various emotions after the incident; I called a friend and kind of laughed as I told her, out of disbelief it had happened and perhaps ridicule at the fact that the two guys had nothing better to do, then I felt angry and as I wasn’t home yet, felt compelled to kick every lamp-post I could find (don’t worry, I didn’t), and then I got teary-eyed because I was ok and safe and fine but I had come face to face with the objectification of women and had been placed on a spectrum that joins the dots between so many horrible realities that so many other women face.
It’s International Women’s Day and I wondered today what I could post – maybe an inspirational quote, something cheery, hopeful. I don’t want to make this a ‘blame game’ post. I know those guys were products of a disgustingly twisted and dangerously poisonous society that promotes lad culture and viewing women as sex objects; and that this is not what all men think – I got to spend today with some amazing guys and have wonderful male friends and relatives, and that women contribue to that society. I feel for the guys who don’t seem to realise their own human worth, and the worth of the girls and women they devalue. I feel for the girls who are their prey; my sister, my mother, my friends, my colleagues. I know I am so very privileged not to have had anything more serious happen to me.
At the same time, whilst the incident itself could have been so much worse; there are truths to draw from it. I am not an object. I am not a plaything to be devalued in speech, touch, thought or action. The spectrum is scarily wide. Pornography, sexualised ad campaigns, the lie that ‘men only ever think about sex’, the objectification of women in the media, in relationships, prostitution, the theft of men’s money, time, and thoughts, the ‘talking down’ of women who are more than sexual objects, sex trafficking, human trafficking, rape…these all hang on the same clothing line. They all touch each other as they blow in the wind of society. And they all come down to this: the absence of a sense of human dignity and worth (which is also at the root of many other societal problems, but let’s focus on this one today). Perpetrators are worth more. Rapists are worth more. Sexualisers are worth more. The sexualised are worth more. Victims are worth more. I am worth more. You are worth more.
I turned to the guys tonight and stared them down before telling their shocked faces (perhaps because I spoke back?) in my best ‘Miss Wilson voice’ that “we do not do that“. I don’t know why that came out; maybe because I work with children and that’s a daily line, or maybe because innately, I identified the fact that as a culture…this is what we have become. But this should not, and cannot, be so. We do not do this. We do not rob each other of our worth, or treat each other and ourselves as though our worth is less than it is.
We are incredibly complex, beautifully detailed creatures who breathe and walk and think and talk and love. We are each unique. We all bring something to the table, we each have things we like and dislike; things we are good at and not-so-good at; we dream, we hope.
So, happy International Women’s Day. We celebrate beautiful, creative, intelligent, caring, strong humans today who are of immeasurable worth. And who, despite days like today, will look towards the future in hope, and who, in partnership with men, who are of equal worth, will work to make society one that “does not do that”.