I’m so sorry I didn’t post over the weekend; I was literally packed with things the whole of last week and ended Thursday with finally passing my drivers theory after my third attempt of the month. I then went to Center Parcs with my family over the weekend on what I fear will be the last legal trip I am allowed this term due to current lockdown talks and fears. Spending the weekend with little to no technology and focusing on my book which I have finally finished (the new Twilight book is actually really good, I recommend), I had a lot of time to reflect on where I am right now and especially after a dreaded snapchat memory lookback what has changed in the past year.
I have a lot of trauma which is unspoken about, for instance what is fuelling this post isn’t something I am willing to or ever will speak about. My mental health is significantly strained in relation to my gender and I find myself in states of panic or fear regularly especially late at night or in areas which are poorly lit. I have never, nor would I ever rate myself, my figure, my attractiveness, etc. but if we go by the common catcalls, beeping, following and threatening upon rejection I’m obviously well liked/enjoyed.
It terrifies me. I was between the age of 12 and 13 when I was first catcalled, I was in school uniform and if you knew me back then you’d know I was lanky with a bit of chubbiness which have in turn formed my curves. I didn’t know how to react and kept walking, 8/9 years later and I still react the same way. I had a stage of my life where I would actively curse at those but after being followed by one around my area three times, I decided that silence was the safest way forward. This was before I even hit puberty, I’ve seen photos of what I looked like and it just didn’t make sense. I once saw and read an article, which unfortunately I can’t find now, which explained that when the fear provoked by a man catcalling a young girl leads to a more submissive and anxious woman therefore leading to more acceptance for abusive behaviours.
Girls are taught from a young age that boys are mean because they like them, this concept of accepting and allowing males to treat women with zero respect in order to impress a woman is painful. From a young age, girls are taught to conform to a system which overly sexualises parts of a woman’s body, for instance boys were allowed to wear suits/uniforms as tight as they wanted but my sister got uniform checked regularly for skirts just above her knee. On one occasion I remember being told off for wearing a sleeveless turtleneck on a 30 plus degree day, I remember asking our Deputy head what the problems with my shoulders being out were and being told it could be a distraction. Genuinely, if someone is going to be distracted by my shoulders should they be allowed in a capacity of a school? It was the same concept with ankle grazer trousers, I remember being told off for those and arguing as I was 5’11 finding sixth form clothes was draining and if a pair of trousers fit I wasn’t about to change them as my ankles could turn on a middle-aged man.
The older I got and the further into my jobs the more bad experiences I underwent, in one of my first jobs (I obviously can’t mention who or where these jobs are) I remember being 17 and having a man around my father’s age openly make inappropriate comments towards me. He wasn’t the only one and several men around that job felt the need to jump from woman to woman and openly discuss their sexual experiences with other colleagues in front of us all, attacking and degrading the woman’s appearances, personalities and reputation. It was vile and made worse by managers laughing and allowing these attacks to take place. I once discussed it with a female manager and she proceeded to insinuate it was the girls faults for getting themselves in those situations; after that I quietly carried on working and barely spoke to people out of work for fear that I’d be the next rumour. That same job is partly one of the reasons I am fearful of men, one time I served a man and he sat where he could watch me work. He stayed till the end of the shift and as I walked around the corner to where my father would pick me up, I noticed I was being followed by this man. I quickly rang my best friend and quietly told her I was being followed and would need her on the phone. He tried speaking to me, asking me out and telling me I was beautiful and needed a big strong man like himself, it was half eleven at night and I’ve never been so grateful to see my dad’s car.
After that the same man turned up at work the same day for a few weeks but I’d hide until he left thinking I was no longer working, he’d come in with several men and I was utterly terrified that I would end up in some horrific place. I worked there for a year and genuinely I probably was cursed at, threatened or insulted by over 250 men who I had just rejected to give my snapchat to. I was eighteen and not interested, nor would I hand out my details to someone at work despite how many of my colleagues would (wrongfully) state his attractiveness. I wasn’t interested like they were; I genuinely feel like that job would’ve been so much less stress had we all focused more on the job than attracting men but unfortunately it worked that way.
I wish that was my only experience like that but I’m not that lucky, in my nine jobs I’ve probably had a standout bad experience because of my gender in every single job, that’s not a good statistic. This job was not somewhere I stayed long, despite loving the job, I was 19 and this was a quick summer job. There was a middle-aged manager who despite occasionally being lovely was quite creepy, one time I remember begging on the radio for a manager to come help me with a difficult customer and despite my cries for help he sauntered over. By this stage I was being screamed at by multiple customers, it was over thirty degrees and there was no air conditioning where I was, and I was in the midst of my first panic attack in 4 months. I could barely breathe and was struggling to remain composed; this manager kept touching my arm despite my requesting him not to and I finally snapped and told him if he was to touch me again, I would go home. Though this doesn’t seem like much the way I was treated post this incident proved what type of workplace this was, I had many conversations with managers about how uncomfortable I felt and was told that I should treat those in management with more respect.
This ultimately leads to my main point; I don’t treat anyone with respect unless I believe they deserve it. I don’t care if they are my elders, I won’t be treated with disrespect. Age doesn’t mean respect. The fact in all my jobs it has been women who’ve excused the male’s behaviour proved to me this was not the workplace for me, I don’t want to live/work/be in an environment where women’s safety and comfort is side-tracked by a man’s sexual desires. Touching someone in a workplace whether that be on the hips or on the arms is unacceptable and in the smallest of occasions would I actually accept and understand it happening. The fact that we excuse certain behaviours as men tell us it was innocent shows how easy it is for them to get away with treating women with little to no respect.
I’d love to live in a world where I could walk down the street no matter the time and not have to be focused on every single sound, rustle, etc. that I can hear. I’d love to not instinctively be gripping my keys as if they are going to hurt a potential attacker. I’d love to say I haven’t rehearsed, and researched safety moves just in case I find myself in a situation which I need to fight my way out of. I’d love to live in a world where I didn’t feel judged or in danger every time, I walked down the road no matter what I am wearing, but especially when in something that shows some skin. I’d love to live in a world where I didn’t have to keep an extra eye on both mine and my friends’ drinks, or send them my location when I go on a date, etc., or get the all clear and all good signal from my mates as they are with someone in the club.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world, and because I know some will be thinking yes but women can do stuff to men, I know they can. However, I am a woman and have only ever felt danger from men hence why I can write from that point of view. I don’t mean to offend anyone and though I doubt those men spoke about in this will ever read it I hope if they do they understand that I still remember their actions and if anything the stress caused from those have led to me trusting men even less than my already tiny amount.
I just want to finish this off saying I’ve been thinking about a post RE coronavirus and how the government is suddenly blaming students however for the sake of not being kicked out of university it is best for me to keep my opinions offline. I just hope that all students who could potentially be told they can’t go home for Christmas keeps safe and makes right decisions based on their mental health because I know for sure despite being quite mentally stable at the moment my mental wellbeing would struggle if I was told at one of the most depressing times of the year I couldn’t spend it surrounded by my family. No thank you.
Next post will be something a little bit lighter but being a one year ‘I don’t want to remember this night’ anniversary over the weekend this topic was the only thing on my mind. Thank you love you alllllll xxxx