I recently read an article about a woman who was attacked in the street after turning down a man who chatted her up. The attack happened in London where the woman was visiting on holiday, and left her with quite a few nasty injuries.
The story really upset me, partly because it hit close to home. When I was six a family member was killed in a nightclub after rejecting a guy who smacked her bum on the dancefloor. It happened on Christmas Eve night, and I vividly remember that being the first call we received the following morning.
However it also upset me because – and pardon the language here – oh my gods. How the fuck is this still happening?!
Because the fact is that while this type of attack doesn’t always end quite as seriously, and won’t necessarily make the headlines, they do still happen, and it could actually be anyone.
How often have you or someone you know been catcalled to the point of feeling uncomfortable, or been touched inappropriately in a bar, but not said anything because who knows what will happen if you do?
I tell the story regularly about the guy on a night out years ago who snuck up behind me and bit my backside as I stood outside a bar with friends, and when I complained said “well it looked good enough to eat” but really, it’s just not funny.
Of course this sort of thing happens to everyone – male and female alike. But the fact is that it’s deemed more socially acceptable for men to impose their interest on women, and to kick up a stink when that interest isn’t returned.
Why else do you think we have terms like “friendzone” and “cocktease”?!
I talked recently about compliments, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about those weird, awful people who seem to think that a compliment entitles them to go further than they otherwise would or could have with someone.
Culturally feminism is having a heeeuge resurgence at the moment. Now there are both astrological and spiritual reasons for that, but on a more physical level is it any wonder?
Is it any wonder when girls are being told not to wear strapless dresses to school because “it will distract the boys”; when rapists are getting away with minimal sentences because “she was drunk”, when women are being beaten in the street simply for rejecting the advances of a man they’d just met, and when the man with the most powerful seat in the world has bragged before of his predatory behaviour towards members of the opposite sex?
I’m an unashamed feminist, and all too often I find that label brings me mountains of criticism, largely because it’s misunderstood.
Being a feminist doesn’t mean I hate men, or want to somehow beat them down to live out their lives in cages from which they’ll emerge only to lift heavy boxes, fetch things from high shelves and help us populate the Earth (although that would be a cracking movie plot!).
Actually I’ve often thought that the word feminist should be replaced with “common sense human”, because in reality what I believe is that we all – regardless of gender, skin colour, religion, body parts or favourite bloody sandwich – deserve respect. And we all deserve to live our lives without being afraid to walk down the street, to wear what we want or to turn down someone we’re not interested in, regardless of any of those things.
The truth is that the feminism I stand for – one where we simply value the feminine as much as the masculine, and build a society that reflects that – is one that men stand to benefit from just as much as women do, and it actually hurts my heart that that isn’t already the case.
There’s a lot of talk recently about how feminism isn’t real anymore; how it’s just a trendy concept that isn’t actually necessary. Well I call bullshit. Because the story of the lady who was beaten up for rejecting the advances of a man she’d just met is just one of a million stories that prove how much we need feminism, and how much we could all benefit if we were only to respect one another that bit more.