I’m going to be honest with you… I re-read today's earlier blog post and realised that it is is no way the one I’d write if I were writing it today.
You see, I wrote that over the weekend in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal. At the time the women of Hollywood were still stepping forward, #metoo hadn’t begun to take hold, and I was feeling massively triggered, upset and scared. And so I wrote a blog post about my experiences, about how they’d affected me and about why we need to shed a light on sexual harassment. And hey, it was an OK blog post.
But then my feelings changed. I joined the millions of women who have kept #metoo trending steadily for a couple of days now, and my feelings of upset turned to anger, to serious fucking fury. The fear? Well hey, I won’t lie to you, I’m still scared. But I’m taking my cue from women all over the world and I’m standing up in the face of that fear.
I was that 18-year-old girl I talked about in the blog post who complained about a colleague only to have him tell her that she’d overreacted because, after all, she wasn’t worth flirting with.
I was that 30-something woman that a much older, married associate tried it on with repeatedly, spread rumours about, and at the end of the whole experience told her she was at fault for having been drunk and trusting, and should take responsibility for the actions of the men she was with.
And I was that 30-something woman who had a male colleague launch himself at her in the car one night while giving him a lift home from a night out.
But I was also the teenager whose ex-fling pushed her up against a wall and tried to kiss her when no one else was around, then pulled her onto his lap and held her there as he tried again. And when his girlfriend found out about that situation a few weeks later, I was the girl who was told I must have either made it up invited the attention since his girlfriend couldn’t possibly believe he’d do that.
And I was also the teenager who woke up one night on holiday after going to bed early with a migraine, only to find a man my friends had invited (as part of a group) back to our hotel room on top of me. And when I confided in one of my closest friends the next morning, I was the girl my friend told was at fault since I’d kissed him earlier in the night and probably just “couldn’t remember” saying it was OK. I remembered everything, up until the point I fell asleep, when I’m pretty sure you can’t say anything is OK.
These are the examples that stick out in my mind. Of course there are more - the more everyday things that just count as “normal” in a life where sexual harassment, and even abuse, is a frighteningly every day experience – but these are the things that have left deep enough scars to have needed work and healing to move past.
Of course, other than the occasional bruise those scars aren’t physical; nor are they even the mental sort that needed medication to overcome. But they are there – still, even after the healing.
In this morning’s post I talked about the years of believing that feeling icky and creepy were normal and acceptable, and because of that accepting more of it into my life.
Then there were the years of being certain that yes, these things were my fault and my responsibility. Because, after all, hadn’t I been told that? And so feeling guilty and ashamed of having ever put myself in those situations. By which yes, I do mean situations like going to bed early on holiday and daring to take my break at work.
And then there were the ways my mind decided to combat those things; they were going to happen anyway right? So for a long time I either accepted that and pretended I was in control from the outset, or went out and get so drunk that either I didn't notice how unpleasant a situation felt or these creeps didn't want you, or both. For the record neither are healthy, safe (although ironically all but one of the examples above happened when I was sober), or in anyway good for your self esteem.
It’s a story I could write about for hours. Hell, I am – this stuff forms a big chunk of my next book about reclaiming power over your own life. Yet nothing I want to say feels powerful enough; no words that I write seem to convey how vile and unpleasant this stuff feels within me as it rises up to the surface again in the wake of Harvey fucking Weinstein and #metoo.
Because with the memory of each of my experiences, and the pain and unpleasantness they brought, now comes the iron clad proof of what I suspected even when I felt like that guilty teenager whose big smile and apparently incredibly sexual McDonald’s uniform had somehow invited a man she hadn’t been anywhere near in over a year to restrain and grope her behind his girlfriend’s back: that I am not alone. That this is something almost every woman out there has experienced.
And let’s be honest here – I’m lucky. In comparison to so many other experiences out there, mine are pretty damned tame.
And isn’t that the terrifying thing? That I, a rational 34-year-old who is all about the empowerment of women and about accepting and working through the pains of your past, has seen so many horrific stories over the past few days that she is writing about how her own experiences of sexual harassment and assault are not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things?!
Enough world, enough.
Enough of this “boys will be boys” crap, which frankly is as offensive to men – the good ones out there who know this isn’t the way to behave but feel as scared of speaking up as we have been – as it is to women.
Enough of this “it’s your fault” bullshit because it doesn’t matter how much flesh someone shows, how much they have to drink, whether they smile and take an interest in a conversation (and by the way, today I read my favourite quote of the week – and possibly year so far – from Jennifer Lawrence, who said: “I’m still learning that I don’t have to smile when a man makes me uncomfortable.” The resonance of that made me shudder), or what their history is, nobody has the right to harass or assault another person.
Enough of passing off harassment and assault as innocent flirting or consensual activities: For the record I’ve engaged in plenty of both latter categories over the years and there is a difference. A very clear difference in fact, and if you can’t tell that difference then it’s about time you goddamn educate yourself.
And enough of women having to type #metoo. We’re not afraid anymore – or at least not afraid enough to stay silent – but now it’s time for those words to turn into action. I don’t want any of the wonderful little girls I know, or my own daughters when the time comes, to have to face this epidemic. So in the same way the women of the past fought for our rights to vote, to work, to own land and all of those other things, now it’s our turn.
Let’s take this battle off the screens and fight for a world where there are no longer millions of horrid stories to share from millions of women; where no girl grows up feeling guilty or shameful for the actions of someone else who thought she was his property; and where sexual harassment and assault of all types, by all people in all positions, is treated as the crime it actually is.
And as I said in this morning's post, if all of the information out there at the moment, and all of the posts from people like me are bringing anything up for you then please please please get the help and support you need to work through it.
Contact a trained counsellor or therapist and book yourself in for a session (I offer standalone counselling as well as my integrated work), or if money is an issue then contact one of the amazing services out there for survivors of abuse or assault, such as Rape Crisis here in the UK.