Posts Tagged ‘harassment’

I write as the UK reacts to the murder of Sarah Everard, taken as she walked alone at night. I write as a 60 year old female with experiences since early teens of low level, gender based harassment, and as a survivor of failed hetero relationships. Am I a man hater? – Read on.

  • Trigger warning.

In today’s UK it seems to me that men’s behaviour will not change unless they experience the same daily fear of harassment and sexual violation that women do.

Why would men even think about change if they don’t fear to wear certain clothes or walk alone? I suggest role exchanging exercises might be helpful. With a dash of comedy here, let’s have men literally walk in women’s shoes on a city Saturday night!

I wish that the focus could change. To blazes with what women should /shouldn’t do – teach men not to rape!

But at age 60, after living abroad and in the UK, I’m sadly convinced that a lot of men simply cannot control themselves. They appear to be biologically driven. Cultural / family upbringing influences their behaviour but there seems to be swathes of males who can no more refrain from mistreating females than they can, for example, stop themselves from pissing in the street when they stagger out of the pub.

Not for a second do I assume that “All men are…” It’s just so sad that, after wonderful improvements since the 1970s, I now see male-female interactions regressing.

There’s a core problem. For centuries, in societies around the world, men have feared women at a very deep level. Women are messy and smelly, women change over time (maiden, mother, crone), the next generation can’t happen without women’s wombs and milk. So men have used their superior physical strength to control women’s reproduction. Topped up by control through rules of religion, social acceptance and politics.

I observe that certain types of male human base much of their social status on being seen to control females. Like stags with hinds. Unlike wolves with their alpha pair and unlike matriarchal monkeys and meerkats!

Yes, I do know that some men get abused. By women or other men. A young man was raped 300 metres from the flat where I used to live in Cheltenham. I can only imagine these victims know the same fear and society-imposed shame that women endure.

Paris, early 1980s: my employer warned all us young women newbies about the high risk of being assaulted. I wore a big cover up coat in the street (because I was told if the rapists didn’t get me, the gendarmes would…) I rarely went out after dark alone, took expensive taxis to get home (and that wasn’t safe, either). I was hyper aware and ready to react, even trying to read a book in a busy park on a sunny day. You can develop a body language which says This is not an easy victim. It was a very lonely existence.

My friend’s daughter studied in France more recently as part of her uni course. She said the sexual harassment was relentless and that it permanently put her off having anything to do with the country.

Despite all this, I still believe that workplaces and creativity thrive best with a mix of masculine and feminine energies. The French, despite everything, have it right with “Vive la différence”.

How do we make friends again and support each other in mutually respectful yet warm behaviour styles? From office gossip to the law, we need to be whole orders tougher on stopping sexual harassment cold. Women and men must pressure the slimy minded. It’s not easy because good grief we want to stay human. It’d be a sorry day if we’re not allowed to admire each other and flirt a little!

So the current conversations are important: what is appropriate? What is acceptable? If you see someone being made uncomfortable, how do you challenge that – and not get yourself beaten up or fired?!

Was this a long read for you? Then imagine how tedious and tiring it is for women to constantly double check what we’re wearing, where we’re going, what time we might have to travel alone, what to do if the car breaks down on a lonely road, what to do if a scary man is near us in the street, how to handle “workplace banter” that’s just coarse innuendo, what to do if this, if that, if the other…

Because women in today’s UK are not safe to walk alone after dark.