I’m sitting here with my blood boiling as I type and delete, type and delete. It’s sometimes hard to be eloquent and make sense of your arguments when you’re frustrated, tired, upset and sick of women being treated the same way over and over again.
I’ve been reading article after article about recent events in Australia where Melbourne school boys have been sharing unsolicited photos of girls online (which you can read about here and here if you want to reach a new level of anger).
If you know me well in the offline world you would have most likely been subject to a passionate discussion about women’s rights and the everyday treatment of women at least once. I’ve always thanked my mum, a strong woman who grew up in working class Sydney, who taught me the word feminism when I was four and who I thank for my early feminist education. Although sometimes our opinions now differ when it comes to what we think empowers women due to our generation gap, what she taught me when I was a kid is one of the most valuable things I’ve experienced. It is an important building block of who I am today.
As women we are constantly being told that our bodies aren’t our own and are a war zone. We are told that women mature faster than boys when in actual fact society forces us to grow up faster as we are sexualised at an age where we barely know what the word means, while being blamed for older mens uncontrolled desire. This is all while boys continue to get away with the old “boys will be boys” rhetoric.
My parents told me that I was as young as 11 when they saw men look at me in the streets with lust in their eyes.
I was 12 when a friend’s male relative asked me what colour underwear I was wearing on my friends msn account.
I was 13 when I was catcalled on the street, which continues to be an almost daily reminder from the patriarchy my body is public property.
I was as young as 14 when I linked my self worth to how much I weighed, something that had been brimming under the surface years and years beforehand.
I was 16 when I was cornered by a friends brother who was five years my senior and sprained my ankle as I avoided his advances.
I was newly 18 when a boy tried to pressure me into sleeping with him, even though he was a “good guy”.
I was 19 when a friend of a friend told me she had been raped.
I am now 21 typing this and thinking about how impressed I am of girls and women everywhere who have to sharpen their tongues and polish their shields to survive.
I do not know one woman who hasn’t had unwarranted advances from a man, who hasn’t had a part of her body grabbed by a strange man at one time or another or been pressured into doing something sexual she didn’t want to do. Men get so incredibly offended when women tell them to leave them alone and are shocked by the simple notion that they might not actually be entitled to our time, spaces and bodies.
Women are faced with more bullying, abuse and threats than their male counterparts when they enter online spaces. A report from the World Health Organisation in 2013 stated that violence against women is “a global health problem of epidemic proportions”, which includes street harassment, stalking, rape and abuse which reveals the state of the world in regards to its treatment of women.
If as a society we believe that what a woman wears dictates how she should be treated or whether she’ll be sexually assaulted or not, then we’re a society that says a woman’s body is inherently deserving of rape. You say we have to cover our body to protect ourselves… But even when we do “dress modestly” we’re still not safe from male sexual violence. It seems as if being female is the only excuse someone needs to assault us.
So to my fellow gals out there reading this, let’s make sure that we’re not helping the vicious cycle of poisonous ideas that are directed at our fellow women. Let’s continue to show the world that our bodies are ours and aren’t here to be used as political chess pieces. Continue to be loud or quiet, hard or soft and show as much or as little skin as you like and spit in the face of those that say otherwise!!!!!
Lots of love,