Originally uploaded: 4th June 2019
Okay, okay, okay.
So let me tell you a funny story.
I’m waiting at the bus stop, right outside of my house to go to uni. It’s the morning of my group presentation and it’s fairly cold outside. Hands stuffed in my pockets, earphones stuffed in my ears, I repeat my script and revise my notes a couple of times before deciding to give up. I’m waiting and I’m waiting and I’m waiting. Then I see a man in a white van drive past me on the opposite side of the road. The traffic lights are red so he’s stopped directly opposite me.
I see him.
He sees me and we lock eyes.
He looks at me.
He turns to his dashboard and grabs some sunglasses. With the wind blowing and the cloudy overcast sky, he places the sunglasses on before checking himself out in his side mirror. Licking his lips he turns back to me.
He blows a kiss
He drives off.
Wasn’t that a funny story?
Let me tell you another.
I was walking to another bus stop, when a man – old enough to be my grandfather – rolls down his window and shouts:
He and his friends laugh.
The last remains of his grey hair and his sloppy wet kisses blowing in the wind as he speeds past me.
Moral of the story? I shouldn’t be waiting at the bus stop.
What? That wasn’t funny either?
Okay, last one.
So I’m dancing in the club with my friends when a married man –
Let me just stop there, none of these stories are funny.
Catcalling – according to the Urban Dictionary, the term means to make rude, sexual remarks usually from a man towards a woman in regards to her body.
At first I used to find it flattering because, you know, it was just men complementing me and telling me I was pretty. It was okay.
I soon realised it wasn’t me as a person they were looking at. I wasn’t human. I was a body. Sweet, pretty words were nothing. He could easily stop his car and grab me, he could easily take what he wanted.
“The cat calling ‘hello sweetie, hello darlin’’. Just made me feel incredibly uncomfortable walking in public places. A girl under fifteen years should never have to experience such discomfort on a normal journey home. It’s the fact that they lack the insight to notice that it’s wrong. Ugh!”
I’ve seen a correlation between the clothes I wear and the attention I get. The skirt is just an inch too short. However, sometimes I’m fully clothes but those clothes hug my body a bit too much.
Keep your eyes up here, not down there.
The clothes I decide to wear, the clothes I decide to put on my body is my decision. It makes me feel comfortable on the inside and the outside. Leggings make me feel good just as much as a bodycon dress. Joggers make me feel good just as much as a leather skirt.
I put on my mom jeans with the same intentions that I put on my skinny jeans.
Yet although I know I’m dressing for comfort, there is a small part of me that knows people will be looking.
Boys will be looking.
Men will be looking.
“When I was around nine I began getting quite curvaceous, my body changed a lot quite early. I grew up around older boys. They would regularly make inappropriate comments to me but I didn’t understand. They said it was a good thing. I believed them. I was groped a few times by older guys. They said it was okay. I believed them. It wasn’t until I told my dad about them that I understood it wasn’t. It makes me sick to think that some boys are raised not understanding how to respect women/girls”
“Who you looking nice for?”
I don’t care if people ask me this question, I’m not trying to be PC and politicise every little thing people say; however, why do we believe that we dress to impress others?
Why do we believe women, in particular, dress to impress others?
Why do we believe women, in particular, dress to impress men?
Women do not dress for men.
When it comes to catcalling, wolf whistling and so on women are no strangers to it. You just learn to walk a little faster, put your head down and ignore them.
“She was asking for it with an ass like that”
I’ve been groped in the club while wearing a leather skirt after turning down a guy, yes, maybe I was asking for it. I mean club culture is synonymous with hook up culture. I’ve also been groped waiting to go to class in my school uniform and while outside my house playing with the neighbourhood kids that were my ‘friends’. Was I asking for it when I was 13 years old? Was I asking for it when I was 7 years old?
I never asked for it.
But somehow in the society we live in, men are entitled to women’s bodies. What they look like, what they wear, how they wear it, whether they have an abortion.
Remember sex sells, so smile dollface!
I never asked for it.
But don’t just take my word for it.
I did a private poll asking women who follow me on Instagram whether they have been catcalled and/or wolf-whistled at.
52 out of 56 said yes to catcalling.
45 out of 55 said yes to wolf-whistling.
When I asked what age it started, the majority said between the ages of 11-16 years, but others said younger than 10 years old.
When I asked women whether they felt it was their fault 35 said no but 15 said yes.
I’m not surprised by these results.
Why should I be?
“It was back in Maidstone when I was eighteen/nineteen. I was out with my friends walking through the club trying to find a room with decent music when someone grabbed me. He grabbed me and dragged me away. Luckily one of my friends saw it happen and ran to get a bouncer but the guy had me pinned up against a wall. He was saying all kinds of horrible things while pressing against me. I honestly thought, this was it because I wasn’t strong enough to fight him off and there was no one there. The bouncer and my friends showed up before anything could happen but I’ve never been so scared before. Since that night I have never been back to that club because I can’t face it.”
They say it happened because of my clothes.
They say it happened because of the part of town I was in.
They say it happened because of the time of day.
So as a woman, you try to control everything. Wear suitable clothes, stay out of the dodgy areas, travel during the day rather than at night and if you have to travel at night, travel in groups.
But nothing has ever been in our control.
Our bodies have never been our own. Since the moment we were born, our bodies have never been our own. We have been indebted to men who are strangers, who know no better. This is not trashing all men or blaming all men. This piece is to highlight women. I know too many women, too many little girls whom this has affected.
It is so easy to blame a woman even when the man, the perpetrator, is right next to her.
We blamed Eve before we even looked at Adam.
We live in the shadow of Eve's guilt.
This was never about sex. It was never about respecting the body. Never about the physical.
It was always, always, about power.
I stand with the women who have chosen to speak and those who have suffered in silence.
We blame the woman even though the man is right there.
We blamed Eve before looking at Adam.
Eve before Adam.