Every woman I know and have ever met has a story about being sexually harassed or assaulted in some way. Every, single one of my female friends has been catcalled or heckled in the street. Every, single one. Why? Because they’re women, and they were there.
This is where ‘not all men’ gets me really riled, and the ‘not all men’ brigade have been out in full force since Nottinghamshire police made misogyny a hate crime. This means abuse or harassment against women which might not be considered a crime can be reported to and investigated by the police in the area, and support can be given to the victim. I’ve listened to people shout over each other to tell me that this is a ‘stupid overreaction’, a product of PC culture and more evidence of the ‘thought police’.
The problem is really so prevalent that every woman I have ever known has experienced it, a police force has decided to expand the categories of a hate crime to emphasise how serious it is, and still there are those that do everything in their power to tell women they are overreacting before stopping to think about the scale of the problem. Why are the police clamping down? Is it because we’re all thin-skinned, overly politically correct and entitled and need to be wrapped in cotton wool while we go about the business of personally victimising all men? No. It’s because it’s a fucking big problem. Ockham’s razor: the simplest explanation is the most likely to be true.
This mirrors, on a small scale, the response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Instead of listening to minorities, of even trying to understand the scale of their shared experiences, you feel – you, the righteous internet commenter – that you must both invalidate those experience and absolve yourself of all blame or responsibility. Instead of being taken aback at the sheer amount of women who deal with street harassment every fucking DAY, Nigel from Blackburn* will login to Facebook to loudly ask whether he still gets to even bloody look at women on the street anymore? Will he get arrested if he so much as smiles at a woman these days? Meanwhile, so many white people in their droves login to Facebook to assert that not all white people are racist and that all lives matter: because, of course, ‘black lives matter’ definitely, certainly means white lives don’t – right?
Listening to oppressed people is key. Nottinghamshire police have recognised that street harassment can and does make people uncomfortable, and they should be allowed to do something about it. One of my earliest memories of being heckled on the street was when I was 12 years old and walking with my Dad. Look me in the eye and tell me now that the man in his thirties who leaned out of his car window to lick his lips and shout ‘sexy slut’ at a 12 year old girl was just paying her a harmless compliment. I dare you. The most recent occurrence of my being harassed happened believe it or not – and you might not, but it’s too horribly ironic not to include here – as I was writing this article. I was writing while waiting to meet a pal on a busy street in Manchester, when I was approached by a man in his early 30s, asking me if I’d like to go out with him. Not taking no for an answer. Trying to touch my waist, hands, and face, trying to hug me. Ignoring me when I asked him to please leave me alone, telling me my boyfriend will never find out if we just go for one drink at his flat.
Women face this kind of thing daily and it’s honestly unbelievable to me that so many men feel that they are being victimised by the fact they aren’t as able to harass women in Nottingham anymore. No man has the right to harass, heckle, intimidate a woman while she walks down the street, and if you do so and that woman takes action against you, so bloody be it. If you choose to feel personally victimized and jump to defend yourself, rather than listen to people who are telling you they feel unsafe, then you are part of the problem.
*A fictional but apt example