Ladies, welcome to 2013. Where some men (and I really do emphasise some, not the entire species of the male) still believe this kind of nonsense is acceptable. While taking public transport or perhaps simply walking to work (as if Mondays aren’t hard enough) they stop and stare steadily until through anger or sheer embarrassment you are forced to react – or vilify you if you dare to ignore them. Even worse still, some think its tolerable to grab you or press themselves up against you. It is utterly diminishing and it makes me really, really cross.
I scour all the monthly fashion magazines for inspiration on what to wear to pound the streets of London. I would love to be experimental and attempt some of the incredible outfits featured, after all fashion should be fun, but without the fear of (some) men thinking we are all doing it for THEM. Yet, and I am sure my girlfriends will testify, sometimes if we show as much as a flash of ankle on the Tube, that is enough to attract an utter berk. Often my choice of outfit is not based on what I fancy wearing, but dependent on whether I will be out and about on my own or accompanied by friends/husband. This really gets on my wick.
Please do not judge me or assume I am self-adoring, or a bit of a big head. Totally far from it; the opposite in fact. I hope I speak for all women everywhere who may have experienced this kind of twaddle – blokes staring unashamedly at your bits and making you squirm uncomfortably or pull up/pull down what was in fact a perfectly positioned top or skirt. Young boys making rape ‘jokes’, having your bum pinched or patted (yuck) by total strangers, men with enormous big bellies honking their horns when you are out running and a sweaty mess (note to paunchy men: it makes us run faster and more determinedly) to name but a few.
Fortunately this is being documented on the Everyday Sexism Project which catalogues instances of sexism and blatant perviness that occur on a daily basis. Laura Bates is aiming to show that it does exist, it is a problem and it most definitely is not OK. Twitter has finally accepted that trolling tweeters (AKA socially inept misogynistic cowards) are well, not very nice at all, and have introduced an in-tweet ‘report abuse’ button. (Erm, we knew that already, there is still a long way to go). Thanks to the tireless work of the fabulous Stella Creasy MP, who refused to ignore rape threats on Twitter, the abuse of women is firmly back in the media spotlight. In an age where Page 3 and the like is still disgustingly in existence (although a big kick in your nuts Nutz – the Co-Operative Group has threatened to ban you and other ‘lads-mags’ from sale in its 4,000 stores unless covered by sealed modesty bags ), fortunately we have women like Lucy-Anne Holmes who is working on the No More Page 3 campaign to get rid of this horribly outdated practice (Because Boobs aren’t News). Hurrah for the transformative moments that are fighting against some of the most egregious forms of sexism.
But for now the day-to-day casual sexism and on-the-street nonsense continues. For some women, the hot weather brings more than alfresco dining and copious jugs of Pimms. A recent post on Spotted Walthamstow, a facebook page for rants, thanks and questions said ‘Dear idiots of E17, I am not wearing shorts for your ogling/leering benefit or because I am a tart. I am wearing shorts BECAUSE IT IS HOT’ and the comments from both men and women were mixed but most utterly naffed off at being jeered simply for trying to avoid heat exhaustion and wear our lovely new sandals.Maybe for writing this post, I will be dismissed for being a hysterical female making a big old hoo-ha about nothing. It is harmless! Oh get over yourselves, it is just staring. Its part of the male’s inner instinct to admire the female form. We cannot be blamed or restrained. Besides, if you will insist on wearing clothing that displays your forearms and a smidge of elbow then surely that’s asking for attention?
I totally disagree. Being leched, jeered or perved at can make the most tenacious of us ladies feel a bit vulnerable. It gets right under your skin and leaves you wanting to scream, shout, or run and hide. It is bloody embarrassing and makes you furious, but it is also a little bit frightening when there’s absolutely no one else around and the death-stare dirty look that you have mastered after all those years of silliness from boys just isn’t working, and what if they do more than just jeer? We simply shouldn’t have to tolerate it.
Ladies, may your choice of clothing be dictated only by the season, the weather and your inclination. Not by fear of attracting lecherous nonsense. It is not an invitation. It never will be.