It has come to the point where I now dread leaving the house in the morning. I know that every day I will be subjected to objectification from men as I walk to the train station, and then to my workplace. One day last week I was subjected to cat-calling or whistling five times; for […]
It has come to the point where I now dread leaving the house in the morning. I know that every day I will be subjected to objectification from men as I walk to the train station, and then to my workplace. One day last week I was subjected to cat-calling or whistling five times; for the last eight weeks, as I have commuted to my internship, I have experienced this at least once a day. This is not including all the times I receive the same treatment for running along the Bristol Road and walking to the shops.
Follow @EverydaySexism on Twitter and you’ll know that I am not alone in being subjected to this treatment. In fact, I have discussed this issue with my female housemates and we have all agreed that we dread walking anywhere.
What people fail to realise is that being shouted or whistled at is not a compliment. Firstly, I often feel that the attention is being given in a sarcastic manner. Secondly, the attention is only based on my appearance: these men are not shouting at me communicate their appreciation of my mind. Thirdly, it is nothing but intimidating: I frequently cross the road to avoid groups of men, have altered my running routes to avoid as many main roads as possible, and try to choose times of the day when the routes I have chosen will be the least populated. I should not have to do this.
What concerns me most is that this behaviour is being accepted as a standard part of everyday life. One of my male housemates has admitted that he had not realised that women felt intimidated by this behaviour; he merely thought we might find it irritating. What is most worrying, however, is that some women seem to think that it is acceptable. On many occasions I have witnessed women laughing or smiling when they receive that kind of attention. This only perpetuates the sexism: some men think it is acceptable, some women think it is acceptable, some women believe that they are overreacting by being offended.
I will admit that I, on occasion, have doubted myself. It is easy to think that I might have led a sheltered life up until now; perhaps men in the city are different to men in the countryside. It is also easy to think that I might be drawing attention to myself: if you don’t want people to comment on your running, don’t run on main roads. Perhaps I dress inappropriately: don’t wear shorts or a dress if you don’t want men to look at your legs. Right?
Wrong. Let me tell you now that I receive comments regardless of what I am wearing. I have been harassed (and, yes, that is the right word) in business attire, in casual clothing and at seven in the morning wearing no makeup. Whatever I wear, whatever I look like, I should not be subjected to intimidating behaviour. I have not asked for it, and I do not deserve it. No one does.
Even celebrities who should be role models seem to perpetuate sexism. In June, Serena Williams said the following in a Rolling Stone interview, in regard to the Steubenville rape case: ‘She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously, I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin …’ There is so much wrong with this statement. Firstly, being drunk does not make you a bad person, nor does it make rape okay. Secondly, a girl is not ‘lucky’ for being raped. Thirdly, not being a virgin does not make you a bad person. Fourthly, not being a virgin does not make rape okay. Serena Williams is a role model for many young women, and her comments are symptomatic of a society which sees women’s sexuality as taboo. Being young, being sexually active, being attractive, being sociable, being a woman, does not instantly mean that if something dreadful happens to you, you deserve it. A woman is not asking to be objectified if she wears a skirt, nor is she asking to be raped if she wears revealing clothes or gets drunk. Most importantly, she does not deserve it.
There are women of my own age who also propagate sexism. The following tweet appeared on my timeline recently: ‘Beyonce made a song called “Single Ladies” then went home to her husband & left you lonely hoes dancing in a circle pretending to be happy.’ Like Serena Williams’s comment, there is a lot wrong with this. Being single does not make one unhappy: people lead fulfilling lives without a significant other; women should not see obtaining a husband as the route to happiness. The song is actually saying that being married will lead to happiness; it is actually a celebration of female empowerment. Beyonce is actually singing about not being taken advantage of: if a man cannot commit to her (the ring being a symbol of commitment), then she will not waste her time on him. Whether or not she is married is inconsequential; she is using her celebrity status to encourage women not to be taken advantage of. The tweet also perpetuates the idea that being single and being lonely are synonymous; they are not: one can be lonely at any point in life, even when one has a significant other, and being single does not equate to loneliness. Being single does not mean that I have to ‘pretend’ to be happy, either; believe it or not, my happiness is related to things a little more complex than that.
The tweeter also presumes that one has to be single and dancing in a circle with other single women to appreciate the song. I know many a woman who is in a relationship who has enjoyed the song and applauded its message. Whether I’m single or not, I like the song and its message. I also can enjoy it outside of circles of single women.
Finally, the fact that the tweeter refers to single women as ‘hoes’ is deplorable. I will here quote Ms Norbury from Mean Girls: ‘You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.’ By calling women ‘hoes’, the tweeter engages in sexism without batting an eyelid. To her, being single makes you inferior: not being in a relationship with a man means that you are a ‘hoe’ (which is a completely ridiculous reasoning). By using this vocabulary in such a relaxed manner, the tweeter invites it to be used in everyday conversation, ultimately perpetuating the sexist views the word represents.
What I am trying to say is that sexism is everywhere, so much so that we don’t even realise when we uphold sexist views. These views are being ingrained into generation after generation, and are easily spread in a world where social media is constantly at our fingertips. For this reason, I urge you to look at @EverydaySexism on Twitter; it will open your eyes to the sometimes horrific conduct men and women are subjected to – because, no, it is not just women who receive sexist treatment. If we become more aware of what is sexist, perhaps we can finally start fighting back.