In case you’ve been living under a rock, today is International Women’s Day. In the light of this, I wanted to write a post about my experiences with inequality as a woman. But that has turned out to be harder than expected. As someone who’s gone from school straight to uni, I can’t really talk much about being paid less than men or having less opportunities than men. I’ve never actively noticed it playing a role in my life. The one thing, however, that I can talk about is sexual harassment.
I don’t know how to talk about this, and I definitely don’t want to. I’m writing this half thinking that I probably won’t post this. I won’t post this because I’m scared of what other people will think of me. I won’t post this because I’m scared that people will think that it’s not big deal because it happens to everyone. But the real reason why I won’t post this is because I’m ashamed.
I’m ashamed that when exiting the tube, a middle aged man who’d been staring at me put his hand on my bottom. I’m ashamed that without so much as a “hello” some drunk guy in a club tried to grind on me. I’m ashamed that I gave my number to a guy in the street just to get him to go away because he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I’m ashamed that a guy in the train station sat down next to me, and then two minutes later was trying to kiss me and followed me around the station for the next 15 minutes as I tried to escape from him.
These unwanted encounters are experienced by many women in our country everyday, but they still fill me with guilt and shame. Was that my fault? Did I do something to encourage it? Were my jeans to tight? (Not that that should matter…). Why am I the one the feels ashamed when I’ve done nothing wrong? I’m fed up of feeling ashamed. I’m sick and tired of wondering what I did to cause such a reaction. But the truth is that these encounters are not my fault.
If you’re reading this and you’ve experienced similar things to what I have, regardless of your gender, please know that you’re not alone. There are so many of us, and it’s okay for these things to upset you. You don’t have to tell yourself that it’s not a big deal. Please don’t feel ashamed or like you have to hide what has happened to you. The more we speak out about it, the more we can do to tackle it.
Lots of love,