Put your hand up if you hate going for a walks for fear of cat-calling/oggling and sexual harassment? Okay, put them down, I can’t see you. My hand was of course up…
I have had this fear inside me since I first begun being cat-called at around 14. The amount of harassment teenage girls(probably guys too) go through is incredible and really sad.
And not the good kind of incredible.
There are a tonne of articles on the inter-webz discussing what to say when someone discloses sexual abuse, assault or harassment to you. Which is no one will deny is great!
However, I noticed something missing; what we should do if we see behaviours we believe as a general society to be inappropriate?
(This obviously applies more to the sexual harassment-cat-calling/oggling/touching, on the streets, workplaces or even at home, etc. Chances are you won’t see sexual abuse or rape just out and about in public, or you might and if so then please just call your local police department.)
A conditioned behaviour?:
The thing is that much of the time, it’s not the individuals fault.
Either, they have been conditioned by their family and have grown up with people around them speaking or acting around others in inappropriate ways. Or maybe, it’s just them and they’re just a pig. You can never know. The individual may not even realise how disgusting their behaviour is in the first place. Which is why it is important to call your ‘mates’ out on it before it gets worse.
An example of the conditioning I am speaking of: A friend recently was walking behind a friend (of a friends) partner with their own father at the shops when a woman walks toward them.
The friends husband exclaims to his father: “Check out the tits on that one”.
Friend decides not to say hello to this fellow human. Rightly so.
But this is the type of conditioning that happens among societies. In the same way we think to be a functioning member of society; we need to have a job, a house, a nice car and a tonne of nice things to be considered well functioning and successful.
The father doesn’t say “Hey, thats not on” but instead the father joins in and the have a good ole chat about.
But humans, are just so damn pretty:
Yes. yes we are. We are human beings and we can look and appreciate the human forms for all that they are, but please keep it in your own head. That friends partner will possibly go on to teach his own boys that a woman, is to be ogled and gawked at and discussed as though she doesn’t exist for anything but some walking breasts.
I know that this man, would not appreciate people speaking about his own partner like that and if he had a daughter I don’t think he’d appreciate it. Who would?
And so the cycle continues and maybe the woman wouldn’t have cared, but I know many who would.
We know and we see that it happens ALL the time:
I have seen it. You’ve probably seen it. And heard all about it. We know it happens.
And we have also heard many many stories of people, just standing by and allowing these things to just happen to other people. I am probably of it guilty too.
I have rarely stood up for myself in these situations because if you do respond the typical response is some kind of abuse, or victim shaming like “Take a fucken compliment ya bitch”.
The confrontational aspect of calling out people on their behaviours it is one reason I believe so many of us do stay silent.
There is a wrong time and a right time to keep your nose in your own business.
But it’s not my place:
A disappointing fact of it all is that it’s incredibly likely we all know and maybe even love someone that partakes in some kind of derogatory behaviour towards others.
It is hard to criticise our friends and loved ones even if its for the greater good, but by saying something, might cause someone to rethink their actions and change the way they speak or act, which not only benefits you, but the rest of us too.
Many would dispute that, “its not my place to say anything” for fear of rejection, argument or fear of confrontation.
But it is your place. This is our world and if we want our world to be better not only for us now but for the future generations; this is your place to say something.
It may seem a small thing to do, but in the scheme of things it keeps the streets, our work places and our homes safer and more comfortable.
By speaking up, even on this small scale, its not saying “you’re a bad person”– its just saying “I don’t like that, and its not on, can you please not…”
If you stay silent, you might as well partake. And ignoring it only makes it a bigger issue.
Either way, if you don’t think a member of society would like it happening to one of their loved ones, then it ain’t right and you have every right to say so. It might be hard and awkward at first, and might cause the other person to become defensive, and if they do its only because they know what they have said or done was wrong.
So what do we say to those friends of ours leering, harassing and assaulting our fellow human beings?
1. Say it like it is; “You’re being really sleazy/creepy/inappropriate right now, and its not cool.”
2. Point out the obvious- “Does that person seem to like what you’ve been doing/saying/etc.”
3. Ask them how they’d feel if it were their partner or daughter/son/mum/dad.
4. Ask them if they’d like to be spoken about or treated in the same way.
5. Remind that they’re better than that.
6. Ask them if they’d be happy for their children to speak or act toward others in the same way.
We can be active members in creating a safer place for our families, this is just one small step toward changing something that effects many of us.
I don’t want our daughters growing up in a world where they fear the cat calls, and sexual harassment in the street because our generation were too scared to speak up.