Why do some men consider the street as a female meat market?
Pronouncements on sexual inequality in the UK are normally met with an eye roll by my generation. As the babies born at the tail end of the Thatcher era in the late eighties and early nineties graduate university and begin to enter the real world, the fight for female social equality is all too often regarded as a fight that their mothers had already won. Inequality is seen as a relic of a past and those who continue to talk about it are merely causing trouble.
However the news reported by the Independent today that nearly half of all women in London were sexually harassed in public last year and the dismissive comments the online version of the article received shows that an alarming number of men consider the street as a female meat market.
When discussing feminism and gender bias against women, many men do rightly point out that patriarchal values discriminate against men as well. However whilst it is incredibly wrong that men are denied the right to see their children and are constantly expected to be ‘manly’ they are unlikely to have a stranger stick their hand down their trousers in a public place. And therein lies the difference.
The prevalent of ‘banter’ culture means that women who are leered and jeered at in public places, sometimes in broad daylight, are often too scared; to say anything because they are afraid of getting more abuse, because they should stop ‘making a fuss’. Despite normally being an assertive girl, whilst on a train last December the man sitting next to me persistently attempted to touch my upper thigh and I was too scared to say anything.
Of course many would assume that I shouldn’t have been dressed so provocatively with my old jeans, hoodie and lack of any make up. Equally the time I was followed home by a stranger shouting abuse at me because I wouldn’t respond to his advances or the time a group of men in a white van slowed down traffic in rush hour to follow me as I walked along the pavement or any of those times I’ve been wolf whistled at, shouted at and ogled I should have clearly been wearing a potato sack and kept my head down in silent obedience lest I attract any unwanted attention.
While I know I’m alright looking I do not believe any of the above makes me an exceptional case. At the age of twenty one, by accident or design I don’t know, I have been raised to expect it as a fact of life. I have been told ‘don’t do X, Y or Z and people can’t treat you like that’. However this is avoids the problem rather addresses it and leads to this smug sanctimoniousness which makes it the women’s fault. Why should I modify my behaviour when others’ is in the wrong?
This is similar to the arguments against maintaining the anonymity of the rape victim in the Ched Evans case as people believed she ‘deserved to be named and shamed’ for daring to accuse a man of rape when she willingly went back to a hotel room with him. This is based on a ludicrous notion that men cannot possibly be expected to control themselves and any woman who does not accommodate this should expect the worst.
I am not a victim nor will I behave like one. Since the incident in December I have become a lot more forthright and I will not modify my behaviour. I still travel alone on public transport, in nice weather I will wear shorts or a skirt if I choose to and no-one is going to make me feel to scared say anything again.
Instead of creating these avoidance tactics and excuses its time that my generation tackled this sort of ‘sneaky sexism’ head on and fight back. Its time these sorts of men knew that they may ‘expect’ to get away with certain behaviour but they do not deserve to and if boys insist on ‘being boys’ they should ‘expect’ a swift kick in the goolies instead.Tagged in: banter, discrimination, feminism, gender, harassment, sexism, violence, women, women's rights
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