Back in March, I wrote about some of my experiences of being a woman.
There was nothing out of the ordinary about those experiences, daily harassment, unwanted attention from strangers on the street, the usual.
I didn’t really have any intention of coming back to this topic until a few weeks ago when I reached my absolute limit.
Before I go on, the language in this post, will without a doubt get sweary, you’ve been warned…
I got tired of thinking “it’s just the way it is”.
As girls we’re always taught to play nice, smile and be polite.
A few weeks ago that gave way to incandescent rage, a white-hot fury, an anger that screamed enough is enough.
I guess I’d better clue you all in on the circumstances. It’s beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon in Lancashire, it’s also the day of England’s first game in the Euros, I’m reporting live from a fan zone in Preston.
It’s a job I hadn’t thought anything of really; it’s pretty standard, make sure you have all your kit, vox a few people before and after the game, record some videos, reflect on the atmosphere, attempt to find somewhere quiet for my hits, go home, jobs a good un.
I’d planned for it like any other job, even when Scott told me to “be careful” as I headed out the door, I didn’t foresee any potential problems with the afternoon ahead, after all it was a straightforward job. I’ve attended far more risky and dangerous situations during my career, this would be a walk in the park.
On the whole it was a walk in the park….if that walk involves being repeatedly harassed and grabbed by pissed up knob heads.
The afternoon started out fine, I did my first hit no problem, asked a few people their predictions so far so good, no major problems. In fact, at one point the only thing that was really stressing me out was needing the toilet and not being able to go in case I missed a goal and missed filming the reaction as a result of a weak bladder.
As the whistle went a full time, that’s when things changed and the job turned from reporting to fending off men.
There was a very real possibility that the studio would come to me live and just hear me shouting “will you fuck the fuck off!”.
By that point, I’d told a man (I say man, he may have only just finished puberty) to “get off me” and had elbowed him, when the instruction to remove his arm from my shoulders wasn’t met immediately.
Been told “it’s coming home and you’re coming home with me” – in what alternate universe does that line even work on anyone?
Had my arse grabbed and been dragged into a crowd of fans jumping about singing – my God was I pissed off.
Luckily a security guard had clocked this, came to check I was alright and stood with me so I could continue voxing* people at the end of the match and actually do my job without being harassed.
10 minutes later, as I sat having cigarette, gathering my thoughts, I grew more and more furious.
The other reporters there were men and were left alone to get on with it. I wasn’t afforded the same opportunity, I wasn’t treated with any respect; it was almost like it was fair game, it was not fair game.
I thought “maybe I shouldn’t have gone on my own” then I thought, fuck that, I am not the one in the wrong here, it isn’t my behaviour or actions that need examination.
I should be able to walk into any situation without having to deal with people shouting comments at me or grabbing me. I should be able to go out on a reporter job as a lone woman and not have to deal with blokes harassing me and I shouldn’t need to have a security guard stand with me in order for me to do my job, the fact that I’ve even had to write that, blows my mind.
I know I’m not alone. Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen colleagues’ tweet about similar experiences. I’ve seen women talk about being cat called. It’s the same shit day in day out; it is tiresome and infuriating.
I’m writing this after a day of listening to debates and discussions about new laws that are being considered in the UK. There’s a government strategy looking at how to tackle violence against women and girls and as part of that, street harassment could become a specific crime – halle-fucking-lujah.
There will be some men who think that’s ridiculous. I can hear the shouts of “I defend my right to wolf whistle” and the argument of “it’s just a way of telling a woman she looks nice”. News flash lads, we don’t need to hear it and I certainly don’t want telling, “you’re coming home with me” – bore off, you sound like a dick head.
There’s a whole raft of measures in there that are long overdue; it includes increasing support for victims and survivors and it aims to reverse declines in conviction rates and reduce attacks.
It’s a solid start but I still believe education is also needed as well as a complete culture change, without that I can’t see a whole lot changing.
When I first wrote about this kind of stuff, I talked about how we need men to give us a hand with this stuff and we do.
During my afternoon of fending off unwanted advances, I clearly – at times – looked bloody uncomfortable. Obviously not every bloke there was a sleaze however, not one of them said a single word or told their mates to back off. In a full crowd, there was just the one security guard who gave me hand, something I was grateful for.
So, lads, again help us out here.
If your mate is harassing a woman, shouting comments, and clearly making her feel uncomfortable, say something. Don’t stand on the side lines pulling a “what’s he like face”, telling yourself he’s just had one too many beers, he’s just being lad or even thinking she looks like she can handle this, bloody say something, tell him he’s being a dick head.
Call it out. Don’t give him a pass just because it’s your mate or someone you’ve known for years.
Look at their behaviour, look at how they treat women, don’t excuse it, say something. God knows we’ve been trying for years.
Do you have any idea how exhausting it is dealing with this shit every day? What it’s like to call out street harassment and then be called a bitch for your trouble?
If you want to get a sense of a fraction of it, ask some of the women in your life, I’d bet they’d say the same thing.
*Voxing – asking random members of the public their opinion on topic, it is as painful as it sounds.
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm