International Women’s Day- And I am subdued.

Today is International Women’s Day and I find myself feeling subdued.

Perhaps it should be a day of celebration, to recognise the achievements of the great women who have gone before us and those who are in this world today. Instead, I just feel heavy.

Heavy from the constant weight of being a woman in a man’s world.

Improvements are being made and things are changing, I won’t deny that.. but I am under no illusions. Women and men are not equals in this world.

Today, I hoped to feel empowered by other women. Those who stand up and speak for us. Those who work tirelessly to bring about change for us.

I hoped to find my own strength, to perhaps even celebrate the steps made in my own journey.

Instead, I feel resentful. Instead, I feel beaten down. Again.

Because I am reminded that while I want to help change this world, I cannot. All my strength is used up trying to heal from what men did to me.

 

Trigger Warning here

This morning I woke from a PTSD dream. In this dream my abuser found me sleeping on my front. He climbed on top of me and I woke to find I could not move.  This man holding me down, was so much bigger and so very much stronger than me. My months of grooming, stopped me from crying out in fear, or pain as he did what he wanted to me. This was not just a dream, this was once my reality.

It is not a feeling I can shake easily this morning. I remember that helplessness and more over, I remember his utter power. I cannot help but feel that no matter how strong I feel, I will always be at the mercy of men. If they choose to hurt me, what chance do I have?

Yesterday, my husband and I were being playful in bed. When I shoved my husband in jest, he didn’t move an inch, as he shoved me back, he then had to grab me quickly, before I fell off the bed. Men are so much stronger than me. How can I ever fight back?

This morning, I am reminded what it was like to be utterly powerless. Right now, it seems to me that men will always have the upper edge.

 

It’s not just my own experiences that have me feeling sort of flat this morning. Just look around the world. The recent news story and documentary covering the gang rape of  Jyoti Singh in Dehli. And while that is absolutely abhorrent and the attitudes by some (and I fear many) men there, utterly shocking, it is not limited to India. A “well it happens over there, thank goodness we live in a civilised society” sort of response is not acceptable. Male violence is happening all over the world. In your part of the world, your country, your town, your street. Everywhere.

Look in the UK, at the more high profile cases such as the  Jimmy Saville abuse, or perhaps the Rotherham or Rochdale trafficking. Look harder and you see how the media is getting it so wrong too. Reporting rape as sex. Using terms such as “young girls sold for sex”. How on earth can we end this violence, when we are still calling it sex?

In the USA, on campus rapes particularly, have been making news lately. Where preserving reputation and the lives of boys and men come higher on the agenda than justice and care for the victims, who of course, are largely women.

What about the kidnapping of nearly 300 girls in Nigera? Again, men. Men forcing. Men controlling. Men exerting their power over women and girls.

And the list goes on. Forced marriages. Female  Gentle Mutilation. So called “Honour”KillingsInfanticide  and Femicide.

How is this equality? How is this anywhere near achieving equality?

Women and girls are dying everyday, because we are still regarded as inferior.

 

Even well known charities are getting it wrong.  This poster by the Salvation Army South Africa on Domestic Violence- a sexualised picture of a bruised women. I’m sorry, but where do I start with this? What on earth are we learning from this? Where is the awareness, where is the advice here?

 

The right noises are being made and I suppose for that I should be grateful?  Except I am not. We are still getting it wrong. Men still rule this world. It is largely men in the UK government for example. White, rich men, making decisions about issues that they cannot possibly understand.

I cannot see the end to male violence. I cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel at all here and that is why today, on International Women’s day, my heart is heavier than ever.

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Don’t wolf whistle at me…

It is not a compliment, I am not flattered.

I am not walking along the road so you can beep your car horn at me. I don’t exist so you can leer out your window and shout sexual remarks at me.

Funnily enough your intimidating behaviour (and normally when I’m with my young children) is not something I enjoy.

My body is not yours, I am not a object for you to stare at. My breasts and behind are not for rating, I don’t want to hear what you would like do to me.

I am not interested how sexually attracted you are to me. Keep your thoughts to yourself and leave me be. I have been putting up with this shit since I was 13.

 

It is never a compliment, not for me.

Women should not accept street harassment as ‘just a compliment

 

 

Objectified.

So in general, I drive a lot, I don’t like to walk far without my husband with me. I struggle with people walking behind me, I feel nervous and vulnerable around lots of people and similarly feel nervous when I’m on my own plus various other reasons I won’t go into right now… I just prefer to drive, it makes me feel safer.

Anyway, today due to a car issue, I had to walk with my toddler (in his pushchair) to pick up my boy from school. It’s about a 15 minute walk, (longer on the way back with slow, tired and moany child) and I have two routes I can take. The shorter one is down a footpath and under a railway bridge and is in general fairly quiet. Alternatively, I can walk along a main road, with lots of traffic, this road goes past a small Industrial Estate. I chose number 1, because in my experience taking the main road means unwanted attention from men, in particular the van and lorry drivers going to and from the Industrial Estate.

Unfortunately, I was the only one using the path on the way to the school and one of two families using it on the way back from school. I felt nervous and vulnerable and as a result I was less able to ground myself when I was hit by intrusive memories that were triggered by my surroundings (which I am so not going into right now).

To make matters worse, on the way back from school, just before reaching the footpath, a man in his van decided to beep his horn at me as he went past. I was jumpy as it was, but that was enough to trigger hyper vigilance.

It makes me so angry, I’ve put up with this kind of thing since I was 13 years old, local bin men would “wolf whistle” at me in my school uniform, I’d walk to town to meet friends and various men in cars/ vans would beep their horns. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m under no illusion that I’m “all that” it’s just what some men seem to do to women. What do they get from yelling out their car window or beeping their horn? As if yelling “Alright darling” and making me jump, is somehow suddenly going to make me want them. I wonder how these men would feel if they knew some other man was doing the same to their wife/ daughter/ sister etc. I wonder if they realise how intimidating they are being? Did this man today have any clue that he scared me? Would he stop doing it if he had a clue of the effect of his actions?

Over the years,  I’ve had unwanted attention all over (I am not going into all of that right now); in night clubs, to the point of groping / “minor” sexual assault, which happened so often, my friends and I considered it the norm. It was just expected and even accepted as a part of nightclubbing. I’ve regularly experienced men beeping their horns at me or leaning out their windows yelling something or other. While I don’t like it, it is something I expect now, which is one of the reasons that I struggle to go out alone right now.

I doubt I speak for all women, but I am not sure I’ve met any that find it anything but offensive. It is not a compliment, I don’t find it flattering, I am not dressing to impress, I am not existing for men to stare at me. I am not here for some random guys gratification, I am merely living my life; as in the case today, I was just doing the school run with my two small children. Wearing a dress (which is recent progress for me (YAY!)- insecurities have kept me from wearing them in summer for years), was in no way permission to leer at me. I wasn’t asking to be ogled at. I felt intimidated, I was made to feel uncomfortable in what I was wearing, I was made to vulnerable alone with my children, more so than I already felt.

All I wanted to do was collect my child from school and walk home in peace (at least as peaceful as you can get with two small children). Wearing a dress, and walking alongside a road, does not give permission for men to scare me, because that’s exactly what this man did and countless others have done before him. I am sick and tired of being objectified by men.