If she knew, why didn’t she do something?
Why didn’t she?
It all depends on what you mean by knew.
Us women, we’re like Spiderman, you see. Sometimes knowing isn’t a concrete fact. It’s not a single blatant offense that belongs firmly in the harmful or criminal categories. It is a long slow accretion of data. Sets we’ve been building our whole life. Knowledge that means sometimes we meet men, even outwardly charming men, and they set our spider senses tingling. The little buzzing in our brain that warns us to be on guard in the presence of this man.
We’ve spent our whole lives being taught how to keep ourselves safe. In a world that will not grant us a right to safety in our workplaces, in our leisure time, not even within our own homes.
And we learn, we learn from a young age to watch out. The world is full of subtle invasions of our safety that we navigate every day. Right in front of your eyes and you don’t even notice. The acquaintances whose eyes linger. The ticket collector who holds onto your ticket a moment too long, forcing you to look at him, or look away. The men who ‘bump’ into you and then eye you up as they apologise. The jokes you are expected to smile at, because is there anyone around who will back you up if you don’t, or will things just get nasty? So, you smile and move on. And the whole time our spider senses are tingling. We know these men are creeps.
This is just the boring backgrounds of our lives.
I’m sick of it.
I’m sick of being expected to know who’s a creep and who’s not. I’m sick of being expected to watch out, to be careful after dark. I’m sick of being expected to be nice to men when they are decidedly not nice in return. I’m sick of men whinging that they all get labelled as predators just for being nice to women, even though we know hundreds of men we don’t label predators, so spare me your sob stories and reflect on what aspect of your behaviour we dislike so much. I’m sick of being told not to rock the boat, not to make a fuss, not to take things too seriously. I’m sick of being minimised, and made to feel small, like we’ve been doing this wrong. I’m sick of wondering if this will ever, ever change.
On 8th November, almost exactly one year ago, Trump was elected President of the United States. We know he is a sexual predator. His ex-wife has testified that he raped her. His own words have been played for us to hear, over and over, and over.
How can any women ever expect to be believed? How can we ever expect to be supported when knowing that a man is not just a creep, but a bona fide sexual aggressor is not enough to see his career finished, his public persona confined to a trash heap, any shred of respectability razed.
Speaking out has got women nowhere. One individual might be stopped. Weinstein’s career is finished, maybe even for good. There are a million Weinsteins and a million Trumps. A million men ready to turn a blind eye in the hope they can hoover up the crumbs that fall from the gold-encrusted plates. A million women ready to chance it, see if they can be the lucky one to get through the obstacle course unscathed and grab a prize at the other end. Or at least, get through, relatively unscathed.
Right now, I want to call out every creep I’ve ever met. I want to scream from the rooftops but I won’t because then I’ll seen as a crazy misandrist and who will listen to me then?
It’s so easy to ignore our suffering isn’t it? You can ignore it when we are quiet and smile and play along with the status quo. You can ignore it when we are angry, because then we are just hysterical bitches. If we didn’t say something at the time, you can ignore us. It can’t have been that bad. Did we say No?
The point isn’t that every instance is that bad. It is just the sheer volume of shitty behaviour we put up with in our lifetimes. Every time our spider senses tingle there is a calculus to be made. Is it safe to say something? Is this someone I will ever see again, or can I just swing away to safety, putting their foul jokes behind me? If I say something about this colleague how will this affect my relationship with others in the office? Will my bosses support me? Will any one in this crowded public place intervene, or will they assume it is “just a domestic”?
And you know what, we can’t call it all out. We just can’t. It is too much, too tiring. If we do we are far too easily labelled as uptight, humourless, man-hating, asking for it, bitchy, hormonal, slutty, imaginative, sensitive, bossy, hysterical, misandrists, wishful-thinkers, heartless, career-wreckers, frigid, ugly, fat, shrill, flirts, cold, nags, anything, anything but someone on the receiving end of calculated male aggression.
If we kicked up a fuss every time we put up with a shitty comment, or an unwelcome look, or even touch, the world would grind to fucking halt.
It is not just Hollywood, or the BBC, or sports teams, or public transport after dark, or your average office work space. Sexual Harassment is everywhere. Everywhere.
Our entire world is supported by women keeping their head down, being strong and powering through because sometimes we just need to use the photocopier.
That’s the way it is.
Some weeks, weeks like this, like that one last November, I think about that. I think that if that’s the case then all these systems, all these businesses aren’t worth it. If that is what your capitalist society has built its foundations on – I don’t want it. If your business model is predicated on lip service against harassment and the bare minimum of protection – then piss off. If you require the silence of women and minorities to keep power – then we should be tearing it from your hands and grinding it under our heels. We won’t even care how you think our legs look while we do it.
Sometimes I just want our collective rage to burn so fierce these men and the systems that support them will be reduced to nothing but ashes on the ground. Every single one of them.
We know who you are. You are every man who has felt entitled to something he is not.
Maybe it is finally your turn to be afraid.
We are finally hearing the power of our collective voices. It’s a power that won’t just allow us to swing to the rescue. Tangling misogynists in our sticky feminist traps. No. This is real power. Power that shows that if women know they will be supported and believed then we can make the world a better place. Power to redraw the line, so as Emma Thompson put it, one women, once would be enough.
Power that says no women has to keep quiet.
If she knew.